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READ LIKE A WRITER, a teaching blog

Pre-COVID-19 NOVELS ARE NO LONGER CONTEMPORARY

Photo by Danielle Tunstall / Pixabay

 By Christine Kohler

 

Aren't all published contemporary novels now obsolete in light of COVID-19? Aren't published contemporary novels (or those in writers' files) now "period pieces" or historical? Isn't it like reading about Superman changing in a phone booth and teens say, "What's a phone booth?" Or, if the guy borrows a quarter for a pay phone the novel dates itself as bad as him saying, "Groovy, Man."

 

In graduate school we studied Post-Modernism. The term referred to experimentation with form. However, the term seems to fit these unprecedented pandemic times more than ever, post-COVID-19. I predict new terms will be coined to describe the before and after of this dystopian-turned-contemporary situation. (Will William Gibson lead us by inventing these new terms like he did with the internet in NEUROROMANCER?)

 

Consider the ways in which our society has changed drastically in 2020. Then mirror that against contemporary literature and what in each book is now obsolete. And, back to my first question, if it's out-of-date, then it is no longer contemporary. That makes the work a period piece or historical. Think of pre-COVID and post-COVID as The Great Divide. Even though the '19 stands for when the virus came into existence in 2019, I would argue that the awareness and societal changes came about in 2020. So, literature set in 2019 would be pre-COVID in details. And anything published post-COVID in 2020 would need to include the changes in society.

 

I propose, as a writer, that we made lists of ways that society has changed. What makes it a contemporary setting in post-pandemic time? The most obvious is how we greet one another. No handshakes. No hugs. No check-to-cheek air kisses. All obsolete gestures now. I noticed that the dishwasher installer gave me a low hand-wave. It was subtle, friendly, kind of cute in a shy way. I wonder if this will catch on. Personally, I like the small bow by slightly bobbing the head and shoulders that we did when I lived in Japan (and traveled to Korea). But, will the Western countries adopt the Asian bow? Or the Asian Indian palms pressed together, a waist-bow, followed by, "Namaste"? Maybe not. Keep your eyes peeled for what the American society settles into for greetings once we stop self-isolating.  

 

Another obvious outward change is wearing masks. (In Japan many people, especially young mothers, wore surgical masks in Tokyo when I lived there in the late 1980s.) I posted on a writers' site that perhaps masks might start being sold with clothing items in matching fabrics. The next day I clipped an article about how Louis Vuitton is now making face masks. You could have fun with face masks by adding dark humor with the prints, such as how John Green added humor in PAPER TOWNS with t-shirts that contained incongruent messages for the characters.  

 

Language is another area to expect change. I belong to a company photography chat room and love hearing the Brits talk slang. They've used the term "hamstering" and "iso-time" for what Alvin Toffler called "cocooning" in THE THIRD WAVE. Pay attention to new terminology that will surely enter our post-pandemic vocabulary.

 

This only scratches the surfaces of what we will experience in the nouvelle Post-Post Modernism, Post-COVID-19, Post-Contemporary society. (Gibson, can you help me out here?)

 

As always, I would to hear your comments on this topic. Yes, I love hearing from you introverts even by email. But if post in comments below, we can get a dialogue going. What are your thoughts. How will you be updating in revisions your next contemporary novel to truly make it reflect our contemporary society?     

        

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A WRITER’S GUIDE TO SELF-ISOLATION

Photo by Karin Henseler from Pixabay

Self-isolation is an interesting term the medical experts chose for avoiding social contact during this present virus crisis. Self-isolation is what monks and priests and nuns of all religions do when they cloister themselves away in monasteries. Self-isolation is what writers do when they write first drafts and deep revisions.

 

What exactly does one do in self-isolation? And how does it apply to us as writers?

 

Self-isolation should be more than deprivation of pleasures. It should be more than the absence of another's company. Or to sit in silence. The purpose of self-isolation is to lead toward transformation.

Those seeking spiritual transformation do so through the practice of prayer and meditation through deep contemplation. After internalizing what is revealed to them through these practices, some scholar-monks/priests transform the world by sharing their revelations through writings.

 

Prayer is an earnest hope or wish. In prayer we examine our faults, make confession, and ask for help in doing better. Putting the religious aspect aside, this would also apply to writers who desire to write better. First, we need to examine our writing and see objectively our weak spots. We also need to confess where we get defensive during critiques or editorial letters. Then, we need to adopt teachable spirits and be open to learning from others. We can find resources to write better online, through writing books, and by reading mentor texts.

