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By Dave Hood
The opinion essay (also called a commentary) is a form of creative nonfiction writing. It is part of the category of personal essay, along with the personal narrative essay, the meditative essay, the lyrical essay, and collage essay. As an aspiring creative writer, you’ll want to share your life stories and your opinions about events, topics, issues, and people. The opinion essay or commentary allows you to do this. You don’t have to prove your point conclusively, or state the other half of the argument, but you must present a logical argument, which is based on evidence, facts, and reasons. The more evidence you provide for your opinion, the more powerful your argument.
The opinion essay provides you with a way to share your opinion about any topic. For instance: Does God exist? Is capital punishment cruel and unusual punishment? Do you support abortion? Do you agree with the war on terror? You can read opinion pieces or social commentaries in the newspaper, magazines, periodicals, Websites, and blogs. They often reflect the mood of the public consciousness on topics or issues making news. The opinion essay is intended to “sways hearts and changes minds.”
Many publications include opinion essays, such as newspapers, anthologies, magazines, and the Internet. Consider reading The New Yorker magazine, Time magazine, The Atlantic, and The Walrus. You can also read less mainstream publications, such as http://www.Slate.com, Mother Jones, Adbusters, and Unte Reader. As well, many bestselling books are based on the opinion essay, including “God is Not Great” by the late Christopher Hitchens and “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins.
In this article, I’ll discuss the opinion essay. The following will be covered:
• Definition of an opinion essay
• How to write an opinion essay (lead, argument, ending)
• Writing style
• Suggestions for writing an opinion essay
Definition of an Opinion Essay
Writing an opinion essay requires that you state your opinion about a topic or issue or person, and then support it with an argument, evidence that supports your opinion. First, you must find a topic to write about. Next, you might have to collect evidence or facts to support your opinion. Then, you can create an outline. Finally, you’ll write the opinion essay.
Finding a Topic or Issue
Creative nonfiction writers often write about social issues, such as gun control, suicide,abortion, depression, addiction, unemployment, global warming, terrorism, war, right to privacy. Another popular topic is politics. Writers often give their opinion on why they support or disapprove a policy or action of the government. Popular culture is another place to unearth a topic, and then share an opinion. Writers share their views on art, film, music, fashion, photography, and more.
You can write an opinion essay about any topic. The most important point to remember is that you are sharing your opinion with readers, who might have a different opinion. And if you are not an expert, you’ll need to do some research before writing the opinion essay. You can read a book, conduct a Google search, visit your library, immerse yourself in what you are researching. For instance, if you want to write about Buddhism, you could read a few books and engage in the practise of Buddhism, then write about what you have learned from the experience.
As well, you can mine your memory for topics. Many past experiences reveal universal truth. You have an opinion about that time in your life. Perhaps you got married and thought you were going to live happily for the rest of your life. Now you’re separated, divorced, or a widow. What are your memories of the experience? What is your opinion now? Write about them in an opinion essay.
In an opinion essay, your goal is to share your opinion with readers, with the purpose of explaining your view and educating others. To change a person’s mind or at least motivate the person to think of a new perspective, you’ll need to present a good argument. To do this, you must include real life examples, facts, evidence. The stronger your argument, the more apt you are to alter another person’s opinion.
Sometimes, you will have to conduct research, at the library, on the Internet, by interviewing, or by immersion. You might also have to rely on personal experience, including mining your memory, and using your skills of observation. Before writing the opinion essay, determine what information you require. If you don’t understand the topic or issue, do some research. There are several methods of research:
• Library. Visit the library, where you can read and take notes from books, magazines, articles, and microfilm.
• Internet. Conduct a Google search, the most popular search engine in the world. Use Google to find out what has been written and to discover where you can unearth facts and other evidence to support your argument.
• Immersion. Consider immersing yourself in the experience before you write about it. Suppose you’d like to write an opinion about golf, but you’d never played a game. It would be best if you rented some golf clubs, took some lessons, and played a game of golf before writing an opinion essay about why you don’t like golf.
• Interview. Some writers like to collect quotes from subject matter experts or eye witnesses.
• Observation. Sometimes you can observe the story. For instance, you’re gathering information about the joys of cooking. You could observe a chef in his kitchen, watching how he prepares and cooks the food.
• Reading. As a writer, you must continually learn. Read biographies, essays, articles, newspapers. A good creative nonfiction writer is always reading about different people, places, events, experiences, and so forth. Incorporate the memory of facts into your opinion.
Writing the argument involves sharing facts, evidence, examples, personal experiences, anecdote that support your opinion. The best opinions sway hearts and change minds. You need present facts or evidence that supports your view. But you don’t have to prove it. You must support your opinion with evidence, reasons, and facts. Unlike a university essay, you are not required to present the other side of the argument. But many writers do provide the opposing argument or view, as they desire to be viewed as an expert who is credible.
