Three Ways to Go Gonzo

We blog for a million different reasons, but in the end we’re all storytellers. Writing Challenges help you push your…

We blog for a million different reasons, but in the end we’re all storytellers. Writing Challenges help you push your writing boundaries and explore new ideas, subjects, and styles.

To participate, read the challenge instructions and write at least one post in response. Tag your post with DPchallenge and include a link to this post to generate a pingback. Make sure your post has been specifically published in response to this challenge. We might just highlight some of our favorites on Freshly Pressed on Fridays, or in our monthly newsletter.

Let’s go Gonzo (without the LSD)

Hunter S. Thomspon, father of Gonzo journalism.

Hunter S. Thomspon, father of Gonzo journalism.

Hunter S. Thompson was an American author and writer. (He was also a drug enthusiast, among other things, but that’s another story for another day.) His infamous, detail-dense, first-person narrative, The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved, spawned a genre of reporting called Gonzo journalism. Gonzo journalism differs from typical reporting in that Gonzo journalists renounce claims of objectivity, often place themselves in the story as a first-person narrator, and include verbatim dialogue to capture and convey their first-hand experiences. The work can often have a “stream-of-consciousness” feel to it.

Consider this passage from the opening of The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved:

In the air-conditioned lounge I met a man from Houston who said his name was something or other — “but just call me Jimbo” — and he was here to get it on. “I’m ready for anything, by God! Anything at all. Yeah, what are you drinkin?” I ordered a Margarita with ice, but he wouldn’t hear of it: “Naw, naw…what the hell kind of drink is that for Kentucky Derby time? What’s wrong with you, boy?” He grinned and winked at the bartender. “Goddam, we gotta educate this boy. Get him some good whiskey

“Say,” he said, “you look like you might be in the horse business…am I right?”

“No,” I said. “I’m a photographer.”

“Oh yeah?” He eyed my ragged leather bag with new interest. “Is that what you got there — cameras? Who you work for?”

Playboy,” I said.

He laughed. “Well goddam! What are you gonna take pictures of — nekkid horses? Haw! I guess you’ll be workin’ pretty hard when they run the Kentucky Oaks. That’s a race jut for fillies.” He was laughing wildly. “Hell yes! And they’ll all be nekkid too!”

In this scenario, Thompson reports on meeting a stranger headed to the Kentucky Derby. Examine the passage closely. What impression do you get of “Jimbo,” based on Thompson’s account? Consider Jimbo’s language. He drops the letter “g” from “working.” He uses profanity. He doesn’t say, “naked horses,” he says “nekkid horses.”

If you pay attention to the details, a compelling picture of the Kentucky Derby begins to emerge — one that doesn’t necessarily match the decorum we typically associate with a prestigious horse race. You can read the entire piece if you like.

In summary, the basic hallmarks of Gonzo journalism are:

And now for the challenge part

Gonzo, yes, but not a journalist.

Gonzo, yes, but not a journalist.

There are three different ways to participate in today’s challenge. The goal is to stretch your writing style by experimenting with and emulating a new form. As always, the goal of any writing challenge is to get you writing. You’re welcome to adapt the challenge to your needs as you see fit. For example, you may choose to include only one, two, or all three hallmarks of Gonzo journalism listed above in your post.

  • Report on one event/gathering/happening from your week in Gonzo journalism style. The event can be anything from your life: a slice of your weekly drawing class, the conversation between the butcher and the man buying stewing beef at the meat counter in your local grocery store, or what you observe and hear while you’re at the gas station filling up. Cram as many details in as you can. Record any dialogue as accurately as possible: include pauses, slang, stumbles, inflection, etc. Your post needs to be a minimum of three paragraphs long.
  • Write at least three paragraphs reporting on a scenario that you imagine in Gonzo journalism style.
  • Choose one of the following three scenarios. Imagine the scenario taking place in as great a detail as your brain will allow. Write at least three paragraphs reporting on the scenario in Gonzo journalism style.

