Claire Cock-Starkey on the Art of Factual Storytelling


  • administrators

    There are universal truths to writing that transcend genre and style

    Click here to see the full blog post


  • Plotist Team: Timeline Master

    "Content is all well and good, but how do you work around writing solely on one subject for non-fiction when you discover something interesting you want to include? Claire keeps an amazing collection of interesting titbits to use in her books, though some end up as mere footnotes instead. For her book Penguins, Pineapples and Pangolins, where she writes about European explorers’ first encounters with food, animals, and people, she added a footnote about bamboo: “*Bamboos are traditional classed as male or female; the female variety is hollow and the male has a near solid core.”

    I think this is definitely something that fiction writers should be doing more. Much of the fiction that I come to really love, or that really stands out, includes these kinds of "titbits" - I remember loving Ruth Ozeki's 'Tale of the Time Being' for having these really beautiful passages that were basically 'tidbits' not relating to the overarching plot, like discussing ocean gyres and their measurements (makes me want to go back and find this passage!) And a new author I love, Sarah Moss, drops these kinds of beautiful facts too. I do think it's worth carrying around a little notebook or something for these kinds of things... it might not fit into the story you're currently writing but not to say that it can't be gently dropped into a future one!



  • @Sian I'm still on like Chapter 3, but I know in Mr Norrel and Jonathon Strange, Susanna Clarke uses footnotes to elaborate on things in-world. I started thinking that it would be kind of fun to use footnotes in the future to elaborate on something in-world (though, of course, that means knowing every detail, and I'm too much of a panster in my worlds).


  • Plotist Team: Community Storyteller

    @Sian - For me, it's the little tidbits about fantasy worlds as well. I mean I may have no idea what a grinberry is, but if a character tosses out a statement about it (almost like a footnote) the world feels that much more real to me.


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