Nonfiction works have plenty of categories, from travel to memoirs and cooking, and they differ on every level, not only from the topic they cover, but the way they are written as well. For example, a memoir will have a different writing structure than a cooking book. However, there are several key elements that are common and should be present in a nonfiction work, no matter the category in which the work belongs in. Below, we have gathered some of them.
1. A major idea
There are three main purposes of nonfiction. The first one is to inform the readers, the second is to entertain them and the third one is to convince them of the truth of what’s written. The major idea of the nonfiction work must be presented in a way that accomplishes all three purposes. The idea, or essentially, what the book is about, needs to be stated at the beginning, and throughout the course of the book it needs to be expanded and supported with details. The details are needed to explain the major idea, and to inform the reader of everything there is to know about the given topic.
2. Readers’ aids
Nonfiction works often focus on a particular topic. In the text, the reader may come across terms that they wouldn’t be able to understand, imagine or visualize. This is why every nonfiction work needs readers’ aids – tables, graphs, illustrations, photographs, a word glossary and other structural representations. The tables and graphs will help the reader pay attention to the important details. Pictures and illustrations help the reader visualize a specific movement, or a place. A word glossary is the most helpful to readers because they will be able to understand the difficult words, specific to the topic at hand, in the book.
3. Cause, effect and comparisons
A work of nonfiction needs to not only present information, but also, to explain in detail where the information came from. This is where the link between cause and effect comes in, accompanied by comparisons between two (or more) different elements of the topic. The link between cause and effect can be used in two ways – where the major idea acts as the cause, and the details as the effect, or the other way around. Comparisons, sometimes even metaphors, will work in order to explain how the topic in the book can be related to the real world, and how the information could be used, and how it shouldn’t be.
4. Elements borrowed from fiction
A nonfiction writer may borrow narrative elements from fiction when writing a nonfiction book, even if the book focuses on cooking. The writer will present the information (the first purpose of nonfiction) along with their personal experience, and explain how they managed to learn the information that is represented in the book. This element focuses on the second purpose of nonfiction – entertainment, and successfully combines all three purposes. The writer presents the information, the narrative provides a story which is entertaining, and the first person, or personal relation of previous experiences is persuasive in nature, representing the third purpose of nonfiction – relaying the author’s credibility and expertise on the subject through the tale of personal experience.
5. Nothing but fact
A nonfiction writer must never borrow too much from fiction – or start inventing in order to create a more interesting story. The readers will pick up a nonfiction book primarily because they want to learn something about a specific topic. Of course, providing entertainment is important, but not at the cost of inventing. If you step away from the facts and wander into fantasyland, you will lose credibility with your readers, which is highly important for a nonfiction writer. On the other hand, sticking to the facts while providing entertainment will ensure that your readers will follow you into your future books and be interested in what you have to offer.
Image credit: Pixabay[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://writingtipsoasis.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/photo.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Georgina Roy wants to live in a world filled with magic. As an art student, she’s moonlighting as a writer and is content to fill notebooks and sketchbooks with magical creatures and amazing new worlds. When she is not at school, or scribbling away in a notebook, you can usually find her curled up, reading a good urban fantasy novel, or writing on her laptop, trying to create her own.