    1. You’re standing on a busy street corner. A car runs a red light, hitting a cyclist crossing the intersection.
    2. You’re waiting at gate 23 at John F. Kennedy (JFK) Airport’s Terminal 7 to board an Air Canada flight to Vancouver. The flight has been delayed two hours so far. The gate agent announces a further three-hour delay before take off. To your right sits an elderly couple. She’s in a wheelchair. To the left, a family of four, with a boy, aged five and a newborn infant girl.
    3. You’re in a street-side café in San Diego, California. The couple seated at the next table is breaking up.

No matter which option you choose, have fun with the challenge! So looking forward to reading your posts.

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  1. There was a chemical leak in the river less than five miles from where I live, and it made national headlines. Normally, gonzo isn’t my thing. But how could I pass up the opportunity to do some journalism when my hometown just made an appearance on The Daily Show?


  2. Hey there. I need to prefice this by saying that I don’t know squat about blogging, as I’ve just created my account yesterday. I did, however, see your weekly challenge, and figured that I’d give it a shot. Definately not my style of writing, so, I was a bit out of my comfort zone. That being said, I’m not sure that I actually have a “style” of writing, or even a comfort zone, for that matter. Anywho, please forgive me if I’ve done anything here incorrectly, and, please feel free to let me know, otherwise, you could very well be seeing the same thing week after week. Given the links incorporated with other comments, I’ve included mine here. Take care-D


  3. “Gonzo, without acid?” Are you fucking kidding me? What kind of lolly watered down born again christian pap are you selling here? Rethink your life. People like you killed punk rock and own green day t-shirts.


    1. Gonzo by numbers? Someone ought clean your faulty clock! Hah! Please make sure you know I am only half assed meaning this… that I am responding at all means you are striking some chord. Thanks, I guess. I really just hope that you find a better way than watering down greatness. Write me 500 words on why Gonzo should never be defined or proscribed. Go. Stupid kids should stay outa grownup business….


  4. #dpchallenge

    It was late afternoon , there were about six different team jerseys in a gathering of 50 so people. Tobacco and vape vapours lightly scented the air. The softball beer league was well underway as the sun shined down with its bright, ultra heated rays. It was sweltering. Most players had already played their match and were drinking beers in the shaded bleachers , smoking, drinking, hot dogs , junk food , cussing and dirty jokes as they watched their peers square off, a few cases of empties beside the garbage it was clear that all teams had played that day, and this game was winding down into the evening, some had a tall can in each hand. In the dugout, among the players was a kid , couldn’t be more than 13 years , probably a player’s son, completely fixated on the game, no one seemed to mind this kid in the middle of this heavily drunken indecency, and who was enjoying the shit out of every moment on this first Sunday of summer 2019.
    This looked like a fight club of sorts for these usually law abiding citizens who were breaking at least 10 by-laws, and possibly 2 misdemeanors , or possibly a felony. And no one was batting an eye. I certainly was kept aback by this scenario, not from being offended by any actions, as I clearly wasnt, but simply from this act of open debauchery being unanswered by society, or law enforcement. I hope not to disturb this culture, therefore I will not divulge the whereabouts, but it’s a nice part in the slums of a metropolitan area.
    Other spectators were among the crowd, mostly girlfriends , and one old lady with her rottweiler, a calm rottweiller, could not care less about all the jolting actions of the softball game that could easily turn an aggressive dog into a frenzy . No this dog was with an old lady about the same size as him and was more fixated on a mom and her baby as he tried to interact with them.
    And as I live and breathe, out of nowhere came these two elderly, skinny, homeless, browned from the sun and rind of the great urban outdoors , dressed in flashy bright coloured unmatching baseball outfits , on their weather beaten 12 speed bicycles, stopped, made their way to the bleachers , they looked for a second like they were part of the crowd , but quickly collected all the empties they could find and then hastily doubled back , completely out of sight. Like a flash in the night.


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