Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The Three Essentials Of Writing Non-Fiction


by PeggySue Wells @PeggySueWells

Though they look slightly different, the same three essentials needed to create a compelling fiction project are the same essentials used to write an excellent non-fiction.

Compelling stories have three key ingredients. 
We identified these essentials in How To Create Characters Your Reader Cares About as
  1. A character the audience cares about
  2. The character’s great and seemingly impossible-to-achieve need
  3. An insurmountable obstacle between the character we care about and the great need the character must achieve
For instance, in the fiction story, A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is the curmudgeon the reader becomes invested in. The audience turns pages to learn if Scrooge will continue to respond to Christmas with, “Bah Humbug.”

Scrooge has a great and seemingly impossible-to-achieve need to transform from a cold-hearted miser who hates Christmas. Without redemption, friendless Scrooge will not see next year’s holiday’s festivities.

The insurmountable obstacle between Scrooge and the great need he must achieve is Scrooge’s inability to transform himself. Who or what can be the change catalyst?

The similar but different use of the three essentials in non-fiction is: 
  • A character the audience cares about is the audience. Your reader is the character we care about in a non-fiction project.
  • The character’s great and seemingly impossible-to-achieve need is for the reader to become the person the reader longs to be.
  • An insurmountable obstacle between the character we care about and the great need the character must achieve are the challenges, problems, and road blocks that the non-fiction book addresses. 
For example, when Pam Farrel and I wrote The Ten Best Decisions A Single Mom Can Make, the single mom is the character we care about. In a sense, single moms are the main character of our book.

The single mom’s great and—depending on the day—seemingly impossible-to-achieve need is to thrive as a solo parent, crafting a healthy and successful life for her and her child.

The insurmountable obstacle between the single mom and who she longs to be are the myriad challenges, problems, and roadblocks outlined in the ten chapters of the book. The non-fiction book identifies the problems challenging our main character (the reader), and offers options that can help our reader navigate from where they are to where they want to be.

While fiction recounts a character’s challenges and how the character reacts and responds, non-fiction provides pathways for the reader to react and respond in ways that can bring the reader to their desired destination.

Whether you write fiction, non-fiction, or both, incorporate these three essentials to make your project compelling.

TWEETABLE

Tropical island votary and history buff, PeggySue Wells parasails, skydives, snorkels, scuba dives, and has taken (but not passed) pilot training. Writing from the 100-Acre wood in Indiana, Wells is the bestselling author of twenty-eight books including The Slave Across the Street, Slavery in the Land of the Free, Bonding With Your Child Through Boundaries, Homeless for the Holidays, and Chasing Sunrise. Optimistic dream-driver, PeggySue is named for the Buddy Holly song with the great drumbeat. At school author visits, she teaches students the secrets to writing, and speaks at events and conferences. Connect with her at www.PeggySueWells.com, on Facebook at PeggySue Wells, and Twitter @PeggySueWells.

8 comments:

  1. This is really good, PeggySue. Great comparison between fiction and non-fiction. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you, Crystal. This was a helpful concept when I learned it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Excellent post! Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Edwina, thank you for stopping by and your encouragement. Best with your projects.

      Delete
  4. I love this slant to think about for non-fiction. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Barbara, slant is a helpful description. Thank you!

      Delete
    2. Barbara, slant is a clear description. It's the simple formula to non-fiction.

      Delete
  5. Nonfiction writing really does have lots in common with fiction. Thanks for this new perspective.

    ReplyDelete