Nonfiction is Writing That Deals With Reality
TELLING THE TRUTH!
By Stuart Leventhal
Nonfiction is a classification or category of literature consisting of works of prose other than fiction. Simply put, since fiction is the term applied to fake, make believe, imaginary stories then Nonfiction works are Real Stories, true stories, stories that actually happened about people and places that actually existed!
Literary works that are not fabricated by the author’s imagination often take considerable skill and discipline in order to be written in a way that captures and holds the reader’s full attention span over the long haul of the piece. Good nonfiction writing requires siphoning out the gist or essence of life’s moments then replaying them for your audience. Your readers do not want to hear about every single thing that happened and you do not have the time to depict everything either. Your readers are counting on you to tell them the important stuff, the defining moments then to go into explicit detail when the details are worth your readers’ time.
Nonfiction includes narrative prose that reflects reality and depicts or reenacts true events as they actually happened. Attention to detail, adherence to facts, figures and getting the data correct is all of the utmost importance. Nonfiction text often deals with or offers opinions or conjectures upon facts and reality but it never alters the facts. Historic essays and Biographies are all good examples of nonfiction.
Prose accounts of real people, places, objects, things and ideas or events are all nonfiction. Nonfiction covers everything from instructional manuals to history, from science text books to cooking and gardening books. Nonfiction books include law books, diet books, self-help books and travel books.
There is also Creative Nonfiction Writing, which at first may seem like a contradiction of words since when we are dealing with telling the truth we are often taught we are not supposed to get creative! But remember, factual stories can be presented in many different, varying, innovative and unique ways without changing or altering the facts! Creative Nonfiction Authors are breaking ground all the time with telling true stories more entertainingly. Creative Nonfiction Authors have recently been having great successes exploring nontraditional uses of storytelling to hammer home ideas and to teach in the mostly non-story telling arenas of higher education and learning that are more used to the text book style, memorization types of teaching and learning such as in the scientific and mathematical fields where the emphasis has been mostly focused on memorization of formulas, definitions and theories.
Anyone can go to a library and borrow a pile of books on a subject, read through the books taking out episodes that one feels are important, cross check and confirm the facts, dates, figures and names with other books then compile a summary text of the events based on all the accounts gone over. There is a place for that kind of writing; school text books, history class…After all it is important that mankind remember history accurately and pass the details of the events down to the new generations so they can learn from our mistakes and accomplishment and honor our historic heroes and geniuses and celebrate worthy accomplishments but that is not creative nonfiction writing.
Creative nonfiction writing goes deeper and evaluates things from more than just the popular points of view. There are facts and then there are always the stories behind the facts. These smaller tales are equally if not more important than the big picture but they are a lot lesser known and rarely documented or explored thoroughly. For example: 1245 people die in one week in a small town in the hills of Maine from a still unidentified, mysterious illness. The outbreak came suddenly claiming the first victim little Henry Barney Forsythia the 3rd just 11 years old at 4pm July 16th. The fifth grader, Forsythia suddenly collapsed on the basketball court during a scrimmage game. He never recovered! The disease, if that was what it was, (poison natural or deliberate was never ruled out) swept through the rural town downing victim after victim for seven straight days! On july23 the sudden collapsing or pedestrians ceased and so did the unexplained deaths, just as mysteriously as they had begun. After a full two weeks past with no more symptoms appearing the army finally lifted their quarantine clearing the town folk to go back to resuming normal activities which the survivors attempted to do to the best of their ability considering the travesty the had just experienced. Now the above info may make for fascinating news stories around the globe and even great nonfiction background for essays for medical journals but can you see how telling the more personal true story of any of the victims or lucky survivors or doctors or scientists who worked on the strange case or politicians who dealt with the social damage or family members of the victims involved in the episode whose lives were devastated by the unexplained loss of their loved ones would be much more engaging?
Sure the main large more talked about story is still the most important story but it really only is important due to the way it influences so many other smaller stories. Your readers’ knowledge is enhanced by your writing helping them to understanding the relationship between the big picture and the effect it has on altering or shaping all the little tales. When we add knowledge to a read we add meaning and purpose increasing the value and fulfillment of the read and thus enhance and extend the readers enjoyment. Sometimes the impression an informative, enlightening read makes on us can last a long time even the rest of our life. In this way, exposing one’s mind and senses to a well written creative nonfiction writing piece can be life altering.
The power of creative nonfiction writing is that it personifies the big events of history. It converts vague, staggering large numbers and often boat loads of confusing data into emotionally charged relevant scenes which the reader can better relate to. Nonfiction is the record of human existence. Nonfiction tells the tale of our heritage; keeps the memory of our ancestors alive and reminds us of from where we have come and how we have grown. Nonfiction is also all of societies rule and regulations and our guides, tips and instructions for living. That being said, nonfiction writers have a lot of responsibility to live up to!
Want to learn more about Writing Nonfiction? Check out these recommended readings!