Creative nonfiction, you say? How is this even possible?
Believe it or not, nonfiction has become a very effective means of storytelling. And this genre has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few decades. Just take a look at how much space that bookstores are now devoting to nonfiction – it used to be only a few shelves.
Yes, the term ‘creative’ doesn’t seem to belong with nonfiction. We view it this way because we think that nonfiction is restrained by facts and cannot be altered in any imaginative way. This is not true anymore.
Defining Creative Nonfiction
In a nutshell, we can view creative nonfiction as a way of employing the innovative writing methods of fiction to tell an actual story. But this statement leaves out an essential facet of creative storytelling.
It’s ‘how‘ we tell the story that often makes it stand out. Contrary to common belief, there are many ‘hows” available for use in writing good nonfiction stories. In fact, I would argue that it takes more creativity to tell a nonfiction story than any other.
What many people don’t know is that the creative nonfiction in the world today is quite exciting. To begin with, it’s gotten very experimental because writers are pushing the limits of precedence as they seek imaginative ways of telling their stories.
One reason for this is that the genre has become highly competitive. And let’s not forget how the Internet has revolutionized the usage of content. It’s given everybody a voice and a place to display their written words as well.
Study Good Nonfiction Stories
One way to observe methods that nonfiction writers are now using is to examine their work. Anytime you read a story that inspired you and made you stop and think, take a further step back and find out why it had this effect on you.
Why was it so great? Was there a specific phrase that triggered your feelings?
All writers appreciate and understand the effort that goes into writing a great article or essay. It takes a lot of work, but some methods will make your stories more effective and have a more profound impact on your readers.
Studying great nonfiction stories will show you what methods writers are now using. And when you discover them, you can not only use them; you can put your own spin on how you use them. And this is the real secret of becoming a great writer.
Powerful Elements of Creative Nonfiction
On top of studying the great work of your writing contemporaries, some static elements should always be in your creative nonfiction stories. Make them a habit in all of your nonfiction writing projects.
Provides a Clear Message
Whereas fiction writers have everything in the known (and even unknown) universe at their disposal, a nonfiction writer does not. This includes the purpose of writing your story.
Again, where fiction writers create a plot to drive their story – a plot that can also change as necessary – nonfiction stories only have three types of messages to choose from: to inform, to entertain, or to persuade.
The good news is that it’s easier to determine which type of message you are using. The challenge comes in how to make your nonfiction story stand out among the many that already exist. This is where how you tell your story comes into play.
The first step is to clearly state what type of message you are conveying to your readers. No one likes promises that are not kept, and that’s precisely what we do when we aren’t clear about the kind of message we are bringing.
Creating a Compelling Message
Copywriters will tell you that they spend as much time writing headlines as they do writing an entire sales letter. This indicates how important headlines are in persuading people to take action.
Your story title is the same as a headline on a sales letter – and should be treated accordingly. Your story’s title is what will drive people to read your story.
Ways to write more intriguing titles:
- Write no less than 20 titles for your story and pick the best one.
- Test some of your titles on social media and see which one gets the best response.
- Use a headline analyzer to polish and sharpen how you write titles (You can find one here).
Take Your Readers on a Journey
One effective way of generating compelling nonfiction is altering your mindset. Rather than viewing it as something boring that you have to crank out, why not consider your story as an exciting journey for your readers?
Look at the pieces of your story and determine the best order for them to be used. Consider how much time legendary movie producers spend editing their movies before releasing them. This is precisely what they are doing with this time – figuring out which pieces to include in their story and the best sequence to provide them.
In a relative sense, every story has parts that are more exciting and interesting than the rest. Identify those parts are in your story and build around them.
One of the most significant issues with nonfiction writers is what exists between their ears. Change your mindset about nonfiction – understand that there are plenty of ways to use creativity in these pieces of work. Please realize that this is not a limitation; instead, it’s a great way to stand out as a writer.
Use Proven Cases to Illustrate your Point
Unless you are a diehard visionary, there are usually examples to back up any point you make in your nonfiction story. There is just too much content out there today and too much access to that content for there not to be proven cases for you to use.
Let’s refer again to our copywriter friends – as they are the most influential among writers – they will tell you to social proof is one of the most powerful ways to close a sell.
In a sales letter, we see social proof used in the form of a customer testimonial about a product or service. In a nonfiction article, social proof exists in the form of a proven case that drives home the main point of your story.
Always use these examples. And don’t forget the higher credibility of your source, the stronger its effect will be.
Use Plenty of Subtitles
We already discussed the importance of the title; subtitles are almost as important. From what I’ve seen from many articles out there, subtitles are pretty much low-hanging fruit. This is because not many writers use them – and among those who do, they don’t use them well.
Look at our society today; we have been living in the information age for decades. We get bombarded with information constantly throughout the day. Many of us have developed a blind spot for much of this information.
So how do many of us consume information today because of all the information? We skim it!
This is why we must make content easier to read. And we do this by giving skimmers a way to preview our content. Subtitles should be used to accommodate all the skimmers.
Create a series of subtitles across your story, which serve as an accurate outline of what it’s about. This way, a skimmer can quickly read them, and if he or she likes it, then they will read the entire content for themselves.
I encourage you to apply these creation nonfiction elements to your articles gradually. Try not to change everything at once, as this will sometimes take you completely away from your style as a writer.
Your writing style makes you unique as a writer, and that’s what you should polish. These writing methods – or any other method – should be used to enhance and augment what you are already doing.
Never be afraid to use your voice and step out of the box when the urge hits you. The worst that can happen is it doesn’t work – so what? Failures are quickly forgotten after you create your next masterpiece. And this depends on your desire and determination.