Monday, July 5, 2010

Informational or Invitational? - Creative Non-Fiction - Part 1

One of the first workshops I took at a writers' conference involved using fiction techniques for non-fiction writing. By implementing these principles, I increased my acceptance rate.

Now, why do you suppose that happened? Think back to all the times you read something that merely stated facts. Yawn. In today's media-soaked environment, hooking and keeping a reader engaged requires what I call, "the human touch." The reader wants the writer to care about them, not to bombard them with words like so much buckshot.

When writing a devotional, article or book, the use of a personal story, dialogue, questions, and show/don't tell heighten the impact and call the reader to take some action. Taking a non-fiction subject and drawing the reader into the story enables them to relate on both an emotional and spiritual level.

Now that we understand why fiction techniques are beneficial in our non-fiction writing, we'll be looking at how to merge the two to create a piece that's not only informational, but also invitational.

Even if you're a fiction writer, you'll need to produce promotional materials, letters to fans, and blog posts that will communicate your care and concern for the reader. Have you ever used show/don't tell, strong verbs, dialogue, etc. in your non-fiction writing?

22 comments:

Marja said...

Thanks for this post Susan! I write mainly non-fiction and recently I have indeed discovered that biblestudies for example become more accessable when I use personal stories or parables, like Jesus did, to make a point. You are so right, it makes it more human.
Great post, thanks.

Jessica Nelson said...

I believe I did in the articles I used to write, even though I didn't realize that was what I was doing.
You do have a great acceptance rate with your writing! Thanks for the post. :-)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Marja -

You're welcome.

I love to read the Gospels and note how Jesus taught. He used examples from real life. In His own life, He lived the principles He taught.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jess -

I believe we sometimes hit on truths and methods without understanding the principles behind them. Isn't it nice though to comprehend why something is working?

If we look at the popular devotionals and anthologies, we can get a good idea of what they're seeking and why we like them as readers.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Rosslyn Elliott said...

Very interesting! I like reading about the non-fiction side of things. It's good to step out of my own box every now and then.

Karen Lange said...

Good advice! I think our writing can have life and personality no matter what genre or form.
Blessings,
Karen :)

quietspirit said...

Susan:
I strive to use stron words in my writing. Sometimes it becomes difficult. Personal stories are excellent ways to make a point in devotionals.

Thank you for sharing.

Sharon Ball said...

I'm so glad you're covering this because I'd like to learn how to add show don't tell to my nonfiction writing. I'm going to look for workshops about nonfiction writing at the next conference I attend.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Karen -

Thanks for joining the discussion. There's no reason non-fiction should be dull.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Rosslyn -

When it comes to methodology, I believe non-fiction and fiction writers can learn from each other. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Blessings,
Susan :)

patti said...

Great post! I LOVE creative nonfiction as a genre branch of fiction, like What is the What, but your post helps with just everyday writing!

Blessings,
Patti

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Sharon -

As a fiction writer, you already have an advantage. When I started applying these techniques to my non-fiction writing, I was clueless.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Patti -

Non-fiction is my first love and where I started my publishing journey.

All of us do some non-fiction writing - letters, emails, newsletters, etc. These venues can leave the reader wanting more or hitting the delete key.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Quiet Spirit -

Yes, strong verbs perk up a non-fiction piece. Personal stories also engage the reader because they're seeing a practical application of a principle.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Carol J. Alexander said...

I almost always begin my non-fiction articles with a personal story. Personalizing definitely gets the reader's attention.

Jeanette Levellie said...

I've learned so much from fiction writers about setting, characterization, and moving the story along. I believe these principles have added sparkle to my non-fiction writing, and helped me sell more articles. Thanks, you guys!

Jen

Terri Tiffany said...

yes I have-especially in Chicken Soup articles:) It makes them come alive!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Carol -

I notice a story, an illustration, a joke, an interesting fact is like the proverbial "spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down." It helps them process the point you're making.

Thanks for commenting. Talking with my blogger buddies makes my day a little brighter.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Diane said...

Going to my first writer's conference this week. A very small local one. Hope to get lots of good tips and info. Thanks for your encouragement! :O)

Jody Hedlund said...

What a great reminder, Susan! We definitely need to remember to personalize everything we write, especially with our unique voice. We're really just wanting to connect with the reader and the more real we are, the easier it will be for them to relate to us!

Great post, Susan! :-)

Nancy said...

Most of the non-fiction I have read includes personal stories and fiction techniques. I do feel that these highten the interest and pull the reader into the material.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jen -

I think we can learn from each other whether we're non-fiction or fiction writers. I feel like I have the best of both worlds. :)

Blessings,
Susan