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10 things to keep in mind while writing Non-Fiction!

Ananya Nair

Deriving from the rich diversity of human life and experiences, non-fiction is a massive genre encompassing many perspectives, it gives fiction a run for its money given that it draws from reality and recollects awe-inspiring incidents that have happened in real-time. Non-fiction can include horror, history, memoirs, political retellings, war, love stories, and everything under the sun can quite literally be fodder for non-fictional writing. Non-fictional narratives also allow readers to gain exposure to different walks of life, culture, food and much more. Writing non-fiction is a heavy task, unlike fiction you cannot spin tales of your own, there are real people out there that can challenge your sources and debunk your lies, controversial non-fiction works are not a new thing, they keep the world on its toes and make us want to peer into the complex web of truth and perspectives.

Here are some ways to perk up your non-fiction narrative!

  1. Research is Important At the core of non-fiction lies accuracy and factual backing, capturing the essence of the narrative through accurate retellings of a time and event can make a huge difference to the storyline, even if it is a narrative where the names and places have been changed for anonymity, people can often gauge the similarities if you get the nuance right. If you decide to take up a non-fictional plot, remember that researching it will be as essential as writing it.

  2. Bring Legitimacy into The Story Another way to liven up your plot is to pepper it with firsthand accounts from people who lived through the events/narrative you are writing about; you can incorporate this in so many ways! You can look up interviews on the net, trace old newspaper archives, look through court hearings and so much more to give your story a backing.

  3. Avoid Jargon If your narrative is derived from a complex setting, try to not saturate your draft with jargon that might not resonate with the majority of your audience, attempt to tell a captivating yet simple story that even a layman can understand and thus, access not only your body of work but a part of history.

  4. Know Your Audience Directly related to the tip above, it is necessary to know your audience and write, research and advertise accordingly. Catering to the right audience that is more likely to resonate and learn from your book will benefit you as a writer and your readership who will then know what to expect from your body of work. They are more likely to understand references, ask the right questions as well as get the tone of your work as compared to an unfamiliar readership.

  5. Structure Your Book Effectively It is necessary to have a good structure in a book that is based on actual chronological events, it is not necessary to work the narrative into chronological order, you can make it a split narrative or one where two extreme spectrums collide in the middle of the plot, there are many ways to create a structure that will capture the reader’s attention and create the emotional response you needed it to create.

  6. Have An Outline Handy Writing a book that is research-intensive and overflowing with names, figures, trends and places can be overwhelming and disconcerting especially if it is someone’s first time writing such a plot, therefore, it is important to have a basic outline of what you started with and what you plan to do. Whenever it feels as if you have strayed down a rabbit hole, all you need is a glance at your outline draft to get back on track!

  7. Pick A Narrator Telling a compelling real-life incident can be a gruelling experience for the author, especially when it comes to traumatic stories. Picking a narrator for the plot can make a huge difference in the tone of the plot, be it a first-person narrative that retells the tale from the eyes of the protagonist of antagonist or a third-person narrative or even a detached narrator that never reveals himself even towards the end of the story, all these are artistic choices which can make a difference.

  8. Storytelling Should Stand Out Make sure to keep the story in the limelight, it can be easy to get carried away by the facts and histories and clues, one needs to remember that a non-fiction book, especially a creative one, needs to have the storytelling element without the facts and clues overshadowing the plot. You are not writing an essay for history class, you are telling a story, therefore try to blend in the details and data seamlessly into the plot.

  9. Liven Up the Characters Non-fictional narratives often tend to become desensitizing and monotonous if the characters only exist as two-dimensional figures who spew out information back and forth. Bring life to your characters, base them on actual people, study the lives of those people, and bring their idiosyncrasies into your characters, this will allow the readers to connect to them on a human and emotional level.

  10. Add Your Touch Make sure to add your unique flair to the narrative, even if it is a real-life incident that has nothing to do with you or your life, you can still add your touch. Be it through illustrations or language, through cover art or marketing, the way you present the narrative, find your style and employ it in your endeavours to make your mark.

Writing Non-Fiction is a humbling, nostalgic, heart-wrenching and unifying experience. You learn someone’s truth, you discover your own, you feel somebody’s pain, you heal from your own, and you realize a place’s history and how it has impacted your present. The ability to pen down our lives and pass them on is a uniquely human experience. We need to hold on to it, so if a story compels you and speaks to you and whispers to you that it wishes to be heard, go out there and collect every bit of it before pouring it out for the world to see!


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