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Writing for Story Nonfiction Craft Secrets

Writing for Story: Nonfiction Craft Secrets

Would you like to come on my writing journey with me? I’m a book lover, research nerd, and love learning! So, I’ve been reading and reading about how to write from some incredible authors. I find one craft book, which leads to another, which leads to another. So, I’ve decided to share with you the Nonfiction Craft Secrets I’ve been exploring while writing my next book.

September: I read Jon Franklin’s book, Writing for Story: Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction by a two-time Pulitzer Prize Winner, in just a few days. I couldn’t put it down. I like how he shared his own pieces of writing in the first few chapters, and yes, the short pieces lingered for a long time after I read them. Nonfiction that grabs the reader- that’s how I hope to write someday…Don’t we all?

So, as a teacher, I’m summarizing the basics here, and I’ll be adding to them in the future. (I have a solid idea for my website focus now, but don’t have all the pieces in place yet. Check back for updates.)

Five Takeaway Notes

p. 71 -“A story consists of a sequence of actions that occur when a sympathetic character encounters a complicating situation that he confronts and solves.”

p75 – “To be of literary value a complication must be not only basic but also significant to the human condition.”

p. 77 – “A resolution, by definition, destroys tension.”

p. 83 – “…action has to require the expenditure of significant psychological and/or physical energy. The more energy expended, the more powerful the story.”

p. 84 – “As a first step write the complication…and the resolution...cast these two statements in terms of actions, such as “Cancer strikes Joe” and “Joe overcomes cancer…practice using a noun-verb-noun form for outline statements…using three words forces you to reduce your story to its essentials…If your statements don’t describe actions, don’t proceed to the next step…(which is to) identify the actions your character takes in his attempts to overcome the complication.”

How It Helped

This book opened the door and let me create a simple outline of actions my main “character” has taken her entire life. By the time I finished this book in just 2 days, and worked on the tasks laid out in the chapters, I completed a road map of my next nonfiction book about a Native American elder who is an World War II veteran. She and her life experiences have been so inspiring to me, I can’t wait to get the draft completed.

You know how people say they have writer’s block? I was feeling that way from August until now. Those feelings affected all of my writing, including posting here. I tried to write, but failed. (in my own head, that darn inner critic!) I know reading about writing always helped me move forward, so I picked up one of the many craft books on the shelves in my office and flipped through. Usually the author recommends or quotes another book, which piques my interest, and I find myself buying and reading the next book. That’s how I found Writing for Story by Jon Franklin, and I feel like I found gold!

Read this book if you’re struggling with the structure of your story. (I can see how this works for fiction, too!)

Happy Writing 🙂


Author, Sioux Code Talkers of World War II

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What other craft books have you found inspiring? Post in the comments below!

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