I often read the personal essays by Margaret Wente in the Globe and Mail, a newspaper published in Toronto, Canada. She writes about any topic you can think of. The other day she argued that environmentalism is ‘dead’ in an opinion essay called ‘The Agony of David Suzuki’. You can read it here:http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/margaret-wente/the-agony-of-david-suzuki/article2401816/ . After reading her essay, I could understand her point of view–and agreed with her. Not only did I gain an education, but I also acquired ammunition for my own opinion.
Before you write your opinion, make sure you have three or four important points to support your argument. Jot down these important points in an outline. Use this outline to guide you in writing the opinion essay. The more evidence you provide, the stronger your argument.
Writing the Opinion Essay
Your opinion essay requires a beginning, middle, and ending. In the beginning, identify the topic and state your opinion. Consider grabbing the attention of your readers by making a provocative statement, stating a fact, sharing an anecdote. In the body of the opinion essay, write your argument. For each major point, include a paragraph or more. End by making an important point, one that readers can take away and ponder.
Writing the Lead
Your lead should grabs readers’ attention and compels them to read on. This is called a hook. Your lead should tell readers why you are writing the opinion, why they should read your opinion essay, and introduce what you are making an opinion about. There is no rule about the length of a lead. Some leads are short, only a few sentences. Some are only a sentence in length. Other leads are longer, taking several paragraphs. The length of your lead will depend on the type of genre and the audience you are writing for.
There are several techniques you can use to write the lead for your opinion essay. Here are the most popular methods:
1. Ask a question. Example: How can the federal government reduce unemployment?
2. Make a thought-provoking statement. This type of lead makes begins with an important point. Example: The unemployment rate is 10%, the highest since the Great Depression.
3. Write an anecdote. It is a short story that reveals a truth or makes an important point.
4. Use a quotation. Write an interesting quotation from an interview or one that you discovered when you conducted research.
5. Write a summary lead. It compresses the article or essay into a few sentences.
6. Use a combination lead. This method requires you to use a couple of methods. For instance, you might begin with a question, and then add a quotation from a well-known person.
7. When writing your lead, you can also answer a few questions: who? what? when? why? how?
Writing the Argument
In the body of your opinion essay, write the reasons or evidence for your opinion. Some evidence will come from research; others evidence will be based on observation, personal experience, and memory. An easy way to write an argument is to identify all the important points of your opinion. For each important point, include two or three reasons or facts or other evidence. Use an outline to guide you in writing the argument. As well, use the following argument structure:
This is not a five paragraph essay, because you might have additional important points to make, depending on the required length of your opinion essay.
Types of Paragraphs to Use
Author Priscilla Long, in “The Writer’s Portable Mentor,” identifies four types of paragraphs to use in any creative nonfiction:
The direct paragraph. It begins with a topical sentence, which identifies what the paragraph is about. Each sentence that follows will provide a reason or example or fact to support the topical sentence.
I believe in capital punishment. It’s a deterrent.. It protects society. It punishes the victim.
The climatic paragraph. Begin with a series of facts or evidence, and end with the topical sentence, which identifies what the paragraph is about.
The tee-off cost $100. I had to wait between holes. I lost 6 golf balls, and it rained, cancelling the game. I don’t like golf, and will never golf again.
Turn about paragraph. Begin on one place (the opposing evidence). Halfway through the paragraph, move in a new direction, providing your reasons or evidence. When you change direction, signal to the reader with words such as “and yet,” ” but,” or “nevertheless”
The film critic stated that the acting was superb and the special effects were awesome…And yet, during the film, I fell asleep from boredom….
Statement Paragraph. Make a statement, and support it with evidence, reasons, and facts. The second sentence expands on the first, the third sentence expands on the second, and the fourth sentence, expands on the third….
Writing the Ending
Once you finish writing your opinion essay, write a good ending. It should make a final point. In the text “On Writing Well, author ” William Zinsser suggests the following: “Knowing when to end…is far more important than most writers realize. You should give as much thought to choosing your last sentence as you did to your first.” Zinsser goes on to say that a good ending is a sentence or two, or paragraph in length, but not any longer. It should take the reader by surprise and seem like the correct place to stop. Zinsser writes that when you are ready to stop, stop.
Here are a few things to consider when writing your ending:
1. Don’t summarize your essay or article.
2. Your ending should encapsulate the central idea of your opinion.
3. Your ending should finish with an important point. Otherwise the reader will think “So what? What was the point?”” Zinsser suggests that this sentence should jolt the reader with “unexpectedness.”
A popular way to end your piece is with a quotation. Another method is to restate the beginning. Other popular methods include:
• An opinion
• Call to action
To write the opinion essay, use the following writing style:
• Write with the active voice, and not the passive voice.
• Write with concrete and specific nouns and action verbs.
• Use adjective and adverbs sparingly.
• Use sentence variety, such as simple, compound complex sentences. If you don’t know what these are read “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White and “The Writer’s Personal Mentor” by Priscilla Long.
