When faced with writing an essay, writers have a variety of options available. Beyond the basic five-paragraph essay, they can craft informational essays, persuasive essays, and more. But one of my favorites is the personal essay. When done well, the personal essay reads like a good story, a story that happens to be true.
However, there's more than one way to write a personal essay (just as there's more than one way to write a short story or poem). In this post, I've collected six types of creative nonfiction personal essays for writers to try.
6 Types of Creative Nonfiction Personal Essays
Here I've collected six types of creative nonfiction personal essays. You'll notice each type is a hyperlink. Click on the links to read posts that dive deeper into each type.
- Braided essay. The braided essay weaves together multiple threads (usually two to four) that stand alone but make the whole even greater.
- Fragmented essay. The fragmented essay is one that is comprised of several smaller pieces that may or may not connect. In a way, it's like a narrative mosaic.
- Graphic essay. A graphic essay is an essay that uses images and graphics to complement the writing. As such, it could be an essay that's presented as a comic book panels or infographics.
- Hermit crab essay. Like the hermit crab takes random objects to make its shell, the hermit crab essay takes on already existing forms to structure the essay. A few examples might include personal essays written as social media posts, instructions, lists, footnotes, obituaries, outlines, and more.
- Lyric essay. A lyric essay uses may poetic tools to convey creative nonfiction, including autobiography, figurative language, and sonic devices employed by many poets. In fact, the essay may incorporate poems into the text.
- Personal reportage essay. The personal reportage essay uses fictional tools of storytelling while sticking to the facts of nonfiction. Some writers may tie themselves into the narrative, but others may focus solely on telling the stories of others.
Are these the only possibilities when it comes to writing creative nonfiction personal essays? I highly doubt it. Writers are constantly inventing new ways of communicating, so I won't be surprised if this list expands over time.
This course guides beginning and intermediate writers through elements of how to write a personal essay, helping them identify values expressed in their stories and bring readers into the experiences described. Writers learn how to avoid the dreaded responses of "so what?" and "I guess you had to be there" by utilizing sensory details, learning to trust their writing intuitions, and developing a skilled internal editor to help with revision.