From a seminar on story in creative nonfiction:
• The apparent subject lies on the surface, neat and calm. The real story lies underneath. It's very messy and has emotional urgency. Always keep asking yourself, "What's the real story?"--Barbara Hurd, literary nonfiction essayist and mentor extraordinaire
• Some reasons writers often don't get to the real story – shame, fear, laziness, the inner critic, time; not yet understanding the real story; not ready to deal with the real story.
• To uncover the real story, alter the way you look at things. Read other material – read what you love, and see what opens the doors. Be like a bloodhound; keep sniffing around, keep moving; do free writing to find what moves you.
• How to know when it's not there yet: You're bored. You are relying on writing and not on story. It feels dutiful. You are unable to title it. You can't imagine an ideal reading audience for the piece.
The first six MFA Notebooks posts can be found here.