• Consider using rhetorical sentences, including the periodic sentence, the loose sentence, the balanced sentence, the antithesis sentence.
• Use literary devices, such as simile and metaphor, to make comparisons.
• Use appropriate diction or word choice. Use language readers will understand. Don’t use clichés or jargon. Use fresh and original language.
• Eliminate needless words. In other words, make each word count or perform something important.
• Follow the advice of “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser and “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White and “Sin and Syntax” by Constance Hale
Suggestions for Writing an Opinion Essay
Here are a few suggestions to help you write an opinion essay:
1. The best topics to write about are issues or events that are important to you. As well, write about what you know or have experienced.
2. Before you write an opinion essay, make sure you understand the topic or issue you are intending to comment on. Therefore, read articles, essays, books, search for personal experiences that support your opinion.
3. Create an outline before writing the opinion essay. This might involve jotting down the main points of your argument. You can this outline to guide you in writing the opinion essay.
4. The more facts, evidence, statistics, reasons you have, the stronger your argument.
5. In the beginning, state your opinion. In the body, write your argument. End with an important point.
6. Always revise your first draft. It is never your best work. To revise, complete a macro-edit (Structure and argument) and micro-edit (spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence patterns, paragraphs, figurative language.)
If you want to learn more on how to write an opinion essay, read the following excellent resources:
• Elements of Style by Strunk and White
• One Year to a Writing Life by Susan M. Tiberghien
• On Writing Well by William Zinsser
• Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale
• The Art of Creative Nonfiction by Lee Gutkind
• The Writer’s Portable Mentor by Priscilla Long
• The Art of the Personal Essay, edited by Philip Lopate
• The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
• God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens
Poets use different methods to compose their poetry. As well, books on “how to write poetry” offer a variety of suggestions. Some poets write a poem one word at a time. Others write line by line. Many write down a complete draft, and then revise for alliteration, simile, rhythm, and so forth. Clearly, there is no “one right way” to compose a poem.
In this post, I will explain my approach to writing poetry. The following will be covered:
- How to prepare to write a poem
- How to begin a poem
- How to write a poem
- How to revise a poem
As well, I’ll provide you with a few suggestions on how to become a poet. ( To call yourself a poet, you must learn the techniques and write poetry on a regular basis.)
Preparing to Begin
Suppose you’ve read lots of poems, learned the techniques, and have found inspiration and a subject to write a poem about. How should you begin? Start with some preparation. Here are a few suggestions:
- Keep a writing journal, making notes in it each day. When you require an idea, check your journal. It might contain an idea for a poem.
- Before writing, contemplate what you desire to compose a poem about.
- Read some poetry or some other inspirational writing that you enjoy— to light the flame of creativity.
- Jot down a few important points you wish to make for the poem you intend to write.
- Freewrite for 10 minutes or more.
- Select a subject.
- Choose a form–narrative, meditative, image, prose poem….
- Decide how you intend to write the poem. Some poets write word by word. Others write line by line. Other write out the complete poem, and then revise.
Determining how the Poem Unfolds
There is no single method of beginning a poem. It is your creative decision to make. However, your intention should be to “catch” the attention your reader, and motivate them to read your poem. And so, your beginning should be interesting. For instance, you might begin with the “cause” or in the “middle of the action.” In “A Poet’s Guide to Poetry,” author, Mary Kinzie, identifies some of the ways poets begin and develop a poem. Here are a few of her suggestions:
- Cause and effect
- Then and now
Other methods of beginning and progressing:
- Narrative where there is a central character, often the speaker of the poem, a conflict, climax, resolution.
- Anecdotes A short narrative that makes an interesting point.
John Drury, author of Creating Poetry, writes that the opening of a poem doesn’t have to be “flashy.” It can:
- Set the scene
- Begin with a question
- Begin with a statement
- Begin with a quotation
- Begin with a fragment
- Begin with an image
He also writes that if you are writing a narrative poem, you can begin “in medias res,” which means in the middle of things. In other words, start with the action or main event.
Remember, the purpose of a poem is to provide the reader with both pleasure and meaning. Keep these two points in mind as you write poetry.
Writing the Poem
Once you are inspired and have a subject to write about, you can begin to compose the poem. First, ask yourself: will I write about the ” outer world” or world I experience with my senses?” Or will I write about the ” inner world,” the world of my “psyche” or “self” ? (Confessional poets write poems about “the self”, such as depression, addiction, loss, grief, disease.)
I like to begin a poem with a title. Sometimes, the title is a word from the poem, Sometimes, the title is the first line of the poem. Always, the title tells the reader what the poem is about.
Next, ask yourself: what type of free verse poem am I going to write? For instance, if you are intending to tell a story, your narrative poem requires a beginning, middle, and end.
Then, ask yourself: how should I begin? There is no “one way.” You might begin with an image, a question, or in the middle of a scene.
