Can you call a 9-year-old a psychopath?
So titled is Jennifer Kahn’s NYTimes magazine cover story exploring the controversial phenomenon of child psychopathy. While the article itself is a fascinating read, aspiring freelance science writers may be more interested in how she wove developmental psychology and a family’s true story into such a captivating narrative .
Enter The Open Notebook, a site dedicated to the craft of science writing and “the story behind the best science stories.” In their behind the scenes look at Kahn’s piece, we learn about how Kahn found a family willing to share their story and what her experience was like with them. She also discusses her writing process, including how she picks stories The site also posts a link to Kahn’s successful pitch letter proposing the story to the NYTimes.
The Open Notebook has a number of other stories and tips designed to guide and inspire freelance science writers. Check out their extensive discussion with Rebecca Skloot, author of the must-read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, about how she built the incredible narrative structure. Also worthwhile is a recent post on how science writers use sensory detail. And, for those serious about pursuing freelance science writing, be sure to read through their collection of successful feature pitches.