Creative Nonfiction: Important Events

Creative nonfiction requires observation. It is more concerned with what is being observed than with imagination. When we write stories from our life, we try to reconstruct events, to the best of our ability, as we remember them happening.

The catalyst for writing does not have to be a tragic loss. What is necessary is to explore the significance of specific events and our reaction to them. Readers want to know how the event affected the writer and whether or not those effects still permeate the writer’s life well after the conclusion of the event.

To find things to rewrite, begin by skimming a newspaper or informational website. Stop when a headline speaks to you. Read, looking to see what resonates with you. If nothing does, then search some more.

Your task, after reading an interesting article, is to write. You might begin with a free write in which you put into words anything that comes to mind.

Go back and search for information that raises specific questions. Imagine scenarios that you could expand into story.

Write a simple sketch of the story that comes to mind. Reread, looking for places where you can add detail and emotion. Reread again. Add more detail.

Have fun with this one.

The Saddest Time

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every day was happy? Year after year nothing but good things cross your path. However, that isn’t realistic.

Because sadness hurts, we often push those memories so deep in our brains that they lie hidden. Until something or someone an event brings them forward.

There are endless possibilities. A betrayal. Broken heart. An abusive parent, sibling or spouse. Death. Destruction from fire, flood or earthquake.

Your task is to write a scene in which your character reveals her saddest event. Perhaps this is done through dialogue, for that would allow a give-and-take. Regardless of how you choose to write this, the important thing is that the reader feel the heartache, the despair.

This will not be a fun story to write as it might touch on events in your life.

Have fun with this one.

I Have Issues

I am your protagonist. You have put me in your story. You like me, in fact, you might even love me. Therefor you have painted me in a positive light.

But I have issues. I have bad habits, dark secrets and questionable quirks. All of these impact how I act, think, and the things I say.

Your task is to put the real me in a story. Try writing in first person POV so that my voice is heard. My words should dominate. My thinking be made clear.

Pair me with a good friend. Preferably someone who has known me for a short period of time. Someone who has yet to encounter my dark side. In this story she will meet the secret me. She will talk with me, so dialogue is critical.

Your job is to paint me accurately, not through my friend’s rose-colored glasses.

Have fun with this one.

 

Character in an Adverse Situation

Life is not filled with happy moments. There are times when we cry. When we are in pain. When we are embarrassed or frustrated or anxious.

Most times we learn nothing from the situation. When it is resolved, we breathe a sigh and return to whatever we were doing or thinking.

Imagine that your character is embroiled in some type of mess. It could be of his own making. It could be something that he stumbled upon. It could be something that someone else triggered.

Instead of writing the story of his demise, let’s put a pleasant spin on the ending. While enmeshed in the situation, an epiphany comes, opening your character’s eyes. He understands and realizes…

Perhaps the realization is that he has a strength about him that he never knew before. Maybe he accepts a talent that he has, but never looked at it in a positive way.

Your task is to write the story. Remember that there must be adversity that creates conflict and tension. Other characters test him, pushing him to his limits. But instead of collapsing, his eyes open.

When finished, edit looking for tension and conflict. Make sure the resolution is satisfying to readers.

Have fun with this one.

 

War Relationships

Fighting in a war is not the normal place where friendships are formed, but by virtue of the close quarters in which soldiers live, work, and “play” bonds form.

Sometimes these friendships last beyond the end of service. Seeing each other reminds them of all that they shared, allowing the memories to heal, to bring closure, to recall those that were lost.

War stories are a popular genre right now. Walk into any bookstore and you will quickly find a variety of tales from the different wars: WW I, WW II and Vietnam. Many of the stories are from a soldier’s point of view. Just as many are about those who stayed behind: women, children, parents and friends.

Your task is to write a war story. Even if you never served, you probably know someone who did. First do some research about the war that interests you the most. Read survivor’s accounts. Read factual accounts. Take notes.

When you feel comfortable writing, tell the story that you feel most comfortable relating. Remember to include sensory details as well as to let the intense emotions that war evinces come forth.

This won’t be an enjoyable task, depending upon your opinion about war.

Have fun with this one.

Clutter

Have you ever been in a home in which every flat surface is covered with piles of stuff? How do you feel when there? A bit claustrophobic? Does the dust that hasn’t been removed cause breathing problems? Do you not want to touch anything, eat anything, walk down the halls for fear of things toppling over?

Maybe it’s your house that’s congested with stuff. Maybe it gives you comfort to be surrounded with so many things. Maybe you grew up poor and little of your own. Maybe you have good intentions to clear things up, but never get around to it. Or maybe the thought of getting rid of even one item causes panic to set in!

Your task is to create a character who is in one of the situations.  She is either the uncomfortable one or the keeper of stuff. Your reader will want to walk in her shoes, see with her eyes, feel with her fingers, be touched by her heart.

Write the story, remembering to build tension, to create conflict, to allow the emotions of your character come through.

Include enough details that the reader understands how bad things really are, but not so many details that there is no story. Strike a balance between narrative and action. Include an antagonist who tries to inspire the character to clear the mess up. Use dialogue, not narriative!

Have fun with this one.

Perfect Strangers

Recall a time when you interacted with a stranger. Was it while standing in line at the grocery store? Going through security at the airport? Asking advice at a bookstore?

Was it a positive experience?  If so, why? What occurred that allowed you to feel good about the interaction?

Did you initiate the conversation? If so, what words did you use?

Your task is to place a character in a comparable situation. She is out and about. She runs into someone she doesn’t know, most likely will never see again, yet strikes up a conversation.

Be sure to describe the scene in sufficient detail that we hear the sounds, smell the smells, taste whatever is being offered, but not so much detail up front that the story never gets started.

Give us emotions. Fear? Dismay? Pleasure? But not all at once. Allow us to travel the range of emotions as the character experiences them. Much of this will have to take place in dialogue form.

Then give us a satisfactory ending.

Have fun with this one.