 

As an example of learning through a mentor text, last week I re-read PAPER TOWNS by John Green. For a year now I've been thinking about writing a travel/journey YA novel. I know the title, theme, four of the characters, and locations. However, there are some aspects that escape me, so I'm looking at novels where the characters travel. (Would love your recommendations in the comment section!) I hadn't read PAPER TOWNS for more than a decade. I'd completely forgotten about how the teen girl ran away from home and left clues using LEAVES OF GRASS by Walt Whitman. In re-reading this novel, it was obvious that the author meditated deeply on the poem LEAVES OF GRASS, and wanted his readers to contemplate the meanings, too.

 

Which brings me to the next purpose in self-isolation, spending time in meditation and contemplation. For years, this had been my New Year's resolution—to meditate. To think deeper. In another blog article I wrote about "Creating in Kairos instead of Chronos Time." This article was the cumulation of contemplating about time for probably close to a decade. I'm not saying meditation is easy. Busy schedules and people (family, mostly) interrupting our thoughts crowd out time for meditation. But that's the silver-lining part of self-isolation. The medical experts, government entities, and organizations are closing down many of our distractions and telling us to stay out of crowded venues. They are telling us to cloister ourselves at home. And if we must go outside, take a nature walk in a secluded place.

As writers, we could use this stepping-back-from-distractions time to meditate, to think deeper, to contemplate motives, purposes, and applications. Spend the time to create more imaginatively, beyond our boundaries of yesterday.  Expand your creativity.

 

Experiment. Writers are used to rejections, so it's not a big deal if we experiment, fail, and try again. Inventors, scientists, and writers know it's not really a failure, but rather a trial that didn't work, an elimination to the stepping-stone of a break-through success. (The drug company medical researchers are going through this exact process right now to find a cure to the Corona-virus.)

 

In this time of self-isolation, use these tools of prayer, meditation, and contemplation to transform your writing. Transform the way you look at things. Transform how your readers look at things. Transformation is the goal. Imagine how you can transform your creative process and product. Imagine. And imagine deeply.

 

How are you using this time of self-isolation?

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UNRELIABLE NARRATORS

Edgar Allen Poe was the first author to use an unreliable narrator, according to Harry Lee Poe in his biography EDGAR ALLAN POE (Metro Books, 2008). Poe used this literary device in "The Cask of Amontillado" and "Tell-Tale Heart".

When writing a story with an unreliable narrator in children's literature, authors are tipping the reader  Read More 

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DISASTERS MAKE MEMORABLE STORIES

Photo Credit: Gerd Altmann / Pixabay

by Christine Kohler

 

When I moved to a different high school mid-11th grade, I was short one semester of physical education to be able to graduate. My first day the gym teacher told me to get on a trampoline. I told her I had never been on a trampoline. It became obvious that she thought I was lying.

 

"Jump higher!" the gym teacher yelled at me. "Higher!" Then she instructed me to do a somersault, or flip, or some contortion I had never done in my life. Not one to disobey, I threw my body in the air, twisted…and landed an inch of cracking my skull on the outer metal bar.

 

"Get off!" the gym teacher shouted. She never said a word to me the rest of the semester. I passed the class, though I don't remember what grade she gave me.   

 

In fact, I don't remember anything about that gym class, except getting to swim with a Polish exchange student later in the semester. I don't remember any of the sophomores in the class. Not what we wore.  Not even group showers or the locker room. But I remember every detail of what happened that day on the trampoline. That is the story I tell—the disaster story.

 

AVOIDING CONFLICT & CONFRONTATION?

 

It's like that for most of us. What sticks in our memories are the stressful, the terrifying, the suspenseful, the horrifying…the conflict-filled, confrontation, heart-in-the-throat stories.

Why, then, do we writers back off from confrontation and conflict?

 

I have a theory about women writers reared in time periods and cultures where we were taught to behave lady-like, to be peace-makers, to acquiesce to others for the sake of avoiding conflict and arguments. What happens is that these life lessons water down our fiction and we write too quiet. Often it comes out in the main character observing more than being in the thicket of the conflict and action. This type of writer can succumb to having adults lecture to the main character as the resolution, then the main character acquiesces to please the adult.

