Tuesday, March 08, 2011

"A Good Story Is A Sneaky Fucker"

and here's how I know that!

lifted shamelessly from my pal on Twitter @themattlondon


Jen said...

What a brilliant article! And what a great title for a post!

I work in a police station. Most police reports are bland, despite the subject matter, but a few officers have a real knack for understatement and irony and they're not afraid to use it. And the best thing about sarcasm is that when you do it right on paper, nobody can be sure if you meant it or not.

Laraine Eddington said...

Thanks. This article was wonderful.

Sarah W said...

Holy Cow.

Kudos to Officer Martinez and Ms. Collett. Descriptive indeed.

Fanfreakingtastic Flower said...

I saw that on Andrew Sullivan and I just ate that article up with a spoon!

Brandon said...

I don't usually leave comments like this--I want to avoid sounding kiss-assy--but thanks for this post. An interesting story.

Another way of saying show don't tell.

Botanist said...

Way to go, Martinez! What a fantastic article, and what powerful advice to writers. This lesson is lodged in my mind.

RhiannonPaille said...

This was awesome. Thanks for posting it on twitter :)

Joel said...

This reminds me of Matty Clark from "Lush Life", and ceaseless compromise (vs. "Not tonight, my man.”)

If you don’t compromise, distance yourself with clinical descriptions and a “See Spot Shoot. Run, Spot, run.” structure—then you can take in too much. Once you find your voice, you want to improve it. You can’t refine your narrative without replaying, comparing, judging the narratives that you are now forced to carry. “Bloody orifice” was chosen by replaying the narrative until the best words fit.

Like Matty, he’s always in media res, looking for the first page in the story, assembling the narrative with a sharpened vocabulary and a nuanced view of the bureaucracy that consumes it. To weigh these choices and find the best way to express them requires a mind that sifts details and calibrates power.

I think he’s a great cop, but he should be careful.

jesse said...

Great article. Loved the first reader comment - it is priceless.

DeadlyAccurate said...

I dislike what I read of Sergeant Martinez's reporting. "Mother refused to cooperate" says something entirely different from "Victim's mother gave no statement." Refuse hints at deliberately impeding the case. It colors your perceptions with the sergeant's.

...if Martinez saw a baby-raper, he’s making damn sure we do too.

Last I checked, "innocent until proven guilty" means our law enforcement isn't suppose to go around publicly deciding who is and who is not a baby-raper until they've been tried and convicted.

...it uses emphasis and diction to suggest how we interpret what it tells us.

"The baby was bleeding from three orifices." A horrible sentence under any circumstances. And when you're a juror looking over at the defendant can you stay objective with that sentence rolling around in your head? Or do you look at him and think "baby-raper" no matter what the evidence says?

If I were a defense attorney, I'd do my damnedest to discredit this officer on the witness stand. He obviously cares for the victims, and that's commendable. But it's the state's responsibility to prove the suspect is guilty, not his.

Marsha Sigman said...

You had me at 'sneaky fucker'.

Incredible article. And maybe a little bit in love with Martinez now.

SueO said...

It seems to me that the article wasn't as much about Martinez as much as it was about how to not beat your reader over the head with your writing.

I found it a great article.