Dan Kraker: from facts to narratives

Dan Kraker has a way of giving even the dullest information a bit of character. Climate patterns and tick bites are some dry topics everyone can snooze along to, but Kraker manages to give the facts some style and pop.

For his written pieces the facts are all there, but it seems to be put into a story arc with the way he plays around with them. Good writers can take two basic facts and embed them into a narrative, great writers intertwine the facts with the realities that produced them. His same pieces, when written for the ear, still pack their fair punch of facts and data, but Kraker is careful to make the dry bits the important ones through scene setting lines and real characters who had real depth. After all, a good sign of a journalist is one who doesn’t ask or say nearly as much as they observe and research.

In the tick triggered allergy article, Kraker lets Suzanne Keithley-Myers tell her first person experience with the phenomenon. This allows facts on a page to become someones reality and at the same time allows readers to feel a connection to the piece. Everyone has gone for a hike in the woods at some point when you live in Minnesota, most have received their fair share of tick encounters, this article puts readers in almost the same spot as Keithley-Myers.

“It makes things really hard,” she said. “I can’t go to pot lucks and enjoy myself,” she said. “I can’t host the same way that I used to. I spent a few months really grieving it. It was a huge change.”

Dan Egan’s work is similar to Kraker’s through finding ways to make the reader actually care about the topic/piece. The beginning sentences of “How invasive species changed the Great Lakes forever” captures readers with a solid lead with some creative flair.

“June 1, 1988, the day everything changed for the Great Lakes, was sunny, hot and mostly calm — perfect weather for the young researchers from the University of Windsor who were hunting for critters crawling across the bottom of Lake St. Clair.”

These few lines along with the title tell the reader a real time, place and thing that’s happening without drying the lead out with too much information. Egan also works to find the connection for turning facts into a reality people care about knowing.

One of my questions for these writers would be how they find themselves able to immerse themselves in a set of facts and data, and still be able to find the smallest detail to bring to life for readers to latch onto throughout their stories.