 

KNOW THYSELF, THEN BE BRAVE, BOLD IN PRINT

 

The only thing you can do about how you were reared is to be introspective, and acknowledge it. (My dad reared me to be polite, lady-like, to not talk back, to exhibit good manners, and respect authority. Not saying there is anything wrong with these qualities, but I didn't learn to stand up for myself, or deal with conflict or confrontation.) However, as a writer I have had to be bold in print, put my main character in a royal mess, and escalate conflict.

 

REVERSE OUTLINE FIRST DRAFT

 

First and foremost, write the first draft. This is the finger-painting stage. If you get too caught up in psycho-analyzing everything, you can get stymied and stuck. So, just write the story you want to tell.

After the first draft is written, do a reverse outline. A reverse outline is a chapter-by-chapter synoptic outline of what is already on the page. Don't add or subtract. Be honest and stay true to what you have already written in that early draft. You are going to use this outline to see if your first draft has full story and character arcs. The reverse outline will show you if your story is missing plot points. It's also a good way to check the subplot and an overlay of the character's emotional arc and growth change.  

 

CHECKPOINT CHARACTER QUESTIONS

 

Ask yourself these questions:

Is the main character in the mess, or observing someone else's mess?

Is the main character avoiding conflict or confrontation?   

Does the conflict escalate?

Does the main character resolve his or her own problem?

 

Note: Lectures do not work. Every parent can testify that if lectures worked then they would have perfect children after each lecture.   

 

CONFLICT CAUSES CHANGE IN CHARACTER

 

Look at conflict differently. Instead of focusing on the unpleasant aspect of the conflict itself, look beyond the conflict and confrontation to the change it brings about. Change for your character. Change for your character's situation. Confrontation can empower a person. The alternative is for the person (your character) to constantly acquiesce and swallow her anger. To avoid conflict is to go along with the status quo. Let me repeat that vital point: Conflict and confrontation lead to mature growth in your character and change in his or her circumstances.

 

Just as you cannot help a butterfly break out of its cocoon prematurely, or break the shell for a bird or turtle, you shouldn't make it easy for your character to overcome adversity, avoid conflict, or back down from confrontation. It would make the character—and story—weak. Instead, in revision, have the main character stand up to the bully or overcome the obstacle bravely and boldly. Hit the conflict and confrontation head-on, and, by doing so, you empower the readers who identify with your character.     

     

    

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POETIC FEET

by Christine Kohler

 

Children's book editors often say they do not want writers to submit rhyming picture books. Yet, we all read and love rhyming picture books. What editors really mean is that they receive in the slush pile so few rhyming stories that are done well that they don't want to wade through them while reading submissions.

 

As a former writing instructor and an author for 37 years, most unpublished poems writers want critiqued as picture books are written in iamb. This is the most common rhythm in English verse.

As one who is published in poetry in two languages, I suggest you experiment with different feet and meters.

 

Here's a guide to different feet:  

 

Iamb – a foot consisting of an unaccented syllable and an accented. (Ex. forsake; New York)

 

Trochee – a foot consisting of an accented and an unaccented syllable. (Ex. happy; London)

 

Anapest – a metrical foot consisting of three syllables, with two unaccented syllables followed by an un accented one. (Ex. Tennessee; "The Cloud" by Byron Shelly, "Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb…")

 

Dactyl – a foot consisting of one accented syllable followed by two unaccented. (Ex. mannikin; Leningrad)

 

Spondee – a foot composed of two accented syllables. (Ex. football; all joy)

 

Pyrrhic -- a foot composed of two unstressed short syllables. (Ex. go to; the boy)

 

Teachers and poets who do school visits, I used to write these feet on the white-board, then have students come up and print their names and mark syllable breaks, stressed and unstressed syllables. This exercise was always a big hit. I like to think the lesson stayed with the teens longer because it was connected with their own names.    

 

In poetry, when you divide the lines into different feet by breaking up syllables and determining the accents, this is called "scanning" or "scansion."  Scansion tells you the rhythm of a line. From high school to graduate school I scanned poetry manually. However, if anyone knows of a scansion program, please share the link in comments, and how you liked using it compared to doing so manually. 

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WRITING WISDOM FROM SOLOMON

 
photo by Antonio Doumas 

by Christine Kohler

 

Solomon, an Israelite king who ruled in 970-930 B.C., was a writer. Most know his works PROVERBS, SONG OF SOLOMON, and ECCESIASTES. Solomon has a lot to say to writers.

