Developmental editing, storytelling, and emotional craft in ethnographic writing
Andrew Hodges is a book editor of fiction and ethnography who works with fiction authors, researchers, and publishers. He especially loves collaborating with science fiction and fantasy authors and cultural anthropologists, and he is interested in what fiction developmental editors can learn from cultural anthropology and vice versa. In his previous career as a research academic, he published a monograph on football fan activism in Croatia from a queer perspective, and numerous research articles and book contributions on this and other topics. He lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, and his pronouns are he/him.
Ideas are central to cultural anthropology, and ethnographic writing seeks to bring these ideas to life. Effective storytelling can achieve this. In this keynote lecture, I will discuss insights I have learned since leaving cultural anthropology to work as a full-time book editor on fiction manuscripts and anthropology monographs. While copyediting prepares texts for publication, developmental editing deals with the mechanics of what makes good stories and books work. It focuses on the big-picture issues in a manuscript – from structure and cohesion to narrative viewpoint and voice. First, I will introduce some key concepts in fiction and academic developmental editing. I will then discuss first-person points of view in more detail and situate ethnography alongside other kinds of writing, such as memoir and literary fiction. Next, I consider how anthropologists can use the developmental editor’s conceptual toolbox to write more immersive ethnography. In the second half of the lecture, I will discuss emotional craft in ethnographic writing. Genre fiction in particular uses tried and tested techniques to draw emotional reactions from its audience – and the expectation of certain feelings at different points in the story is often why people read such books. To conclude, I ask what techniques can cultural anthropologists draw on to convey the ethnographer’s emotional journey to the reader more effectively?