Transitioning from Fiction to Creative Nonfiction
I want to try and add more samples of non-fiction writing to my writing blog but am not quite sure where to find prompts or what is “acceptable”. Do you have any advice? I want to create a professional blog portfolio to include with internship/job applications that are for social media marketing and such that show off my mechanics and creativity without it being completely fictional.
I think two genres of creative nonfiction that would be really helpful for you to look into are personal essay and reportage. Both are definitely great ways for you to showcase your creative writing abilities in a nonfiction setting, and you can really write about whatever you want!
Don’t be scared off by seeing the word “essay”. The only similarities between the papers your write about in school and personal essays is that they’re based around a thesis, but in a person essay that thesis is you opinion, a lesson you learned, or how you feel about something. And instead of using examples from research or literature, you back up your thesis with examples from your own personal experiences. Explaining these experiences is where the “creative” part of creative nonfiction comes into personal essays.
Personal essays allow you to run rampant with the first person and be as informal as you’d like, but you have to be careful that you’re not just ranting or complaining. Your central thesis still has to be clear.
And as I’d said, a personal essay would be a great addition to your portfolio because it’ll show your creative nonfiction writing skills, but you can write it about literally anything. And actually, most lengthier blog posts are personal essays anyway!
Here’s a link to one of my favorite personal essays, Goodbye to All That by Joan Didion (who is like, the master of personal essays).
What do you know, we actually have a really in depth article on forming your main argument in a personal essay in The Yeah Write Review | Issue 02 if you’d like to know more!
Reportage is probably the genre of nonfiction that you’ve never heard of that you’ve read the most. You know when you read those articles in glossy magazine about celebrities that begin, “Ryan Gosling sits down across from me in the lounge at the Beverly Wilshire wearing a black T shirt, artfully ripped jeans, and what smells like Hugo Boss cologne”? That’s reportage. Most feature writing in magazine journalism (where the journalist uses the first person) is.
It’s a unique creative nonfiction genre because most of the other ones—personal essays, memoir, autobiography, etc.—center around you. But reportage is also journalistic, because it centers around a topic other than yourself, but you can still insert yourself into the narrative as a character. And instead of just writing about something in reverse pyramid style, displaying only the facts, you make the piece literary by inserting scenes (sort of the way you’d create scenes in a memoir, but again, centered around a topic other than yourself). You also don’t have to be completely objective. So in the same way personal essays are like writing an essay but more fun, writing reportage is like writing a news article, but more fun.
So what you could do, if you wanted, is pick a topic any topic—a new restaurant in town, a band, a person who you don’t know—to write about. Give yourself your own assignment. Then go to that restaurant/see that band play/interview that person, etc., and learn as much about the topic as you can. Then write about the experience.
One of the most famous and wonderful reportage pieces of all time that I really really love is Frank Sinatra Has A Cold by Gay Talese.
*Addendum: This piece about Frank Ocean in The New York Times from February 7 is another great example of modern reportage.
And hey, what do you know! We also have a more in-depth article about writing reportage in The Yeah Write Review | Issue 02 !
Whenever there’s an advice page like this, it’s automatically added to the list of topics on our Advice page, which can always be accessed under “Writing Advice” in the navigation or at yeahwriters.tumblr.com/advice.
Lello "Strozzapolli" Fiatella
Abbiamo oggi con noi Lello Fiatella, per gli amici Strozzapolli, che sicuramente ricorderete per il suo oscar come miglior attore non presente in un film e per la sua apparizione tra il pubblico del Maurizio Costanzo Show dopo la chiusura del programma. Lello ha un’esperienza decennale nel campo del cazzeggio che gli ha permesso di costruirsi alcune opinioni sulla vita di cui a nessuno importa niente, ma che nonostante ciò e senza che nessuno glielo abbia neanche chiesto, è pronto a condividere con tutti i presenti.
- Chi siamo? Tutta n’altra cosa da quello che vorremmo esse’.