Next, if you’ve decided to write a narrative poem, you are going to tell a story. You will tell your story using as fewest words possible. In other words, each word must perform some function. If you are going to write line by line, you’ll have to determine what sorts of sentences to use–fragment, simple, compound sentences, and so forth. You will also want to keep in mind that the most important ideas should be expressed at the end of a line. In writing the poem, you might use simile, metaphor, imagery, alliteration, and other popular poetic devices. It all depends on your skill level and creative vision.
When you arrive at the end of the poem, you should end with something meaningful, such as an epiphany, or insight.
Here is an example of a first draft of a confessional poem. Notice how the title tells the reader what the poem is about. It’s called “Unemployed.”
It’s early morning. Slept poorly.
Neighbors have gone to work.
Like a shut-in, I sit in this silent house,
sip my hot coffee,
read the newspaper,
listen to the litany
of depressing news
on CNN television.
I think to myself:
Life savings are depleting.
Unable to pay the bills.
Unable to put food on the table.
Creditors are telephoning every day
like hungry rats waiting to feast.
How long must I search for work?
What am I going to do?
It feels like an inescapable nightmare.
From this first draft, you can begin the revision process, by adding, deleting, altering.
Revising the Poem
How do you revise a poem? Your first attempt at writing a poem rarely results in your best work. You should view your first attempt as a rough draft. I recommend that you write a complete poem and then take a break. This break allows you to distance yourself. When you return from your break, you will be able to view the poem from a fresh perspective and begin revising.What should you revise? Here are a few suggestions:
- Be sure the title tells the reader what the poem is about. Perhaps it represents the first line of the poem.
- Be sure you are using concrete nouns.
- Be sure you are using action verbs.
- Be sure you are using the active voice.
- Be sure to use adjectives and adverbs sparingly.
- Make sure you have shown the reader and not told them.
- Be sure that your images appeal to the readers sense of sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing.
- Have you included similes or metaphors to entertain or to make the abstract concrete?
- Have you used sound effects? Alliteration. Assonance. Onomatopoeia. Internal rhyme or end rhyme.
- Have you used a friendly, conversational voice?
- What point of view have you used? Is it effective? Is it consistent? If a shift in point of view, why?
- Does your poem evoke emotion?
- Does your poem have rhythm?
- Does your poem have meaning? Look to the last stanza or line. Does it express some insight or epiphany?
- Have you used poetic devices of simile and metaphor and imagery to entertain the reader?
- Does the last line tell the reader something important, such as share words of wisdom, share an insight, share meaning?
When do you know when your poem is finished? You might end when it feels right. Kim Addonizio, author of ” The Poet’s Companion,” suggests that a poem is a work of art, “A work of art is never finished, merely abandoned.”
A Few Suggestions on How to Become a Poet
Suppose you’ve decided to become a creative writer. You intend to write free verse poetry. How do you learn? Here are a few suggestions:
- Read lots of poetry by good poets, such as Charles Simic, Mary Oliver, Robert Frost, Billy Collins. If you discover a poet that you really like, read all that poet’s poems. There are countless books, magazines, and websites that publish poetry, which you can read. Begin by checking out http://www.poetryfoundation.org and http://www.poets.org or http://www.poetryarchive.com
- Learn the popular forms and techniques for writing a free verse poem. Some popular forms include narrative, meditative, image, confessional. You must also learn how to use line breaks, simile, metaphor, rhythm, imagery, vivid descriptions, alliteration, and more. How to you learn? There are many valuable resources that will teach aspiring poets how to write free verse poetry. Start by reading “The Poet’s Companion” by Kim Addonizio, a useful text with sections on inspiration and subject matter, the craft of writing poetry, the writing life, exercises on how to write poetry, and additional resources.
- Practise the techniques by writing in a personal journal. For instance, to learn how to write a simile, experiment in your journal. For instance, suppose you wanted to practise writing a simile. You could begin by making comparisons. Here are a few: A building is like a statue…The street lamp is like a candle that lights a dark room…. At night, my neighborhood is like an abandoned town…Snow falls like white confetti. How to practise? Read “In the Poem of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop by Steve Kowit, and complete the exercises.
- Find inspiration and subjects to write about. You can look inward to your psyche, and write about your thoughts, feelings, impressions, what you’ve contemplated, a memory, or dream, something you’ve imagined. Or you can look outward—and view the world around you. You might write about something you’ve read, overheard, observed, or experienced. One of the best ways to find inspiration is to read a wide variety of books, magazines, newspapers, and content on websites or blogs. Curiosity fuels inspiration.
- Imitate the form, style, techniques of your favorite poets. To do this, you’ll have to learn the techniques or poetic devices that enable you to construct a poem, and then you’ll have to analyze the poem, to discover how it was constructed by the poet.
