Traditionally, publishers have used the terms story and article to mean specific things. A story is fiction and an article is nonfiction.
Like much of our writing world, those terms are becoming blurred -- particularly on sites such as Gather.
This week, I’m going to try to reinforce the traditional meanings of these terms. Below are two versions of something that happened to me. Your job is to figure out which is the story (fiction) and which is the article (true).
I was a Marine guard at the American Embassy in Paris when President Nixon visited France in 1969. His itinerary, of course, included a meeting in the embassy and we were ready for it with six additional Marines on duty that day.
The motorcade arrived and the president and Ambassador Shriver walked into the embassy. To their right was our guard desk with the Sergeant of the Guard who saluted them and they continued across the large lobby to the marble staircase. They came up a short flight of stairs to a landing where I was waiting. I saluted and they turned to the left and went up a longer flight of stairs to a second landing where another Marine, Skip, was waiting. He saluted and they turned to the left and went up another short flight to the second floor.
Our duty done for the moment, Skip and I went down to the guard office until the secret service told us the heavies were leaving. Skip and I went back to our posts and waited for them to come down the stairs, but… there was a cute twist this time.
Three of the embassy secretaries were sitting on a desk on the second landing. Now, this is the late ‘60s -- that means short (read that as really short) skirts. The president came down the stairs to the second landing, said hi to the secretaries, and started down the stairs. When he was about five steps down, his head was almost level with the top of the desk when he turned around to look back over his shoulder and he lost his footing -- while he was trying to get a look up the secretaries’ skirts!
Let me tell you, those secret service agents had amazing reflexes; Nixon hadn’t fallen more than three inches from the vertical before two of them grabbed him and held him up. I was trying not to laugh as he came past me and, looking up, I saw the secretaries all giggling about what had happened.
I was a Marine guard at the American Embassy in Paris when President Nixon visited France in 1969. His itinerary, of course, included a meeting in the embassy and we were ready for it with six additional Marines on duty that day. You might think that having the president visit the embassy would be the high point of my tour -- hah!
Because we were responsible for security in the embassy, we were a bit put off when the presidential motorcade pulled into the embassy courtyard and the secret service agents chased us out of sight!
As the president and Ambassador Shriver walked into the embassy, the only Marine in view was the Sergeant of the Guard: who had been cautioned not to draw attention to himself. The rest of us were in side hallways out of sight from the main lobby. We were leaning around corners trying to catch a glimpse of the president like young school kids trying to peek into the teachers’ lounge.
The entourage went up the marble staircase to the ambassador’s second-floor office and the Marines were allowed to resume our regular duties. About an hour later, the secret service agents pushed us out of sight once again because the president was leaving.
After everyone of any importance had left the embassy, we were standing around wondering why we had the extra security presence that day. Nope, presidential visits don’t rate very high on my excitement meter.
* * *
Two very different looks at the same topic. Now, which one is real (an article) and which one is false (a story)?
Anyone who knows me will probably recognize the first version as the true account of that day. You just can’t make up something as entertaining as that.
That’s what we’re going to concentrate on this week: the difference between an article and a story -- in the traditional sense.
This Week’s Challenge:
Use prose or poetry to write two things: First, a short article about some subject. Then, a short story about the same subject. Use the article as the inspiration for your story.
Write an article (nonfiction) about the first school day you can remember then write a fictional account (story) of that same day.
Write both a story (fiction) and an article (nonfiction) about anything that happened in your life and challenge us to figure out which one is true.
Watch Out For:
Remember that I’m trying to stress the *traditional* meanings of those words and want your article to be absolutely true and your story to be fiction, but based on the article.
If you choose to let us try to figure out which is which, make sure you have some way of letting us know whether we got the right answer.
Very interesting responses this week. This is the third time I’ve asked you to write something about yourself and it has had the most responses. Well done. As always, I’ll ask you to read each of these submissions because the writers worked hard on their responses.
(Saturday Writing Essential) by brian bennett
About The Author -- Gather Writing Essential Saturday Bio SatWE by Doug Westberg
Saturday Writing Essential Submission: Franklin Newman's biography. By Franklin Newman
Submissions (Saturday Writing Essential) – Foreclosures by Pam Brittain
the writer bio of my dreams by karen vaughan
Who Is Len Maxwell? (Saturday Writing Essential) by Len Maxwell
Response to a Previous Challenge:
Time Machine: Ch.4 (SatWe) by William Dotani
Weekly reminder: Don't forget to recommend an article that you like (to learn why, read Ann Marcaida's article Attract More Writers and Artists to Gather!). Also, try to place a comment on at least one article and say more than you liked the piece. Tell the author what worked and what needs work.
- Put this challenge statement at the beginning or end of your submission so readers will know what you’re supposed to do.
Challenge: Use prose or poetry to write two things: First, a short article about some subject. Then, a short story about the same subject. Use the article as the inspiration for your story.
- There is a limit of three submissions from each member per day. If you’re extremely prolific, spread out your work and post only three submissions per day.
- Post to Gather Writing Essential.
- Tag your submission with SatWE. (Remember to separate your tags with a comma.)
- Include (Saturday Writing Essential) as part of your title.
- I ask that you make your submission(s) by next Friday afternoon.