- Da dove veniamo? Come dire: dalla patata.
- E dal principio? Da na palla de papà.
- Dove andiamo? In bagno.
- Quello che intendo è: un dio esiste? Ma guarda, questo signore che dici te è come la lacca pe’ capelli e l’unicorno: in natura non esiste.
- Quindi? Se tu fai o pensi na cosa poi esiste.
- È etico ricreare la vita in laboratorio? Sì, ma è mejo ner letto, e è più utile adotta’ quarcuno che sta co le pezze ar culo.
- Le persone omosessuali sono malate? Sì, quanno cianno la febbre per esempio.
- Quindi l’omofobia è da condannare? Macché, uno cià il diritto di girasse dall’artra parte pure se vede un cono gelato, figuriamose se vede due che se strofinano. A me me fanno schifo pure quelli eterosessuali che se strofinano, nun se po’?
- E quando sono offensivi o violenti? Apparte che offensivo e violento so la stessa cosa, perché pure uno che t’offenne te sta a fa na violenza, non è che te deve da menà pefforza. Po’ che c’entra st’omofobia? Uno non fa na violenza perché è omofobo, ma perché è no stronzo violento. Me pare che stamo a fa er discorso che se meni ai froci no e se meni tu moje passa.
- E allora condanniamo il Vaticano? Er Vaticano è n’istituzione religiosa, è er mestiere suo dire pure quarche stronzata senza senso, mica è colpa sua se poi le istituzioni glie danno importanza veramente? Non è che se me vedo Cenerentola me compro tutte le zucche der paese pe’ vedé se una se trasforma in Audi A4. Mammagari.
- Il Vaticano non paga le tasse, non è una colpa neanche questa? Ma scusa, se te dicono che non devi pagà le tasse tu che fai? Le paghi lo stesso?
- E con la pedofilia? Pure che la gente di merda che stupra sta più dentro le case che dentro le chiese devo dì che però la chiesa cià na reputazione de merda che se la merita. Però a me me pare che dev’esse pure un po’ malato un genitore che lascia er fijo co n vecchio scapolo co la gonna, vestito tutto de nero, e che fa parte de na setta millenaria. E dai su, nnamo fratè.
- E il governo? Che è? Na polemica?
- No, per dire. Er governo è na merda, ma è na merda perché ce rappresenta. Mo c’è sto coso tecnico, almeno dice salva le banche. Come addì che per loro morimo ma pe na causa nobbile.
- E Grillo? Chi? Ah stai a dì er comico? Mah, guarda, chi se l’è mai nculato. Dice fa contro-informazione, a me me pare che fa l’incazzato pe fasse notà, dice le parole che non se dicono, fa er pagliaccio pe’ visibilità ai cittadini che però pare che vojono portà avanti un programma comune. Tutti i telecosi stanno a dì Grillo qua Grillo là pe’ sminuì tutto er lavoro di sta pora gente. Se me chiedi “er il Movimento 5 Stelle?” po’ magari te risponno.
- E il Movimento 5 Stelle? Dice che non cianno l’esperienza politica, che poi pure che non ce l’hanno è sempre mejo uno che non è capace che uno che è fijo de na mignotta e sta là a fassi i cazzi sua da prima de biutiful. Magari do fiducia a sti quatto gatti der Movimento che dici te pure solo perché ancora devono da rubasse niente. Poi magari arrivano e rubbano pure loro, però vuoi mette che già cambiano ste facce de merda è na piccola soddisfazione da portà a casa?
- E con la storia che tolgono voti alla sinistra? A Renzi? Dici Renzi è de sinistra? Allora non ciò capito n’cazzo io, chettedevodì.
