Put a New Spin on Nonfiction

Stretch yourself this summer! Here are some exercises to help keep your writing sharp while you are on vacation. These are from Beverly Lowry”s “Not the Killing but Why” from Writing Creative Nonfiction, now out in paperback from Writer”s Digest Books and the AWP.

  1. Set up an interview with someone you don”t know. Explain why you want to talk to the person. The story you are after may be an event of some consequence or of little significance at all. Prepare questions. Do your homework. Be ready to explore new territory when unexpected news comes your way. Write the story. Fit the interview into the story, using direct quotes only when they contribute to the story you are telling and move the story along.
  2. Go to a neighborhood that is new to you. Describe it. Watch the people. Say what they look like and how they interact with one another. Remain anonymous. Make general observations based on what you see and hear (e.g., if people on this block tend to be especially loud and shrill, why? Can you come up with a theory?) Bring the story to you. Make it yours.
  3. Perform the same exercises in the third person. The story is still yours and you are still forming theories and suggesting possibilities but you do not speak as an “I”.
  4. Think of a story that has already been written as news and write it from your own perspective. Make sure it”s a story you are drawn to and that, for you, poses unanswered questions, such as, “how could this have happened?” Talk to people, read articles, stories, or books that have already been written. Try to think of something that happened in a place you can actually visit.

Learn more about Writing Creative Nonfiction ($18.99).

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