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Organization, Regulations, and Courses 2017-18

MALS 247 Nonlinear Nonfiction: Beginning, Middle, or End?

There are two main parts to writing any non-fiction narrative: assembling information and choosing how to deploy it. The focus of this class is on the latter.

Whether it’s memoir, biography, history, science or researched journalism, all non-fiction tells a story, and stories are most effective when readers find them compelling. But where does a story begin? How does it unfold? These are very important factors in building an enthralling narrative. Very few successful non-fiction writers tell stories in a purely linear, chronological fashion. Some start at the end, some start in the middle, some start with a seminal moment in between. And where to start is just the beginning - the chosen structure for telling the story runs through the entire work, which might interweave multiple topics, told from different perspectives, unfolding in different order.

Writing experience is nice, but the only prerequisite is interest in writing. Class time will be devoted to both student and published work, mostly student. Reading will include at least one full-length book demonstrating a complex non-linear structure, as well as several shorter essays, magazine articles and excerpts more akin in length to the work students will produce. Assigned writing will be a series of short (3-5 page) non-fiction pieces/essays in styles varying weekly, such as memoir, history, personality profile, and event/subject profile. In each case the focus will be more on the decision of how to structure the narrative to most effectively tell the story than on the research and topic itself. All participants will discuss and critique the effectiveness of the chosen structures.



Larry Olmstead