Non-Fiction is a Killer


…. Killer?

I admit to exaggerating ever so slightly: I’m not dead yet, after taking a one-semester non-fiction writing course, but sometimes it felt pretty close.

I’m a recovering non-fiction writer….

Compared to fiction writing, non-fiction seems easy: you know the protagonist (yourself) and his/her friends and family (yep, they are your friends and family members), you know the setting for having been there, and you know the story because you lived it.

In fiction, you have to make it all up: the people, the settings, the story. You must give the characters personality, you must come up with interesting twists and spins for the story, and you must ponder the setting, to the point of drawing at least a crude map of your invented town and surroundings, or planet, or alternative world. Of course, you’ll use tidbits from your real life, small pieces extracted from your memory, or you go “out there” and observe people, take notes of how they look, speak and act, and what they are wearing. There is a lot of work and knowledge behind a fiction story that captures readers.

Non-fiction, in contrast, doesn’t need much research except the possible verification of dates and historical facts. You don’t have to come up with an entire imaginary society – or world – nor with specific character traits, since you know, or knew, the people in your story.

However, if you write, like I do, from the heart, if you pour yourself into the screen, and if you spend hours to fine-tune your piece, making sure it not only describes things right but also that it sounds “just so,” it can be an exceptionally draining experience.

After the course, I spent now a week in inner retreat; so much so that I didn’t even want to read my e-mails, let alone write anything. Anything at all.

I’m a recovering non-fiction writer….

…. and I think I have just found new incentives for writing fiction.


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