 

For instance, in Ecclesiastes 12:12 Solomon wrote to his son, "…of making many books is no end…" (KJV) This is true in so many different ways for writers. Writers often have so many ideas for books or articles that they couldn't begin to work on all of the ideas within a lifetime.  There's also the case of "byline high." The euphoria of publication and seeing your byline in print is a feeling that never gets old. When I switched to writing books exclusively, I waved my hand at all the files stuffed full of published articles and stories and told myself, "I have to never care whether I see my byline again" to pursue this path. (Prior to that decision I had 5 books and one collection published more than a decade before. It took me three years without a byline before I sold another book. That was a long three years, wondering if it would ever happen again.) 

 

Solomon doesn't always address writers specifically, but his wisdom still applies to writers and their quest to publish. One of my favorite verses is Ecclesiastes 9:10, "Whatsoever thy hand finds to do, do it with all thy might." That advice applies in genres, opportunities, efforts—including being able to seek and accept critiques, then doing multiple revisions, and improving craft skills.   

 

Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 9:11, "…the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happens to them all." The Amplified version paraphrases the ending to read, "but time and chance overtake them all."    

 

The two nuggets of wisdom I take away from this is, one, to persevere. When I taught writing, I saw some of the most gifted writers stymied to submit because of perfectionism and fear of rejection.

 

At the other end of the scale, several times I had adult writing students whom I didn't think would pass the course, let alone ever get published. (A requirement for passing the course was to produce at least one publishable-quality article or story.) Then, low and behold, that writer would get a piece published, and then another, and another. Amazing. (It's a subjective business, so I was amazed, but evidently some editor felt differently. Keep in mind, I only had about three or four of these type of writers during nearly a decade of teaching the writing course.) The qualities I found these writers had in common were that they studied the markets, wrote toward the market they wanted to get published in, believed in themselves, and persevered.  

 

The second pearl of wisdom in this verse: there is an element of luck in publishing. We can't do anything about luck. (I once had a Curtis Brown Ltd. agent who said I was the most unluckiest author she ever met. Then she left the biz and proved I have the luck of the Irish. No luck at all. Ha, ha.) But more important than speed, strength, talent, money, what you know, who you know, acquired skill, or the elusive Lady Luck, what really matters is PERSEVERANCE!  

 

The king concluded the sentence in Ecclesiastes 12:12 by writing this about research, "…much study is weariness of the flesh." I would add that on-site primary research is also expensive. Not that Solomon had to worry about money.    

 

There are more rich words of advice from author Solomon that applies to writers, and life, in general, for any person. It's interesting to note that Solomon's father was King David, also a writer, composer, and musician of poetry and songs.

 

Another thing Solomon understood well is that we don't have to walk a given path in life alone. In Proverbs 17:17 he wrote, "A friend loves at all times." Choosing a career in the arts is difficult for a number of reasons. Dreams are big, but only a limited number can rise to the top. Art is subjective, and no matter how hard the artist (encompassing writers, illustrators, actors, dancers, musicians, etc.) works, what is published or produced often has more to do with the present market than the brilliance of the work, and certainly the creativity and hard work of the artist. Put another way, we can only do the work before us. The rest is out of our control. This is not necessarily true in other professions. In addition, due the isolation of writers while creating, and the necessity to network during publishing and marketing, it's important to make friends with fellow writers. Invest in reciprocal friendships with people you trust.           

 

I made one such friend years ago with author Christine Taylor-Butler (TRIBES series, Move Books).  She is giving 20 FREE copies of my novel NO SURRENDER SOLDIER (Simon Pulse) to Kansas City middle & high school libraries. If you are at a KC school library, leave your name, school, e-mail, phone number on my Contact page and I will forward it to Christine Taylor-Butler.

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BACKSTORY

Photo by Alexander Kliem from Pixabay
 
Backstory is like a pinata. You have to bust it up to get sweet storytelling techniques.    

by Christine Kohler

 

I started reading a novel by a big-name best-selling mystery writer in the adult market when backstory confused the heck out of me in Chapter 2. I plodded through to Chapter 4 when, voila, that same backstory, only expanded, popped up again. This time it made sense in context. In my humble opinion, it never should have been inserted as early as Chapter 2. [I put the book down early in Chapter 5 because of poor writing and frequent tense and first-third person changes in single point of view passages.]

