The Most Powerful Fiction Technique for the Nonfiction Writer

January 1999
by Gezhi Weng

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Robin Quinn’s May PMA Newsletter article, “Five Fiction Techniques That Add Flair to Nonfiction Books” is commendable. In general, novels better capture a reader’s interest than nonfiction works. Why? Here are three reasons: First, fiction strives to entertain, while nonfiction often aims to inform. Second, the novelist is free to create whatever he or she wants, while the hand of the nonfiction author is restricted; the text must conform to reality. Finally, more techniques-metaphors, character development, atmosphere invoking sentences, etc.-are available to the fiction writer. The key point is that if a nonfiction author is able to use some fiction-writing devices, then he or she will create a much more interesting and saleable book. One powerful technique that was not discussed in the May article is narration. The best novels are almost always the ones with dramatic tales. If you think about your favorite fiction book and ask yourself why you like it, you will probably say, “It tells a great story.” How can the nonfiction writer take advantage of narration? One way is through historical anecdotes. My company, Jupiter Scientific Publishing, specializes in popular science books. Such books are among the most difficult to market because: (1) they are often intended for the scientist rather than the general reader, despite what they may say in their introductions; and (2) they are frequently written in a rather dry prose. Some of the best science books interrupt the…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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