What We Leave Out

Michael Lewis, author of The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, a book about the financial meltdown that is getting rave reviews — not only for its substance, but for its writing — was interviewed recently by Christopher Lydon on his show, Radio Open Source. Lewis calls his kind of journalism “narrative nonfiction.” This is how he describes his process:

Writing is about, and this sounds strange, about leaving things out. The gift is to find — the luck is to find — the right things to leave out. And what’s the least you have to include to make it all work. It’s a process of accumulating lots of raw material, sitting in my office by myself, and figuring out how much I can get rid of.

What does that remind you of?

The interview — and it’s a good one — is here:

Our Appetite for Apocalypse. Also available as a podcast on iTunes

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Explore posts in the same categories: Media and Society

5 Comments on “What We Leave Out”

  1. Norman Says:

    Reminds me of the cliché about Michaelangelo searching high and low and finally finding a big block of marble. He got it back to his studio and said “I finally found ‘The Pieta.’ Now I just have to chip away everything that’s not.”

    Apocryphal, I’m sure. But still, all about editing.

  2. Bill Says:

    David Mamet also put it very well.
    (His book on directing is a must for editors.)

    “A good writer gets better only by learning to cut, to remove the ornamental……
    What remains? The story remains.
    What is the story?
    The story is the essential progression of incidents that occur to the hero in pursuit of his one goal”
    …David Mamet

  3. Bill Says:

    Couldn’t resist another quote from Mamet…..

    “The humbling truth is that a film is made in the editing room.

    The most magnificent performances and the best intentions mean nothing if they don’t cut. The film goes by at twenty-four frames per second, and however lovely it is, however thoughtful it is, however deeply felt, all the audience cares about is what happens next. The director, the actor, the designer, the writer can and do become sidetracked, confused, indeed even inspired into serving two masters — the story and themselves. The editor serves only the story. As such, they are the best friend of the audience, and time and again, the salvation of the filmmaker.”

    …David Mamet

  4. Grant Says:

    My Mamet obsession was already unhealthy even before I read that last quote…now I may have to stalk him…

  5. Bill Says:

    “all the audience cares about is what happens next”

    So right.

    Important questions for every scene (even in doco).

    “What has changed?” (Nothing! why do we need this scene?)

    “What is the head of steam/what is going to make me hang around?”

    – what does the audience need to know? do they need to know ALL of it now?

    Maybe it is a bit we need to LEAVE OUT?


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