- Once you feel confident, begin writing a poem on a regular basis. You might start by writing a poem once a week. Please note that a poem can be about anything. Furthermore, poets have written poems about anything you can image, such as art, death, suicide, sex, love, war, depression, an image, a fleeting moment, a dream, an observation, a personal experience, other poets, parts of speech, and much more.
- Revise your poetry. You first attempt is never your best. Writing a poem is an iterative process. A good poem is the result of many revisions.
- Take a course on how to write poetry at university, or enroll online in a course, or read a few books on how to write poetry. I’ve learned most of my creative writing through self-study. A marvelous book that will teach you how to write poetry is “The Poetry Companion” by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux. (This is a must read. Every creative writer should own a copy.)
What’s the best way to learn how to write poetry? Author John Drury, in” Creating Poetry,” writes that “the greatest single means of learning how to do something is imitation.” He suggests that you “latch on” to a model poet, one you like, or several poets you admire, and begin to write poems in the style and techniques and subjects that they do.
You first attempt is never your best work, and so after writing a poem, you must set it aside, and take a break. When you return, read your poem aloud to yourself. Then ask yourself: Do I like it? If you don’t, revise it. You might add details, cut out details, change details. You might also make the poem sound and read as a poem by adding one or more poetic devices, such as imagery, simile, metaphor, alliteration, and so forth.
When are you finished writing a poem? Many writers believe that a poem is never finished—and can always be altered or revised. I tend to agree that “a poem is never finished, just abandoned.”
To become a poet, you must learn the poetic techniques and then begin to write poetry. The act of writing a poem makes you a poet.
For more information on how to write free verse poetry, read the following:
- The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux
- How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch
- The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms by Mark Strand and Eavan Boland
- The Poet Laureate Anthology, edited by Elizabeth Hun Schmidt
- A Poet’s Guide to Poetry by Mary Kinzie
- Creating Poetry by John Drury
- The Discovery of Poetry by Frances Mayes
- The Poet’s Guide to Poetry by Mary Kinzie
- Making Your Own Days by Kenneth Koch
- In the Poem of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop by Steve Kowit
Focusing your lens on the world beyond your neighborhood, community, town, city, country is another way to uncover material to write about. The Global village offers an endless number of topics and issues and influential people who you can write about, such as terrorism, global warming, war, famine, religious extremism, human rights, AIDS, famine, poverty, the Third World, and much more.
To understand the global village, you’ll be required to stay informed. How? Reading publications that focus on publishing articles about international relations, world issues, and global topics. For instance, the current edition of Foreign Policy deals with “Cities in China”, decapitating rogue regimes, living in slums. It also includes interviews Ai Weiwei, the Chinese dissident, and Salman Rushdie, who has been the enemy of radical Islam for many years.
In writing about the world stage, you’ll craft literary journalism essays about other people, places, events, issues, and experiences. Often, extensive research is required. Not only will the you be required to read newspapers and magazines, you must also conduct extensive research in the library. You might also be required to carry out interviews with eye witnesses and subject matter experts. As well, the you might have to visit the place where the events occurred, or immerse yourself in the experience as it unfolds.
In this article, I’ll discuss the following aspects about writing about the global village:
- Moving way from writing about the self
- How to approach writing about the world beyond
- The Five R’s of Creative Nonfiction
- Creative writing techniques
- Resources on how to write creative nonfiction
Moving Away from Writing about Self
Writing about the global village is like writing about popular culture. You must move beyond memories of your past. Lee Gutkind, author of ” You Can’t Make this Stuff Up,” distinguishes between “public” and “personal” creative nonfiction. For instance, when writing a memoir or personal narrative, you are writing about yourself, your own experiences, things that happened to you. This is personal side of creative nonfiction. In contrast, the public side of creative nonfiction is “someone else’s story.” Anyone can write about it. It requires that your lens be focused on the world beyond—the global village beyond your own life and the pop culture of the society you inhabit.
Check out The Atlantic, Harper’s, The New Yorker, and you’ll see examples of how writers use the tools of creative nonfiction to write about the global village.
Writing about the global village requires that you are informed and educated about global issues and events and topics. Staying informed requires that you read the newspaper and watch the news. It entails conducting research and analysis. You’ll usually have to visit the library, read a books and magazines by experts.
How to Approach Writing about the World Beyond
In “Tell It Slant”, author Brenda Miller suggests that you can write from two perspectives:
- The Layperson. Using this approach, your uncover facts and knowledge, such as scientific facts, and then add it to your own personal essay, memoir, literary journalism, which is not directly about the scientific facts you have uncovered. What might you include? knowledge of psychology, sociology, philosophy, physics, biology, astronomy, literature, anything else that is relevant
- The Expert Approach. The other way in which you can write about the outside world is to become a subject matter expert. To do this, you must learn everything you can by researching your subject at the library, conducting interviews, and by immersion.
