I rarely read non-fiction books, but there have been times when I’ve picked up one and been hooked cover to cover. The way the books were crafted sucked me right in and gave me such a great experience. I cannot say the same for all non-fiction books. This got me thinking: as a reader of mostly fiction, what would a writer have to do to make me read a non-fiction book?
Tell a story
The history between humans and storytelling is long. We have always been innately drawn in by stories, both narrating and listening. It’s an important part of our lives. Therefore, when writing non-fiction, it is extremely important to tell a story. The fact that it is non-fiction doesn’t mean it can’t be a story. Even when you are writing a “How-to-do-something” series, you should be able to tell a story, otherwise, you are just writing an instruction manual. Without this, the chances of your reader losing interest is extremely high.
Filter out what the reader doesn’t need to know
Excess information is a problem that a lot of writers face, fiction or non-fiction. In the case of non-fiction, it is so easy to fall into this pattern. Imagine you are writing a biography of a famous person, who is now old. You have a lifetime worth of events, emotions and people to write about. Being able to choose what to say in your book, or what about that person’s life is relevant to the theme you are crafting the book around is an essential skill. Writing each and everything down would be useless and close to impossible. I could bet the reader would grow impatient extremely fast.
Some writers might be surprised by this. Dialogue in a non-fiction book? Why not? I’ve heard a few reasons why writers have not been able to incorporate dialogue into non-fiction. One of them is the fact that the writer never heard the dialogue happen in person. It’s a valid reason. You wouldn’t want, or know how, to write about a conversation you weren’t present for. But zero dialogue in the book definitely takes away from it. The answer is to research extensively and craft a similar as possible scene. It helps to create a much more compelling story for the audience. Another reason for no dialogue is from writers of How to books. How do you put in dialogues when you are trying to explain how things are done? This is actually much more simple than you think. It goes hand in hand with the storytelling tip. Just think of scenarios where you learnt most of the tips you are writing about. You probably heard it from someone; your friends, family, colleagues. Write down the conversation you had at that time, and there you have it—dialogues in non-fiction.
Are there any other tips you think should be put up too?
About the Author
Christy is a student, part-time writer, and a full-time Wannabe. She devours books and binges shows.