- Ci sono gli alieni? È vero che qualcuno li ha incontrati? Nei telefilm ce stanno queli che dici te. Nella realtà da quarche parte nell’universo ce stanno, ma so tipo germi, come queli nei panini der paninaro a Porta Maggiore. So vermetti che mentre s’evorvono qua semo tutti morti da migliardi de anni. Figurate se quarcuno l’ha beccati, la droga e la voja d’annà a pomeriggio 5 fanno dì cose strane. Le forme de vita complesse non durano mica tanto? Mo figurate le civiltà, e figurate quelle industrializzate, perché pe viaggià nello spazio uno deve avé almeno na scopa volante, te pare?
- Cultura e sanità? Da chiude. Co sta storia della scuola e delle cure pubbliche tutti cianno sistemato l’amici, e noi co le tasse comunque stamo a pagà pure i privati. Tanto vale risparmià du sordi pe sto schifo de pubblico se non semo proprio capaci e annà dai privati, che poi se annamo tutti dai privati se spenne de meno. Te trovi?
- Ma togliendo istruzione e sanità pubblica non viene meno un diritto di tutti? Ma te lo sto a dì che non vojo toje niente, però se non ce stanno de loro tanto vale toje pure la facciata e fa tutti come ce pare, che stamo messi che se entri buono a n’ospedale te fanno uscì storto e che se’mpara più a gioca’ a Assassin’s Creed che ar liceo. Te vojo bene.
And here are the news of today:
1. Behind the smokescreen by Rocco Rorandelli, a project about Tobacco Industry.
I used to be a smoker; my father was too. At the end of 2007, when he was defeated by cancer, I started asking myself questions. As I tried to find a reason for such a tragic occurrence, I began reading more and more about the tobacco industry. I gradually realized that tobacco touches upon the wellbeing of many people as well as the environment.
In 2008 I started a long-term project, digging up what lies beneath the apparent simplicity of a cigarette. I have documented tobacco farming and processing, cigarette manufacturing, sales, and marketing, and finally consumption. Every step of the way I found an industry that is impacting every corner of the globe.
2. New website for Pep Bonet. A great photographer, with many reportage online.
2. JACK DELANO: “SELECT PICTURES FROM THE FSA PROJECT”
3. Caren Alpert is a food photographer based in San Francisco. For the last 18 months, she has been shooting food with an electron microscope.
What’s in our food? What’s the difference between a bird’s-eye view of a remote vegetable crop and a microscopic swath from a pineapple leaf? How distinct is a pile of table salt from miles and miles of icebergs?
I’ve made a living over the last decade capturing mostly recognizable images of food. Now I want to show what is there, but what we never actually see: landscapes, patterns and textures that ignite a completely different response from the viewer.
Photographs taken with electron microscopes have seized my interest because of their mystery and simultaneous familiarity. This medium deconstructs, abstracts, and reveals the ordinary in a riveting way. The closer the lens got, the more I saw food - and consumers of food - as part of a larger eco-system.
4. The website and collection of Dirk Braeckman.
This website is organized like an archival space, in which the broad spectrum of Dirk Braeckman’s artistic practice is presented in a non-linear way. The result reads like an assemblage of images, documents, project files and texts, spanning the artist’s career for over the last 25 years.
Dirk Braeckman (born in 1958 in Eeklo, Belgium) is a Belgian photographer who lives and works in Ghent, Belgium. Dirk Braeckman has had numerous group exhibitions and several solo shows in Europe, including ones at at Ghent’s SMAK (2001)and the De Pont Foundation in Tilburg (2004).
5. Afghan Box Camera Project. A really wonderful project!
As of June 2011 Afghanistan is one of the last places on earth where photographers continue to use a simple type of instant camera called the kamra-e-faoree for means of making a living. The hand-made wooden camera is both camera and darkroom in one and generations of Afghans have had their portraits taken with it, usually for identity photographs. At one stage it was even outlawed when former rulers of Afghanistan, the Taliban, banned photography, forcing photographers to hide or destroy their tools.
The aim of the Afghan Box Camera Project is to provide a record of the kamra-e-faoree which as a living form of photography is on the brink of disappearing in Afghanistan.
