Creative Writing Articles

He incorporated the idea into a science-fiction story, but made the fictional technology so advanced that it could track the birds' eye movements. Goldschmidt was inspired by an anecdote about physicist J.Robert Oppenheimer: during an unhappy period in the 1920s while studying abroad, Oppenheimer left a poisoned apple for his tutor.In her novel The Falling Sky (Freight Books, 2013), Pippa Goldschmidt, an astronomer turned fiction writer in Edinburgh, UK, writes about a young astronomer who wanders into a telescope dome on a Chilean mountaintop and is nearly injured when the operator moves the instrument. Reynolds reads research news and papers voraciously for intriguing elements that can be parlayed into fiction.

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Feature-writing is hands-down the best job in journalism. In print journalism, this kind of journalistic writing tends to be called a ‘feature’, ‘piece’ or ‘story’, which includes colour pieces, arts features, travel stories, lifestyle writing, interviews and so on.

Getting paid for using your skill with words to tell stories that you couldn’t – and don’t have to – make up? But because it’s such a good job an awful lot of people want to do it. To make any kind of success of writing features it helps to understand exactly what they are and how to construct them. For a specialist magazine, we’d probably refer to ‘articles’.

Why do you think editors ask for brief idea pitches? You wouldn’t approach an editor and say: ‘I want to write a feature about bee keeping.’ [You’d be surprised... He suggested subject after subject but he didn’t come up with a single workable idea for a piece.

It’s because good ideas draw attention to themselves. Not so many of them will have great ideas for a feature. An editor would want to know what particular aspect of the subject you are interested in writing about. An angle for your bee-keeping story might be ‘how bee keepers are using social media to share traditional techniques’ or ‘the successes of a niche dating site for bee-keepers’.

Science offers plenty of rich material, whether it is the drama of overwintering at a polar research station or the futuristic thrill of genetically engineering live organisms.

“You're sitting on a gold mine of really interesting stories,” says Jennifer Rohn, a cell biologist at University College London and founder of Lab, a website about portrayals of scientific research in fiction and other media.With little to do, he began to write a novel — he loved reading and had published some short stories, but hadn't yet had the time or mental space to produce longer work.He pounded out most of a rough draft about a scientist struggling to get tenure and coping with childhood memories of a parent with bipolar disorder. They use a narrative structure to give the reader an insight into a world they did not previously know.Whatever it’s called, the key to writing a successful feature piece is simple. Ideas are the stock in trade of staff and freelance journalists, and someone with a good idea for a feature will do much better at attracting the attention of an editor than someone who writes beautifully but offers mundane suggestions. I once spent a frustrating afternoon talking to a highly talented writer, quite famous in a field other than journalism, about what he would like to write for the magazine I worked for as a section editor.When done well, science-related fiction can help to expose the public to the scientific process, humanize researchers and inspire readers to learn about topics they might otherwise ignore.Such nuanced depictions of science in fiction are relatively rare.Features need facts but they need to go beyond news. Most importantly, don’t rely on second-hand information, and never on hearsay. A good feature writer will have what’s called ‘a good nose for a story’ – ie, they’re a mixture of knowledgeable, open-minded and curious about their subject, fascinated to find out the latest developments in it, and aware of what will interest other people (readers! Many topics are perennial but a good feature writer will keep them fresh by giving them a new angle in line with recent developments.A feature writer would visit the camp on the back of that news story, describe the conditions and talk to people who are affected. Basic journalism is vital: don’t assume anything, do your research, find out who to speak to, check your facts. For instance, Christmas comes round every year but in recent years ironic Christmas jumpers have become a thing – you could write about that and lead into Christmas traditions that have been updated.For many scientists who spend their days cranking out papers and grant proposals, writing fiction may seem like the last thing they would want to do.But some researchers with a love of literature have made time to pursue the craft — and have found it creatively rewarding.


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