Practice for Writing Creative Nonfiction Help
Practice for Writing Creative Nonfiction
Personal essays, vignettes, flash nonfiction, letters, and journals culminate not only in the evocation of particular human questions and insights, but in the dissemination of information and the education of readers on particular subjects, the ones the writers are exploring to find answers to life questions.
When you sit down to write creative nonfiction, you may have a word length in mind or the idea for a whole book. You may want to write in journal entries or in one long paragraph, in letter form, or in essays that follow rhetorical patterns of thinking.
The exercises that follow will help you use the material you have from your life, research, and knowledge to write first-person pieces that move and inform others as well as focus or change your perceptions about what you have experienced.
Let's start by exploring the rhetorical forms you might use to organize explorations.
Eight Rhetorical Patterns and How to Use Them to Create Essays
Narration—In this form of organization, a writer moves through time in chronological order, telling a story by relating events as they occurred. This story may be from a memory, a current happening, or one that will happen or is longed for and can be fully imagined.
Description—Although all narrations require description or readers won't feel like they are in the story, some creative nonfiction has as its mission the desire to evoke one place, person, thing, or event through the use of details that make the reader feel in the presence of the writer's subject.
How To—Using how-to (or process analysis, as it is also called) writers tell how something is done or something is made. There are always steps to be ordered and detailed. Inside the steps, anecdotes, which are short narrations, might be employed; description is always necessary as readers need to know what results, procedures, and variations look, feel, taste, smell, and sound like. They need descriptions of how they know they have succeeded and/or what the failure to receive expected results looks like.
Comparison and Contrast—We are born comparison makers. Using our abilities in our writing means we tell what is the same and what is different between two versions of something, whether they be places we swam as children, cars we've had, our grandfathers, or schools we went to.
Cause and Effect—What happens in life can often be traced back to an event or a decision we or someone else made. Writing about the results of experiences can help us relate more of our life experiences.
Classification and Division—Sometimes we like to put our experiences and thoughts into categories and compare those categories to explore more than we might otherwise.
Definition—Writing from our own perspective about what something is, we write using all of the other rhetorical devices. We describe, compare and contrast, show how something is made or done, delineate effects and classify kinds of whatever we are describing. Very importantly, we call attention to function.
Argument and Persuasion—Sometimes we write to affect how people think about a situation and to help them change their minds and hearts. People who write from personal experience can be quite persuasive. If an author suffers from an illness that most readers don't realize afflicts people—say social anxiety—that author can argue that the illness exists by sharing stories about moving through life with the illness, describing what it looks and feels like, and talking about how the sufferers are impacted by those who don't understand. The author can talk about how the condition is the same and different than other mental and emotional afflictions. To use personal experience to write an argument, the writer needs to know the point under consideration and how to make it real to the reader and pull the reader into the information.
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