My current writing challenge is to recount a brand new chapter in the history of polio eradication. In the last two weeks of April, 155 countries around the world switched to a different kind of polio vaccine. An additional vaccine is being introduced in the 126 countries that weren’t yet using it. This is a very big deal. It is technically and logistically complicated. My first draft is long on explanation and short on storytelling. How do you tell a technical story in human terms?
Journalists and documentary filmmakers deal with this all the time. I hope to learn from them. Ideally, they show people profoundly affected by the development. For polio that’s a future negative: children who won’t be paralyzed. Another approach is to feature people behind the development: researchers, decision makers, or (for polio) Rotarians raising money. Finally, quotes or talking heads give impersonal content a human voice.
I’d like to learn from you, too. What holds your attention in a show or article on a technical topic? Do you find related challenges in your own creative work, and how do you address them?
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.