Whereas Capote reports on a crime he did not witness, O'Brien writes on a war in which he fought. However, the lack of immediacy is still present, his book was published over twenty years after he last stepped foot in Vietnam. With this mind, have the students write a narrative of at least one page describing the experience of the secret message (you might want to call it the Pony Express or Gossip). Students are required to include the necessary factual information, who, what, where, why, and how. However, the objective is for students to use their tone, style, and voice (which will happen inherently if not cognitively) to most accurately retell the events of the secret message. You may inform them, or choose not to, that at the culmination of the unit they will again describe the secret message experience.
By describing an event they experienced in their own voice, the students internalize O'Brien's process. At the end of the unit, have the students write another narrative describing the secret message experience with the same objective, to most accurately present the truth. Have the students compare their earlier work with the later, and decide which narrative they would like to submit to the class-wide New Journalism writing competition. The suggested categories are, Most Truthful, Most facts, Most Interesting, and the Pulitzer Prize, for best narrative overall. Each student will then read their submission, and prizes should be awarded by class vote.
In Cold Blood: Characterization -- The People, the Characters, the Author
The narrowing of fact and fiction is the cornerstone of New Journalism. Approaching this premise in a philosophical discussion is daunting for even the most accomplished teacher, however, including direct citation of In Cold Blood and The Things They Carried in the discussion, precipitates fortuitous results. Having already deconstructed the word "truth", assign the definition, "a verifiable fact", for the next activity. Ask students to define truth from Capote's or O'Brien's point-of-view, using In Cold Blood and The Things They Carried to reinforce their suppositions. Furthermore, as these authors narrow the gap between fact and fiction, how do they reinterpret truth? Below is a practical approach to this thesis.