 

When I taught writing for a decade, one of the biggest problems novice novelists had was knowing when to insert the backstory. It's understandable because often we don't start "at the beginning" of a character's story. Often we begin the contained story in a book—the one that fits a story arc, and will hook the reader, then take off running pell mell—media res at the point of impact. Or, in laymen's terms, at the point where the apple cart is overturned. So, we have all this backstory that we feel the reader must know to understand our character and fully appreciate how the character got into this situation, and why the characters respond the way they do. (If you are tempted to add a prologue for this reason, don't. See my article on the purpose for prologues in children's literature.)

 

However, if you front-load your tale with backstory, then you are as guilty of slowing down the forward moving plot as if you had started the story in the wrong place. Either way, you lose their attention.

 

In first drafts, get the story down. Don't worry about what is backstory and what is forward-moving story at that point. Don't even get married to where your story begins. It's common to write a first draft, then in revision to realize the story really begins on Page 5 or Chapter 2 or backed up even further to show what is called the "Ordinary World" in a hero's journey.

 

In revision, get out your colored markers. One color for "Telling" and one color for "Showing" (action). One color for "Confused" and one color for "Backstory." (I capitalized the words here to show I use T, S, C, B as my shorthand codes.) In the confused places, often caught by a trusted critique partner, you may need a dollop of backstory. Just a dollop though early on. Maybe only a sentence or two.

 

In the places you've marked as backstory, take another colored marker and highlight how much of that backstory in the early chapters can be moved later and still have the context understood. How much can be deleted all together and not lose meaning or add confusion to the present story (what the readers already knows or needs to know)?

 

Some genres require backstory earlier, such as historical in children's literature. Ingrain in your brain this fact, all children today were born in the 21st century. Their Common Core experience is limited to only things that happened after the year 2001, at the earliest. Consider anything written in the 20th cenury as history to readers age 18 and younger. That's why you often need to fill in readers ignorant of the background in historical fiction and nonfiction. Consider, too, that this would also be the case if using in the story any pop culture such as music, dance, art before the 21st century.   

 

This same situation holds true in children's lit if you are writing about a sport, such as parkour, that is unfamiliar to readers.  

 

Other cases where backstory might need front-loaded is in mysteries where the premise and stakes need set.

 

Yes, we need to bust the backstory into smaller bites in the beginning. Or delay it. Or eliminate as much as possible so not to slow the forward moving action and bore readers. But, unfortunately, we can't cut all backstory, or make a hard-fast rule to dump it in, say, Chapter 5, if the reader gets lost early on without it.  

 

As always, I welcome comments regarding this difficult writing skill.

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BLOG TOUR FEATURES NO SURRENDER SOLDIER SETTING

My daughter stands by the historic Chocolate House near where the Spanish Palace was bombed during WWII. (photo by Christine Kohler, available through iStock/Getty Images)  

Author Jenny Carlisle is featuring NO SURRENDER SOLDIER (Simon & Schuster) on her new blog book tour. Only she's covering the novel from a different slant. Instead of interviewing me on process, Ms. Carlisle discusses the setting, including photos of Guam.

 

BEHIND THE SCENES

 

I got a surprise call last week from an old journalist-friend, John Archibald. John and I worked as reporters at the Pacific Daily News, a Gannett paper, covering the West Pacific. Presently, Mr. Archibald is owner-publisher of Ouachita Life in Arkansas. John called me because Jenny Carlisle was at his house, interviewing him about the island of Guam. (Ms. Carlisle's book TURN, TURN, TURN: THE VIEW FROM A BABY BOOMER'S FRONT PORCH is published by Ouachita Life.) So, when you read Jenny Carlisle's article about NO SURRENDER SOLDIER on her blog tour, the setting info and photos are from her publisher, and my old friend, John Archibald.

 

Ms. Carlisle is right in doing a blog about Guam, the setting of my historical novel. Readers say it transports them to the lush tropical island, and to the time period of 1972 in an Old World Catholic society. Many military veterans who have read NO SURRENDER SOLDIER tell me that reading my book took them back to the Guam they knew.

 

GUAM SETTING

 

My family and I loved Guam. My children attended middle and high school there. I could tell you so many wonderful stories. But I already have in my novel. When I wrote about the tourist shop at Tumon by the beach and ocean. When I wrote about the Talafofo boonies (jungle) with banyan and tangantangan trees, the river, waterfalls, and caves where Tatan gathered fruit bats to eat. When I wrote about fiestas, and Catholic celebrations, and school, and Guam Memorial Hospital, I took you to many places on the island and introduced you to strong loving families who live there.  (Reviewers also said they salivated over the food in the book. One Romance author even asked for two recipes for a Romance authors' cookbook.)  So, I hope you'll hop on over to Jenny Carlisle's blog and check out her book tour featuring the setting in NO SURRENDER SOLDIER.

