write right!

July 7th, 2017


Writing nonfiction is in many ways different than writing "creative fiction."

According to many contemporary journalists, the most basic similarity between the two is 'style' also called, tone, voice, diction and rhythm, and is as important as content. No longer is nonfiction looked upon as being simply a matter of remaining factual, getting as much fact as possible and putting them in order; and then, presenting them clearly to readers.

Quite a revolutionary concept adding voice to nonfiction, and thankfully so. Can you imagine a biography piece based on the same character written the same way over and over again with the same facts and little by way of voice? It would horrible and no one would read it.  However adding voice doesn't give nonfiction writers a license to be wild and crazy with facts either.  They still must produce an honest and straightforward approach with data but, by adding a humanistic flair to the way it is presented draws in more readers. 

Inverted Pyramids: an old phrase used for delivering news.  Journalists are expected to put as much of the most important information at the very top of the article they are writing. As the article progresses, less essential details are added.  The idea is to grab the audience before they tune you out, or move on to another article.  There is also the space factor and fitting on the newspaper page. You don't want the editor to slice off the story just when it's getting good.

When preparing a nonfiction piece, you can consider two angles: presenting the hard facts, or, covering the human-interest angle. 

Where fiction writers don't think about publication until they've finished their work, nonfiction writers don't take their eyes off their audiences for a moment.

In doing this, they must keep in mind:

  • their audience's age and/or reading level,
  • their audience's culture, values and beliefs,
  • their audience's specific interests

Tone of each potential publication is also crucial  for non fiction writers to keep in mind. For example, are you going to need a bit of humor for a publication that focuses on adult lifestyles and those trying to go a day without coffee. Or, how about a sobering article that discusses environmentally conscious people who are protesting against the negative effects of coffee plantations on indigenous wildlife.

There are always many different ways to approach a nonfiction article. Settling for the obvious approach is not necessarily always the best.