Narrative nonfiction combines the authenticity of nonfiction reporting with the writing style of fictional stories. Think of a newspaper meeting a novel – written in a style designed for both entertainment and information.
While most often used to describe a modern genre of book and magazine writing, one can apply these same methods (intriguing storyline and a character arc) to the art of oral storytelling as a way to capture a listener’s attention and make the story’s message more memorable.
From keynote speeches, to telling stories on stage, or on podcasts, this style of personal storytelling wraps real life experiences within literary techniques, and has the power to expand perspectives on important topics.
nar-uh-tiv – noun
A spoken or written account of connected events; a story
non-fik-shun – noun
Narrative prose based on facts, real events, real people
What type of writing is thought of as narrative nonfiction? Well, that depends on who you talk to, and the lines have been blurred by formats (especially podcasts) that have a range of storytelling styles blended together.
Common types include investigative journalism, biography, personal essay, memoir, autobiography, even food writing and travel writing.
The story is based on facts, or the facts as you remember them – nothing is made up – although you will encounter situations where an author or a speaker crosses this line, assuming that it’s okay, but it’s not. Truth matters – don’t embellish the facts or create scenes that didn’t happen.
So what about that line, “the facts as you remember them”. It can be a tough one. So important, for many reasons, but not an easy target to hit as our memory is less reliable than we would like it to be.
Which is why it’s vital to do your research. If it’s a personal story, ask your friends and family what they remember. If it’s work related, run your story by colleagues. If there are historical facts, they need to be double checked. Scientific results or statistics, same thing.
Assume that anything you write or say in public will be read or heard by thousands of people and someone who knows about your topic will call you out on any mistakes.