CorrespondenceWritingQuotationsPoetryBooksCreative WritingNewspapers & Magazines

Literary Journalism: The Elements of Creative Non-Fiction

Updated on May 27, 2017

Core Elements of Creative Non-Fiction

Considering that Creative Nonfiction is also known as Literary Journalism, there is no surprise that the core elements of this genre are comprised of equal parts literature and journalism! Many would say that 'anything goes' when it comes to writing Creative Non-Fiction, but there are still concrete guidelines to help you write a superb essay!

What makes good writing, good writing? In all cases, good writing is both clear and concise. What does that mean? Well, we're not unintentionally leaving the reader confused or in the dark. We’re also making sure our audience has all the information they need to grasp or comprehend the message we're trying to get across. We’re saying just enough, but not too much. This is all especially true for Creative Non-Fiction.


Journalistic Elements

  • Facts: What are facts? Facts are simply anything that isn’t completely made up. They’re true, accurate, and authentic.

  • Exposition: Explaining your personal experience clearly and concisely is crucial.

  • Supporting Details: Even if your Personal Essay or Memoir is rooted in personal experience, it is still necessary to expand your story beyond the main character, which is often going to be yourself.

    • Research - As I will mention in more detail below, a theme, focal point, or lesson is crucial for any piece of writing. Your reader will ask, “What am I gaining from reading this? What new information am I learning?” Your work will ultimately have a topic, and that topic will be relatable to others in some way or another. Further research this topic.

    • Reportage - Writing a story is often difficult without the ability to reference events. Photographs, journals, blogs and social media are great resources for this. Before you begin writing, outline your first draft and assure that it is in chronological order. You will also want to make sure all significant points or events are well organized within your story ahead of time.

    • Thoughts and Opinion - A Personal Essay requires a personal touch. Make sure you include thoughts, feelings, and opinions.

  • Format: Creative Non-Fiction is often written in an Essay format. They include an introduction, supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion at the end.

Literary Elements

  • Narrative: A narrative is simply a story.

    • Storytelling - A story requires several events (or scenes), goals, challenges or obstacles, a climax or turn of events, and of course, a resolution.

    • Character - Every story needs a central theme, which in most cases will be the main character. Although chances are, the main character will be you, the reader does not know you, but they desperately want to. Help them know you.

    • Imagery - Describe your surroundings. Describe your emotions with actions. Instead of saying, “I was angry”, you could say, “I stormed out of the room; I punched a hole in the wall.” You want your reader to see what you see. They want to be there and experience it for themselves.

    • Dialogue - Include vital conversations between the characters in your story. This is especially important for all Non-Fiction. Your readers will want to see an account of what was said by whom and to whom.

  • Theme: Although the main character and topic for the story will often be you, there still must be a theme - a lesson, something your reader can take away from your story.

  • Setting: Where is this all taking place? Make sure you ground the story in a place and allow the reader to visually see what it is you see. You may know what your home looks like, or your city, but the reader probably does not.

  • Plot / Structure: These are your scenes, chapters, and the order they go in.

Don't know where to start?

I always say the best place to start is always by reading. Here you can find great examples of Creative Non-Fiction novels and publications that often feature many Creative Non-Fiction essays.

Novels

  • Eat, Pray, Love - Elizabeth Gilbert

  • Three Cups of Tea - Greg Mortenson

  • Committed - Elizabeth Gilbert

  • The Happiness Project - Gretchen Rubin

Magazines

  • The Atlantic

  • The New Yorker

  • Vanity Fair

  • Esquire

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.