All Things Writing

The Craft of Writing

Narrative Nonfiction – What is it?

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Narrative Nonfiction is a type of nonfiction in which narrative techniques are used to tell a story with the facts. This type of nonfiction differs from a straight report or news story because it does more than relay the facts; it creates the full context around those facts by using facts.

Sounds like a lot of facts. In fact, it may even sound deadly boring. It’s anything but.

Straight news: This type of reporting is done at or around the time of the event. There is usually time pressure to get the most important facts out accurately. Typically, the most important news is at the start of the article with less important facts toward the end. This is because, in the days of print, an article would be cut from the bottom if it needed to be cut to fit into the available space. The background, context, motivation, greater meaning are not the goal of the reporter. This is a well-written report with some background that has been gathered since the story broke earlier this week.

Narrative nonfiction: If this had been written as a piece of narrative nonfiction, it most probably would have appeared as a feature. It would include scenes, well-rounded characters, dialogue in lieu of quotes, and plot points that take the reader through the story. A narrative nonfiction treatment might include information about the way the electric needs of nursing homes has been covered during other storms, the ways in which attempts to get the power needed were misdirected and what could have been done instead, the story of the people who lost their lives, the reaction of their relatives, comparisons to similar situations in other states, the sort of preparedness that needs to be put in place before the next storm… In short, a narrative treatment would take all of this and turn it into a new report that reads like a story. This is the narrative treatment of a boy with a disfiguring growth.

 

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