Writing Fiction Like Nonfiction – by Erica Verrillo…

on Publishing … and Other Forms of Insanity:

I abhor writing rules. If you follow them, you will produce cookie-cutter prose that sounds as if it has been written by a machine. (Although, I am told this may be what publishers are actually looking for.)

One of the most egregious of these rules is: “Write nonfiction like fiction.” I have read the work of writers who took this advice entirely too literally. They invariably produce personal essays and memoirs laden with self-conscious turns of phrase, excessively lyrical prose, and literary devices that transform what should have been an honest account into a parody.

Verisimilitude is the bedrock of fiction. The appearance of reality in fiction is absolutely necessary, because without it readers won’t be able to identify with the characters in the story. Even for genres in which readers are required to suspend disbelief, such as fantasy and science fiction, the thoughts and emotions of the characters need to conform to what readers already know about how people operate in the real world.

“But … but … but…” (I can hear the objections now) “Write nonfiction like fiction” simply means that there should be an engrossing story line, well-developed characters, and that it should fully engage the reader! That is, in fact, a description of fiction. No, let me amend that. It’s a description of good fiction. There is plenty of bad fiction out there that does none of those things. Conversely, there is plenty of nonfiction that does all of those things. The main difference is that unlike fiction, readers don’t have to suspend disbelief. From the moment they open the book, they are ready and willing to believe that they are reading something that is actually true not merely like (“simil”) the truth.

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6 thoughts on “Writing Fiction Like Nonfiction – by Erica Verrillo…

  1. Apologies to the author – I h…dislike…Google intensely so couldn’t leave a comment on the post itself. But I really want the author to know how much I agree with what she says. I don’t read many memoirs or other types of narrative non-fiction, but I believe ALL writing should be like this:

    ‘Anthony Doerr is another writer whose prose is so transparent, so (seemingly) effortless, you are hardly aware that you are reading. Like good narrative nonfiction, his prose is natural, yet precise, and it never draws attention to itself.’


    Liked by 1 person


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