CAROLYN'S COMPOSITIONS

January 17, 2011

Writing About (Historic) Buildings


CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS

WRITING ABOUT (HISTORIC) BUILDINGS

     The Beanery Writers Group (Southwestern Pennsylvania) members have an opportunity to visit and write about a Frank Lloyd Wright structure, in any genre the writer chooses. Once the idea was seeded, I realized that doing this would present a challenge to many of the group members, including myself. 

     We are preparing for this project by visiting and writing about local structures: two unusual restaurants, a historic building built in 1799 which is now a museum, a Catholic church Basilica, the county courthouse, etc. Because these excursions have proven how difficult it is to write about historic structures, I searched the ‘net for guidance. I discovered that there’s a scarcity of instructional material to glean from.

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     Buildings, like people, have stories to tell about their community’s and the nation’s past. Embedded in historic structures and landscapes are traces of past lives that are clues to how our ancestors lived, and how life today evolved. To write about them is to bring these traces to life.

     Historic structures, with a wealth of history, legend, and folklore on their doorstep, provide fertile material for factual and fictional writing. The writer’s imagination, inspired by the iconic locations, can run wild, using descriptive style and creating imaginative stories based on both fact and fiction.

     There are different approaches to writing about historic (or current day) structures.  

  • Describe in detail a general overall view of the structure, a room, or an item(s) on display. Use all your senses, but remember: descriptive writing does not include opinion.
  • Use personal interviews, research (libraries and Internet—caution, though—make certain the information is accurate), and documentation (public records, newspaper stories) to write a factual piece on the history of the structure. Support this with information on the structure itself and/or its contents, in part or in whole. Include the date the structure was built, its architectural style, how the structure changed through the years
  • Explore the people connected with the structure: the builder, the owners through the years, who worked in the structure, who visited the structure and why.
  • What was the structure’s original use? How did it reflect its certain historical era. How did it change through the years (additions, renovations, etc.)? What is its current use? Why were these changes made? What construction, special to its purpose, was used? What is the relationship between its construction and its purpose?
  • Why do you think that people are interested in visiting this building?
  • Can these buildings tell us anything about (to continue reading click on: How to Write About (Historic) Buildings)

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 ADDITIONAL READING:

DEVELOPING CHARACTERS IN NOVEL WRITING

Eavesdropping—the good and the bad of it

JOURNALIST ETHICS CONCERNING THE RECEIPT OF GIFTS

Journalism Rules and Professionalism: I had neither!

INTEGRITY: A JOURNALISTIC CODE OF ETHICS REVIEW

THE WRITING LIFE CONTINUES

THE WRITING LIFE: There’s a World Out There?

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