 

While there, comment and win a chance for a free signed hardback copy of NO SURRENDER SOLDIER.   

Jenny Carlisle Blog Book Tour

 

Si yu'us ma'ase!

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ABC Radio Interview on Shoichi Yokoi, the Real NO SURRENDER SOLDIER

ABC Radio Sydney, Australia, host Sarah Macdonald interviewed (me) Christine Kohler, author of NO SURRENDER SOLDIER (Simon Pulse/ Merit Press), about Shoichi Yokoi, the WWII Japanese soldier who hid on Guam for 28 years.

 

Yokoi is the model for Isamu Seto, the old soldier in my novel NO SURRENDER SOLDIER.  

 

Click the link under Yokoi's photo to hear the 30-minute interview.

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NARRATIVE NONFICTION

Research peripheral topics of your subject matter to add details in writing narrative nonfiction.

by Christine Kohler

In journalism school at the University of Hawaii we learned about Thomas Wolfe and his concept of “New Journalism.” Wolf believed that engaging nonfiction should contain elements of a novel, such as eyewitness and primary source accounts, real people as characters, dialogue, and descriptive details. Today we would call this narrative nonfiction.

Some people use the term creative nonfiction. However, as I discussed in my last blog article about misclassification, creative nonfiction should not be confused with fiction. Considered the godfather of creative nonfiction, author Lee Gutkind said, “Creative doesn’t mean inventing what didn’t happen, reporting and describing what wasn’t there. It doesn’t mean the writer has a license to lie. The cardinal rule is clear — and cannot be violated. This is the pledge the writer makes to the reader — the maxim we live by, the anchor of creative nonfiction: ’You can’t make this stuff up!’”

There are even some who believe that creative nonfiction is a separate genre. I do not. There are other quirky and erroneous beliefs about creative nonfiction. Because of the confusion in terms and misclassification (see my article “Classify Your Book Correctly”), I prefer to use the term narrative nonfiction instead of creative nonfiction or new journalism.

Narrative nonfiction tells the story in the sense that it may set a scene, or develop a character with details, and add lively quotes. But these all come from primary and secondary sources in research. They do not come from the writer’s imagination. Author Darcy Pattison said, “Nonfiction writers use scenes, sensory details, and work for a traditional story arc with a problem that is resolved in a climax.” An excellent example of a nonfiction picture book with a full story arc is THEY’RE OFF! THE STORY OF PONY EXPRESS (Simon & Schuster) by Cheryl Harness.

Author Ginger Wadsworth said, at the SCBWI 2014 conference in LA, that narrative nonfiction requires four elements:
1. documentable subject matter as opposed to invented in the writer’s mind;

2. exhaustive research, with verifiable sources, to provide unique perspectives on the subject;

3. creating the scene to give the reader context around events and people;

4. a story arc using fine, literary prose.

It comes to what I harp on all the time. Writers must do deep research. In research you can search facts outside of the main topic to add setting and character and plot details to your nonfiction topic to make it narrative.

For example, in writing a Civil War story I traveled to Vicksburg and read 1865 newspapers at the courthouse research library. (Get prior written permission before embarking on these research trips.) The national weather bureau suspended service during the war between the states, so instead I read harbor reports. Civil War museums also displayed period dress and uniforms. My husband called a realtor and we were able to visit the Balfour House. Downtown I found a pharmacy with historic objects on display. The drugstore had been in operation in Vicksburg for so long that the owner’s father, a retired pharmacist, talked to me about folk medicine during the 1800s.

These are just some ways in which researching the time period can give you detailed factual information to breathe life into facts to make nonfiction narrative engaging and entertaining.

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On a personal note, I want to close out this year by thanking all of you who faithfully follow my READ LIKE A WRITER blog. Since I’ve been writing blog articles for six and a half years now, is there any topic I have not written about that you would like for me to cover? (Once I got a request to write about what changed in this business in the 35+ years since I began publishing, and I wrote an article about that.)

Wishing you all happy holidays, and a hopeful writing journey for 2019.  Read More 

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