My nonfiction novel

May 16, 2009

I know what you’re thinking: It’s an oxymoron. Novels are fiction.

But when it comes to narrative nonfiction, the genre of my book, labels aren’t that simple. My travel memoir tells a true story, but it’s meant to read like a novel.

That means I’ve got to work elements of fiction into my book, including dialogue, character development, conflict and literary techniques like the metaphor, which I haven’t used since college.

This isn’t easy for me. As a journalist, I’m used to writing short, true stories that are straight to the point, not subtly dramatic. I’m used to quoting scarcely. I’m used to keeping my voice and humor out of the story.

But for this memoir, I want my voice to shine through. To help me along, I’m reading Peter Rubie’s The Elements of Narrative Nonfiction (a book recommended by a literary agent on Twitter, which is where I seem to get all my good leads these days).

To tell you the truth, it has taken this long — four months of delving into my book — to figure out my own voice, my style, my writing humor. But now I’m finally getting it! My nonfiction novel is starting to come together.

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