Welcome teachers, librarians, homeschoolers and nonfiction writers! This blog offers innovative resources for teaching science and tips for writing nonfiction.
Wednesday, March 27, 2019
Language Matters: How We Talk about Nonfiction
I read an article that contained this sentence:
“While writing nonfiction, I use
every single fiction technique a novelist uses.”
The author then provides a series of
examples of how she includes characters, scenes, conflict, rich language,
voice, etc. in her writing.
Sounds good, right?
Not to me.
While I applaud authors who draw
back the curtain to reveal their creative process, I’m so, so, SO sick and
tired of reading articles in which authors describe how they borrow and make
good use of fiction craft moves in their nonfiction writing.
Newsflash, folks. If you are writing
nonfiction, any craft technique you incorporate is a nonfiction craft technique. Period.
Well developed characters.
Carefully crafted scenes.
A compelling narrative arc that elicits
an emotional response.
These are NOT fiction techniques. They
are writing techniques, and they can be employed in either fiction or nonfiction. Or poetry, for that matter.
Not all nonfiction includes all of
these elements, and that’s okay. The truth is nonfiction is much more versatile
than fiction. There are so many different kinds of nonfiction, from a recipe scrawled
on a napkin to a legal contract to a finely-crafted book that wins the National
As writers, we know that words are
important. Language matters. When we talk about the craft of nonfiction writing,
let’s be more careful. Let’s make sure we give nonfiction the respect it
Melissa Stewart is the award-winning author of more than 180 nonfiction books for children. Her lifelong fascination with the natural world led her to earn a B.S.
in biology and M.A. in science journalism. When Melissa isn’t writing or speaking to children or educators, she’s usually exploring natural places near her home or around the world. Website: www.melissa-stewart.com; Twitter: @mstewartscience
• AAAS/Subaru Prizes for Excellence in Science Books • ALA Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award • CRA Eureka! Nonfiction Children’s Book Award • Cook Prize for STEM Picture Book • Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices List • Cybils Nonfiction Awards • NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People • NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children • NSTA-CBC Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12 • YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfictionfor Young Adults