Looking out to the world, and in to your truths
The exercise to go with this tip is very simple. Choose one of your passions and write about an incident that crystallised it for you.
So I would do ornithology, and the incident would be seeing red-billed choughs for the first time.
The setting, a headland in west Wales, would be my way in. I would try to bring the smell of the cliffs, the lance of the light, the particular sounds of the different bays and cliffs alive.
The characters, my family, would animate the scene: the ways we walked, straggling over the heather; how we reacted to the place and the day.
The structure would follow the arc of our walk to the end of the land, where we saw them, and back.
And the drama would come from a small boy’s internal world; how I felt about choughs before I saw them, where my longings and enthusiasms came from (books!) and how they were realised.
Taking this model, apply it to your own story.
The strongest non-fiction is simply told, looking outward at the world and inward at the writer’s truths and feelings at the same time.
I have just been re-reading Orwell’s Shooting an Elephant. It is as perfect a model for this idea as one could wish for: you might like to read it before you do your exercise.Find out more
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