What are some global issues you can write about? There are countless topics and issues to write about. Here are a few topics to consider:
- Genocide and war and war crimes and crimes against humanity
- Population growth, global poverty, famine, starvation
- Authoritarian government, Torture, failed states
- Human rights and Amnesty International
- Global warming, over population, extinction of species, desertification
- Religious extremism, fanatical leaders, sharia law, patriarchal societies
- The oppression of women in the third world.
- Global Village. If want desire to understand the economic, political, and social climate, read Time, MacLean’s, The Economist, The Atlantic, Harper’s, The New Yorker magazine, Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs.
The Five R’s of Creative Nonfiction
Writing about the global village as a creative nonfiction writer involves:
- Real Life– Writing about real people, actual events, and actual places
- Research– Collecting facts from the library, interviews, Internet
- Writing-Writing literary journalism essays, autobiographies, or biographies
- Reflection-Sharing personal thoughts, feelings, perspectives
- Reading-Read autobiographies, biographies, and other informative books about the world in which you live.
In writing about the global village, you purpose is to inform, educate, and entertain. To achieve these purposes, you’ll apply the tools of creative nonfiction. For instance, you’ll write scenes to describe significant events, write summaries to explain, and include your own thoughts or reflections about what happened. You’ll share narratives that are true, factual, and accurate–but read like fictional stories.
Creative Writing Techniques
Writing about the global village as a creative nonfiction writer requires the following:
- Writing in scene (to show), summary (to tell), personal reflection
- Storytelling and other tools of fiction, such as narrative arc, dialogue, setting, characterization, point of view
- Using poetic devices of simile, metaphor, imagery
- Writing Concrete, particular, and significant descriptions
- Creating structure- Narrative, lyrical, meditative, opinion with an argument, or organic.
- Revealing the inner point of view-It means to see the world through the eyes of the person or people you are writing about.
- Providing intimate details-It means to capture significant details, based on observation, that a reader would not normally imagine as he/she reads the narrative.
- Researching the topic-Interviewing, immersion, fact-collection from the Library or Internet.
A Few Tips
Writing about the global village requires that you are informed and understand the issues and topics and events around the world. To expand your understanding of the global village, do the following:
- Read news-oriented magazines, such as Time magazines, The Economist, MacLean’s, and Foreign Policy magazine
- Read the newspaper, such as your city newspaper or newspapers from around the world on the Internet.
- Read good books by subject matter experts.
- Watch and listen to the news on television or radio or Internet
- View important documentaries on YouTube or in the cinema or on television
- Keep a writing journal, making note of your thoughts and feelings of a particular event making news.
To find out more about writing creative nonfiction, I strongly recommend that you read Lee Gutkind’s new book, “You Can’t Make this Stuff Up.” It’s a complete guide to writing creative nonfiction.
- Tell It Slant: Creating, Refining, and Publishing Creative Nonfiction, Second edition by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola
- Creative Nonfiction : A Guide to Form, Content, and Style with Readings by Eileen Pollack
- To Tell the Truth: Practise and Craft in Narrative Nonfiction by Connie D. Griffin
- You Can’t Make This Stuff: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative nonfiction from Memoir to Literary Journalism and Everything In Between Up by Lee Gutkind
“Faithfulness to the truth of history involves far more than a research, however patient and scrupulous, into special facts. Such facts may be detailed with the most minute exactness, and yet the narrative, taken as a whole, may be unmeaning or untrue. The narrator must seek to imbue himself with the life and spirit of the time. He must study events in their bearings near and remote; in the character, habits, and manners of those who took part in them. He must himself be, as it were, a sharer or a spectator of the action he describes.” Francis Parkman
“An historian should yield himself to his subject, become immersed in the place and period of his choice, standing apart from it now and then for a fresh view.” Samuel Eliot Morison
We are victims of history, witnesses to history, and socialized by history. A case in point: the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Much of history is forgotten, unless it is recorded and then shared. Writing about historical events can teach us not to make the same mistakes again.
Significant people, like Steve Jobs, can be written about in the form of a biography. Biographies of “movers and shakers” can teach us how to live our own lives.
As a creative nonfiction writer, you can play the role of writing about “threads of history.”In this article, I’ll explain how to write about history from a creative nonfiction perspective.
Definition of History. There are many definitions of history. Here’s my view: The historian studies the past, collects facts, analyzes the facts, interprets the facts, determines cause and effects, and significance for present day life.Writing about history involves writing about past events (Civil war, World War I, Roaring Twenties) and significant, historical people who are now deceased. (Mao, Hitler, Stalin, Bin Laden)
Two popular ways to write about history are:
- Writing an autobiography. Often political leaders write histories of their own lives for future generations.
- Writing a biography. A writer researches and write a life history of a famous person who has contributed to human history in some significant way, such as Ghandi, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, President Bush, Prime Minister Trudeau, and countless others.
