Nonfiction may seem the straightforward, buttoned up, stiff upper lip version of carefree, out-of-the-box fiction; this notion, however, is as far from the truth as an Englishman is from warm, sunny skies. Read any nonfiction title published in the last couple of decades and it will feel like reading a well-crafted story. Writers of such titles have learnt how to write great nonfiction.
Fiction vs. Non-Fiction
Let me start by presenting an example from the movies. When you watch a film which is a work of fiction (Gravity) and a film which is based on actual events (The Wolf of Wall Street), does one seem more interesting or more intriguing than the other? I would like to say no. Documentaries too are told in a crisp, entertaining manner with visual pizzazz and an emotional core (20 Feet from Stardom). The point being that non-fiction can (and should) convey its facts, its expertise, its authority, and its jargon in a manner that makes the reader want to turn the page rather than just shut the book.
Malcolm Gladwell, Dale Carnegie, or our very own S Hussain Zaidi present their facts the same way a master storyteller sets up his story and characters. Their books begin with an interesting anecdote, observation, or point of view which serves as a hook to bait the reader and draw them closer into the factual universe. Content is structured to reveal information in delicious bits and make the reader return for more. The masters of nonfiction have complete command over their subject matter and transfer this confidence on to the page in a rich, detailed backdrop.
The How To
Borrowing from these masters, I present a list of skills that show you how to write great nonfiction:
1. Tell A Story
The underlying motif of this article and the very first skill set a nonfiction writer should possess – convey their facts and data in the form of an interesting story. Be it finance, management, psychology, or history; a reader finds it easier to absorb details when the narrative is appealing.
2. Humanise The Subject
Find a connecting chord between the topic and its readership. Readers love it when they can relate to the factual matter presented in the book, even when the subject may not be of interest to them. One way of striking a chord with readers is by presenting a hypothetical scenario that involves them, or stating a real life experience that instantly connects with the reader.
3. Feedback From Peers
Any writer (fiction or nonfiction) can do with valuable, constructive feedback. For nonfiction, feedback from peers can help the writer gauge if his or her work has hit the right notes. For instance, if your book is about diet and fitness, getting feedback from colleagues in the nutrition and fitness industry can be a first step to more public appeal for your title. If the peers like it, there is a good chance that the general reading public would do as well.
4. Establishing Your Expertise
Your expertise, qualifications, personal experience on your subject matter is what will draw the initial eyeballs to your title. If you can establish this expertise through the course of the book, you will have a bestseller on your hands.
Image credit: miss_millions on flickr and reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://writingtipsoasis.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/img-109061105-0001.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Anand Changali is a compulsive writer whose first love is cinema. He has written scripts for animation shows, animation films, and also articles for blogs and the digital domain. His book, The Princess in Black – An Unheard Story of the Mughals, has been picked up by Srishti Publishers. [/author_info] [/author]
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