What You Keep and What You Cut: 6 Tips to Creating Non-fiction Plots by Luisa Brenton

Being a nonfiction writer has its pros and cons.Luisa Brenton For one, you are solely responsible for representing factual evidence in your writing without adding any unnecessary flair to it. Not only that, but you are bound to be remembered as “The” person that wrote a text that everyone is able to reference whenever they are discussing a certain historical matter.

However, nonfiction writers are sometimes tasked with reinterpreting certain events, filling historic gaps or simply dramatizing their writing for the sake of enriching it. Adding a plot element to your otherwise accurate and factual writing is easier than it seems, and all it takes is a few extra steps to get you started.

The source of the ailment

Creating a well-structured plot is the cornerstone of any fictional story. In narrative nonfiction this process is basically cut to making a decision: what material to keep and what to omit.

After you made loads of research it can be tempting to use every exciting detail in your article. Unfortunately real life can make one’s work on determining where it all started really complicated, so it requires quite an effort to make events follow the desired pattern. Changing one character’s trait or an internal logic rule can not only break the reader’s immersion but cost you your credibility as a writer. This is why there is a gap between fiction and nonfiction writers, with clear distinction as to who can and should do what.

However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dip your toes into fictionalized, spiced-up details whenever the publisher asks you to do so. Maybe you just want to practice your improvisation and creativity, which is often enough of an incentive to give plot writing a shot.

Starting at the end

A good way to anchor yourself to the plot you are about to create is to write out the ending before anything else. That’s right – the ending of your plot is the most important, most effective piece of writing you will do when it comes to that specific project. The lasting impressions created by fictionalized or dramatized writing comes from the final taste that the content provides to its reader.

If the endgame of your plot is satisfactory, the reader will love it and come back to it repeatedly. This is also a good way to stop yourself from panicking whenever you actually do get lost in your plot elements. Knowing where your story is headed before starting the long and difficult journey towards it will help guide your writing in the right direction.

Create the synopsis

A synopsis generally represents the description of a literary piece that gives readers a taste of what they can expect should they decide to read it. Creating a synopsis for your plot before writing it serves a similar purpose as the ending, with the intent to intrigue you to write a better text.

Giving yourself the wind in the back to be more creative and “out there” with your writing by creating a vague, mystic or captivating synopsis of what your future text will be can benefit both you and the reader. Keep in mind that the synopsis should reveal nothing and yet be strong enough to pull the reader in for a closer look. This can be difficult for nonfiction writers who are used to realistic writing (even though some of them specialize in creative nonfiction).

Break the plot into acts

Similarly to fiction writers who create chapters and story segments, you can break your plot into different acts that are smaller in size. For example, if you are writing a plot about a certain Apple CEO, you can segment the plot into:

  • Prologue
  • Young days
  • College days
  • Corporate days
  • CEO days
  • Afterthoughts

As you can see, each of the above-mentioned segments covers a different part of that CEO’s life. Each of the segments can be broken down into individual scenes that take place chronologically. If you are ambitious, you can write a non-chronological plot that covers important events in a person’s life but you should pay close attention as to where you are in the plot itself (see the below point about tools). Breaking the plot you are about to create into different subplots that converge in the same place can create a singular reading experience and help you tremendously while you work on filling the gaps.

Use your tools to your advantage

As a nonfiction writer, you have history and research on your side. Turning to facts provides you with a plethora of opportunities as to what you can fictionalize and implement into your plot. A seemingly inconsequential date in history can be made more interesting by adding a character element that obviously wasn’t there before (if it makes sense in the context of your project).

This trick can help you create a text with a centralized theme, one that you will always be able to navigate horizontally and vertically. While it may take some time to get used to using nonfiction techniques in your writing, practice does make perfect and you will soon be writing with much more confidence.

When it comes to technical part, remember that you don’t have to stick with Microsoft Word as there are many writing software options to help you organize your material. Scrivener is one of the tools that offer lots of benefits to bloggers and writers. As a beginner, you may also check the list of the top writing services to enrich your content.

Settling into comfort

Nonfiction writers aren’t in any shape or form handicapped from writing plots. Just because their expertise lies somewhere else doesn’t mean they shouldn’t strive to achieve the most of their writing abilities. Learn to differentiate tasks where you have to inform about an event with highest precision from ones that should take the reader into an emotional journey, and know when you should combine the two.

Sometimes blending different styles and elements can produce books of a higher quality, but the only way to know when that time comes is to dive headfirst into plotting. Sometimes you have to get a bit lost before you are found again – the same goes for writing interesting and memorable plots.

Bio:

Luisa Brenton is a marketer in tha past; mom, educational writer in the present. She writes in a variety of venues – academic, business, and lifestyle. Find more on Facebook.

If you like this blog post, you’ll love our Author Toolkit with templates, worksheets and checklists for writing nonfiction. Check it out!

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