Instead of writing a biography, many writers write a biography sketch or profile of a historical figure. The sketch is much shorter. An autobiography and biography are usually several hundred pages and published as a book, whereas a sketch can be from 500 to 2,000 words, and published in a magazine. As well, the sketch does not require as much research.
Another way is to write a book about some significant historical event, such as 9/11, the civil rights moment, Feminism, totalitarianism, the Cold war, Ku Klux Klan, Civil War….
Moving Outward. When writing from a creative nonfiction perspective, instead of writing about “self”, you are writing about another person, place, event, idea. You are also applying the research methods and writing techniques of creative nonfiction. And so, you are moving outward, viewing the outside world from your own eyes, instead of looking inward to “self”, and those memories that are part of your sense of “self.” You can view the world as a witness to history, as a victim of history, or as an author of history.
Perspectives Of History. When writing about history, you can be a victim of history. All of those who died in the terrorist attacks of 9/11 had friends and families, who were victims. Suppose you are a victim, a family member who lost a loved one in the attacks of 9/11. You could write about 9/11 by sharing historical facts of the event, by explaining the causes, and by contributing your personal reflections.
You can also write about history as a witness. You are an observer. Every year, you are witness to many global events, which will become part of the history textbooks. For instance, President Obama is the first black president of the United States. To understand the significance of this, you must have a sense of history–the civil rights movement, racial discrimination of blacks in American throughout history, the Civil War, and slavery of blacks. As a writer, you can use history to provide context, as a backdrop, or as an antagonist in your narrative.
You can write about history from a creative nonfiction perspective as an author of history. You were not a witness because it happened before your time. You are not a victim because the historical event has not impacted you directly. You are writing about history like a historian, sharing the facts and interpretations by applying the creative nonfiction techniques of scene, summary, and reflection.
Nonfiction History versus Creative Nonfiction History. Both creative nonfiction and nonfiction inform and educate readers. A historical text presents the facts and causes and effects, and significance. Creative nonfiction does the same, but also adds narrative, including storytelling, dialogue, setting, character development.
Writing Nonfiction History relies on an authoritative tone and is written in the third person. Creative nonfiction allows the writer to use first-person “I” or third person (“He/she” ) and a friendly, conversational tone.
Writing Nonfiction History tells the story using formal language and matter-of-fact presentation, without personal reflection or use of figurative language, such as simile, metaphor, imagery. A creative nonfiction writer puts into use personal reflection and figurative language.
Both approaches require extensive research, including immersion, interviewing, fact-collecting in the library.
Both the historian, who writes nonfiction history, and creative nonfiction writer desire to inform and educate the reader.
The Five R’s of Creative Nonfiction
Writing about history as a creative nonfiction writer involves:
- Real Life- Writing about real people, actual events, and actual places
- Research- Collecting facts from the library, interviews, Internet
- Writing-Writing literary journalism essays, autobiographies, or biographies
- Reflection-Sharing personal thoughts, feelings, perspectives
- Reading-Read autobiographies, biographies, and other informative books about history.
Creative Nonfiction Tools
Writing about history as a creative nonfiction writer is like writing other types of creative nonfiction, in the sense that you will use the same techniques, including:
- Scene, summary, personal reflection
- Storytelling and other tools of fiction, such as dialogue, setting, characterization, point of view
- Poetic devices of simile, metaphor, imagery
- Concrete, particular, and significant descriptions
- Structure- Narrative, lyrical, meditative, opinion with an argument, or organic.
- Research, such as interviewing, immersion, fact-collection from the Library or Internet.
What to Write about
History introduces us to countless fascinating people and events to write about. Here are a few that come to mind:
- Bin Laden
- Pierre Elliot Trudeau
- Nelson Mandela
- Mother Teresa
- Steve Jobs
- Sadam Hussein
- Shah of Iran
- Gulf War, Viet Nam War, World War I & II, Civil War
- Digital revolution- the computer, Internet, Social media, iPhone, iPad.
If you write about a historical person, you can write a biography sketch or profile.
Books to Read
In the past decade, many writers have written about history using the tools of creative nonfiction. Here are a few books you can read:
- Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
- The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first century by Thomas Friedman
- A History of God by Karen Armstrong
- A Brief History of Time by Stephan Hawking
- A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
- The End of Faith by Sam Harris
For additional information on writing creative nonfiction, read the following:
- Truth of the Matter: The Art and Craft of Creative Nonfiction by Dinty Moore
- Story Craft: The Complete Guide to Writing Narrative Nonfiction by Jack Hart
- Creative Nonfiction: A Guide to Form, Content, and Style by Eileen Pollack
- To Tell the Truth: Practise and Craft in Narrative Nonfiction by Connie D. Griffin
By Dave Hood
How do you write an ending for your short story? There is no single method of ending a story. Many writers don’t know how their story will end as they write the story. And so the ending emerges as the story is revealed on the page. Other writers know how the story will end before they begin, and so they can focus on the resolution as they write. There is no right or wrong approach.
