Anatomy of an Article – Part 1

anatomy of an article

If you think about it, it’s the details that draw us into a story – whether fiction or non-fiction. That’s why I was interested in reading a recent article about the value of  note-taking for travel writers. I’m not a travel writer, per se, but I never travel without a notebook shoved in my hip pocket.

Whenever I visit a place (and for me, that’s typically somewhere in the frontier west) I jot down random observations.  That way, no matter how long it may be before I write about the place, by digging out an old notebook I can get myself back into a specific time and place.

I use little spiral-bound notebooks that easily slide into my pocket.  When I get home, I throw them into a box where I keep all my travel notebooks. Sadly, I’m not organized enough to categorize them by date or place – but so far my so-called system works fine.  anatomy of an article

Yesterday, I got an itch to write a flash non-fiction about Fort Robinson.  Located in western Nebraska, Robinson is the place  Crazy Horse, the Oglala Sioux warrior, surrendered and was killed. The photo above is of  a replica of the guardhouse the soldiers were trying to force him into when he bolted and was fatally bayoneted in the back.

Got Notes, Now What?

The notes I took date back to 1998, my first trip to Fort Robinson. Just reading them reminded me of  the blazing hot day I sat on the edge of the old parade ground, across from the guardhouse, jotting down whatever came to mind. My first thought was to make a mind-map from my notes, just to see what might happen.

Instead of using my desktop or iPad mind-mapping software, I got out a piece of paper and just started free-associating (see below). Now here’s the amazing part of the story:

As I mind-mapped (clustering is what we used to call it) I started making interesting associations. The two that most struck me were my note about a black butterfly and another about  the flies that bit so hard they drew blood.  I’m not sure how I’m going to use them, but I know they’ll have a part. It was a black day for the Sioux – and the blood drawn by the flies biting the back of my leg was but a drop compared to the wound suffered by the warrior.

anatomy of an article

Another thing – the wind. But I need to think about that one a little more.

Thought you might enjoy seeing my mindmap – and wondering, do you use mind maps too?

Stay tuned for Part 2.

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3 Comments

  1. I’ve used mind-mapping to help when studying at University and College, but not for writing. It’s such a good idea that I will try it out when writing about this coming weekend: a Gamers Convention that I’m attending with my son (and dreading, truth be told). I hope to write something funny for my blog about the event and this might just help make the resulting post a bit more compelling :-D

    Ali x

  2. I have tried mind mapping, but it seems stilted. It helps to see how yours grows on the page. I’ll try it on my next project to see what comes up.

  3. Mine could actually grow bigger, Ann. At this point, though, I’m trying to see what associations really make sense for my article. Thanks for being here and for commenting!

Love to hear your thoughts!