Transitioning from Fiction to Creative Nonfiction

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bellanote asked:

I want to try and add more samples of non-fiction writing to my writing blog but am not quite sure where to find prompts or what is “acceptable”. Do you have any advice? I want to create a professional blog portfolio to include with internship/job applications that are for social media marketing and such that show off my mechanics and creativity without it being completely fictional.

I think two genres of creative nonfiction that would be really helpful for you to look into are personal essay and reportage. Both are definitely great ways for you to showcase your creative writing abilities in a nonfiction setting, and you can really write about whatever you want!

Personal Essays

Don’t be scared off by seeing the word “essay”. The only similarities between the papers your write about in school and personal essays is that they’re based around a thesis, but in a person essay that thesis is you opinion, a lesson you learned, or how you feel about something. And instead of using examples from research or literature, you back up your thesis with examples from your own personal experiences. Explaining these experiences is where the “creative” part of creative nonfiction comes into personal essays.

Personal essays allow you to run rampant with the first person and be as informal as you’d like, but you have to be careful that you’re not just ranting or complaining. Your central thesis still has to be clear.

And as I’d said, a personal essay would be a great addition to your portfolio because it’ll show your creative nonfiction writing skills, but you can write it about literally anything. And actually, most lengthier blog posts are personal essays anyway! 

Here’s a link to one of my favorite personal essays, Goodbye to All That by Joan Didion (who is like, the master of personal essays).

What do you know, we actually have a really in depth article on forming your main argument in a personal essay in The Yeah Write Review | Issue 02 if you’d like to know more!

Reportage

Reportage is probably the genre of nonfiction that you’ve never heard of that you’ve read the most. You know when you read those articles in glossy magazine about celebrities that begin, “Ryan Gosling sits down across from me in the lounge at the Beverly Wilshire wearing a black T shirt, artfully ripped jeans, and what smells like Hugo Boss cologne”? That’s reportage. Most feature writing in magazine journalism (where the journalist uses the first person) is.

It’s a unique creative nonfiction genre because most of the other ones—personal essays, memoir, autobiography, etc.—center around you. But reportage is also journalistic, because it centers around a topic other than yourself, but you can still insert yourself into the narrative as a character. And instead of just writing about something in reverse pyramid style, displaying only the facts, you make the piece literary by inserting scenes (sort of the way you’d create scenes in a memoir, but again, centered around a topic other than yourself). You also don’t have to be completely objective. So in the same way personal essays are like writing an essay but more fun, writing reportage is like writing a news article, but more fun.

So what you could do, if you wanted, is pick a topic any topic—a new restaurant in town, a band, a person who you don’t know—to write about. Give yourself your own assignment. Then go to that restaurant/see that band play/interview that person, etc., and learn as much about the topic as you can. Then write about the experience.

One of the most famous and wonderful reportage pieces of all time that I really really love is Frank Sinatra Has A Cold by Gay Talese.

*Addendum: This piece about Frank Ocean in The New York Times from February 7 is another great example of modern reportage.

And hey, what do you know! We also have a more in-depth article about writing reportage in The Yeah Write Review | Issue 02 !

Whenever there’s an advice page like this, it’s automatically added to the list of topics on our Advice page, which can always be accessed under “Writing Advice” in the navigation or at yeahwriters.tumblr.com/advice.

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