In this article, I briefly explain the meaning of an ending, how to end your short story, and explain what the ending must do for the reader. I also provide some tips on how to write an ending for a short story or novel.
The Meaning of an Ending
All stories must end with resolution. There must be some answer to the central conflict. When you write the ending, your story must be complete. All unanswered questions posed in the story must be answered. All loose ends must be tied up.
Writer Flannery O’Connor the end is when the story is complete, “when nothing more than relating to the mystery of that character’s personality can be show through that particular dramatization.” (On Writing Short Stories, edited by Tom Bailey)
An ending can be framed in terms of denouncement, realization, or epiphany. Each has a different shade of meaning.
The story can end with a closed ending or open ending. In an closed ending, nothing more can happen. For instance, the villain might be killed. In an open ending, the writer leaves questions about what will happen next. For instance, the gunslinger who has just killed the bad guy, rides off into the sunset. The reader is left to imagine what the central character will do next with his life.
It is less powerful than an epiphany. The central character gains some insight or is enlightened, and then makes some change in his/her life. For instance, the short story Lust by writer Susan Minot ends with a realization: Their blank look tells you the girl their fucking is not there anymore. You seemed to have disappeared. (On Writing Short Stories, edited by Tom Bailey)
James Joyce introduced the technique of epiphany. It is not simply a realization, but a “magical moment, “felt moment”, that results in permanent change by the character. James Joyce writes includes an epiphany in the short story Eveline. The threat of repeating her mother’s life spurs Eveline’s epiphany that she must leave with Frank and embark on a new phase in her life, but this realization is short-lived. As the story ends, she has a second epiphany, which concludes the story.
Ways to End a Short Story
Short stories or novels can end in many ways. Here are a few common ways in which writers conclude their fictional stories:
Sometimes the writer concludes the story with a twist ending. Readers are lead to believe that a story will end in a particular way, and then it ends in a different way. So the ending is unexpected. For instance, the story can end with a tragic ending, one in which the protagonist dies. The story might end with an ironic ending, which reveals the darker side of human nature, the shadow of man. Kate Chopin’s “A Story of an Hour” is concluded with a twist ending.
Sometimes the story ends with some final action that brings an end to the conflict, complete finality. In Jack London’s To Build a Fire”, the story ends with the central character freezes to death while on journey to the work camp.
End of the story ending
Sometimes a story ends after it has been told. This is how Tom Franklin’s short story “Alaska” ends. The narrator tells the fantastical story, the dream trip, and then ends with…”we would stop playing as if on cue and look at each other, suddenly happy, remembering Alaska, waiting for us.”So does William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily.”
Essentially, the writer crafts an ending in which the story ends, but the reader is left wondering what will happen next. So, there is no permanent resolution to the ending. Another story can be written, which brings total closure to the story. You see this sort of ending in sequels.
What the Ending Must Do
Your ending must tie up loose ends and answer any unanswered questions in the story.
Writing the ending is also as important as your opening. So, you need to write an ending that resonates in the mind of the reader.
The ending must also be a logical outcome of the story. In other words, it must be based on cause and effect.
The ending should also answer the central conflict of the story.
Sometimes the ending ends the story but doesn’t mean the end. The reader is left to answer the questions implied by the ending of the story.
If the ending is disappointing, many writers won’t recommend that other’s read your short story or novel. And it probably won’t get published.
Only through finding a meaning to your story will the best ending become possible. That is why theme is so important.
Tips for Writing an Ending
Your ending should provide closure to the story. In the issue of A Writer’s Guide to Fiction (Published by Writer Mag), writer Sharon Warner provides five tips for ending a story, which you can use to help create a story with closure. These include:
- Avoid the to-neat ending. In other words, don’t wrap it up and seal it up tight. This approach trivializes your story. Instead, the write the ending until there is almost a new story that will unfold at the end.
- Look to your beginning to find your ending. In other words, your opening will often suggest how the story should end.
- Write provisional endings as your story progresses. As you write the draft, think about how it might end. Then write a provisional ending. A short story has a beginning, middle, and end. So, if you are going to write a story, you should be prepared to write a complete story, a story that has an ending. Once the story is written, you can revise the content, including the ending.Let the story speak for itself. Sometimes the best endings focus a step or two away from the central
- A good story ends loosely. It doesn’t tie up all the possibilities that the story presents.
- Avoid the tendency to summarize. Don’t be preachy or didactic. In other words, don’t tell the reader what to think about the story. Let the reader discover it through subtext it, make his/her own decisions.
Many short stories end with an epiphany. The character experiences a significant revelation or realization. This was a technique introduced by writer James Joyce.
Your ending must resolve the story. That is why we refer to the ending as a resolution. There must be some answer to the conflict—but not necessarily the right answer.
The ending should also lead to some meaning of the story. What does the story, especially the ending, have to say about human nature or the human condition.