Typically our author’s stories are based on facts, while some add a pinch or more of fiction to tie the book together. These books are called Narrative Nonfiction and are written in the format of a novel but based on a true story.
Narrative nonfiction is a story based on true events, and people love to read a story that includes:
- a protagonist they can follow
- where the protagonist has a clear goal
- and there is something important at stake
Working from this definition, let’s talk about how to make narrative nonfiction amazing.
Before starting the story, the three points above must be known.
Narrative Nonfiction Example
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is a bestselling narrative nonfiction story that explores a dystopian future where children are forced to fight to the death for entertainment.
The protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, volunteers to take her younger sister’s place in the games, knowing the deadly consequences. She must use her survival skills to outsmart and outlast the other tributes, all while facing the harsh realities of the Capitol’s oppressive regime.
The goal is to survive the games and expose the Capitol’s brutality.
Katniss’s life and the lives of her loved ones are at stake.
As a writer, the first step is to ensure that the story arc is clear. This includes identifying the inciting incident, plot point 1, the middle plot point, plot point 2, and the climax scenes.
Once the story arc is established, the writer can proceed with scene-by-scene plot development. They must review each scene for characters, plot, and settings, and ensure that the story structure is coherent.
While characters in nonfiction cannot be changed, the writer can decide how much detail to include about each character and how to ensure that the story strikes a balance between artistry and truth.
I’ve bolded the important bits.
- The protagonist is Katniss Everdeen
- The goal is to survive the games and expose the Capitol’s brutality
- Katniss’s life and the lives of her loved ones are at stake
Let’s take a step back and talk about Story Editing. Story editing is structural editing of long-form fiction. This comes after the draft is written.
The steps after story editing are:
Story Editing Narrative Nonfiction
Is there a story in the Manuscript?
If your goal is to publish a nonfiction book that reads like a novel, then it must be edited in the same way as a novel. The book must form a story, so you’ll want to answer the question: Is there a story in the manuscript?
To answer that, the first step is to find the story arc. This means locating the inciting incident, plot point 1, the middle plot point, plot point 2, and the climax scenes.
- Do all five scenes exist?
- Are the five scenes in the right place in the story?
- Do they accomplish what they must for a story or scene?
If the answer to the question is yes. Then there is a story and it’s time to proceed to a scene-level edit. If the answer is no, you the writer need to make the revisions necessary to create a story.
This is the most important step in the story editing process.
This comes after there is a story. You the writer must review each scene for:
Then you must review the story structure again and make sure it works.
Characters in Fiction Versus Nonfiction
In fiction, a writer looks for names that are too similar and changes them so as to not confuse the reader. Nonfiction writers don’t have the luxury of choosing names. Most of the character names are set because that was the person’s name in real life.
The writer can cut characters from a scene, but has to decide how far off from the actual event they want to go.
Things like the timing of a scene, the location of a scene, and objects in a scene also fall into this category. The author must balance artistry with the truth.
In conclusion, by reviewing the story arc and editing each scene, a writer can bring the story to life and captivate readers. It can take a good story and turn it into a great book.
Now it’s time to get your book done, edited and published! Contact us today!