(here the website) (very full of contents)
6. ‘Stranger: Memories’, the project of Jamie House (Uk photographer)
Jamie House’s (Bristol, United Kingdom 1978) project ‘Stranger: Memories’ is a result of his producing images of other people’s memories that he has mined from the internet on various social media sites. These people have befriended Jamie online but are not people he has met in person. Each image is produced by a long exposure focussed on a computer screen while browsing a stranger’s social media images he or she has posted on their Flickr and Facebook accounts. The resulting images are digital landscapes of people and their memories.
7. Off Route 80, the black&white work of Susan Lipper.
Photographer Susan Lipper is a master of grays—not only in her pictures, but in the human stories she finds, the quarrels between the urban world and nature, and America’s contradictions.
The pictures in her series “Off Route 80,” may come from West Virginia, but they could be found off any of America’s Route 80s.
Susan Lipper is a New York-based artist. Among the monographs on her work are Bed and Breakfast, 2000; trip, 1999; and Grapevine, 1994. Recent projects have included “The Not Yet Titled Series 1999-2004,” which explores themes of narratives and dates; diptychs of gelatin silver prints mounted on aluminum; and “Off Route 80,” an installation of video and landscape work from Grapevine, WV, starting in 2006.
8. Very beautiful photographs of Don Hong-Oai, that resemble Traditional Chinese Paintings.
Don Hong-Oai was born in Canton, China in 1929, but spent most of his life in Saigon, Vietnam. As a young boy in Saigon he was apprenticed to a photography studio. He stayed in Vietnam through the war, but fled by boat to California in 1979. He lived in San Francisco’s Chinatown where he had a small darkroom to create his photographs. While living the US he returned to China every few years to make new negatives. Only in the last few years of his life was his work discovered by a wider public, and he was kept very busy making prints for collectors across the US and elsewhere. Hong-Oai died in June 2004.
The photographs of Don Hong-Oai are made in a unique style of photography, which can be considered Asian pictorialism.
9. Very beautiful video-interview of Eve Arnodl, talking about some of her photographs.
(watch it here @ magnumphotos.com)
10. Photo Gallery Merge begins the new year with the first solo exhibition of recently graduated photographer Nora Verbaak.
Since the opening in August, the two have been working hard to organize new exhibitions with young talented photographers. Starting with Nora Verbraak. She graduated last summer from AKV St. Joost in Breda – The Netherlands, with the work ‘Natural Ambivalence’. This work is a collection of photographs she made during – and inspired by – several intense events in her life and that of her loved ones. In the combination of symbolic landscapes and (self) portraits, themes as love, fear, loneliness, vulnerability and strength play an important role.
11. A new work by Bertien van Manen: Let’s Sit Down Before We Go.
The thread that links much of the Dutch photographer Bertien van Manen’s work is her portrayal of the seemingly small, undramatic moments of everyday life.
It might be a photograph of friends sitting and sharing a drink or a deceptively simple photograph of a family snapshot sitting on a bureau, but the weight of much of her imagery lays in the perception of a connection her subjects. Van Manen’s professional beginnings were in fashion but after a photographer friend introduced her to the photographs of Robert Frank and other artists, she pursued a more personal direction with her work.
And I especially like this part:
When van Manen speaks of her books, she uses the word “album” frequently. An album, a family album in particular, makes little claim for aspiring to great art. Its purpose seems to be our desire to access memory, history, personal feelings (both good and bad) and perhaps even serve as proof of our existences. There is a shorthand of language in the gestures, faces that can be universal even if we do not know who is in the picture. Her work seems familiar because it is art that slyly poses as photographs that could sit alongside our own memories in such an album. It is such that we can feel the gift of the company Bertien van Manen keeps.
The world through the eyes of Australia’s finest photographers. The 2011 Nikon-Walkley Photo-Journalism Award Entries