“Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” by Gay Talese launched the era of New Journalism, and it is considered as one of the greatest magazine articles ever written. Here are some of the writing tips I learned from reading this article:
1. Use roadblocks as creative fodder
Gay Talese was tasked to write a profile about Frank Sinatra, but when Talese arrived at Sinatra’s place, the singer refused to be interviewed saying he had a cold. Instead of being discouraged, Talese turned this roadblock into a pivotal part of his piece.
2. Describe the hell out of the experience
Talese was very meticulous in describing details, so when you read his piece, you’ll literally be transported to where the writer was. When Talese describes, it is not like a barrage of information like a history-class shot gun. Talese descriptions always have a purpose. They are made to portray a scene, flesh out a character, and set a certain mood.
Talese also surprises readers with unique and slightly incongruent descriptions like “the television set lights like an operating room.” Talese also zeroes in on the quirky like when he said that Sinatra knew how to sit on the bus in such a way that when the singer stood up, there will be no creases.
3. Actions spark up articles
Describing actions can reveal character so Talese made adequate use of this technique.
4. Transitions build and pulsate
Build the scene and build the moment, but then remember to shake up the timeline. In the essay, Talese starts with the bar scene, describes it, then he takes you to another location, or another time, then he goes back to the bar, then he goes to another story that a friend recalled.
5. Back up statements with evidence
When Talese says “Frank Sinatra does things personally,” he backs it up with examples.
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