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July 30, 2007

Creative Nonfiction

    Shara Z., a soon-to-be junior at Northwestern University and one of Teen Ink's interns wrote this week's "Extra Ink."

   Want to write a creative piece but don't want to invent a plot and characters? It turns out that real experiences and everyday thoughts can get pretty interesting too. Below are some of the subcategories of one of my favorite genres, creative nonfiction. Feel free to experiment and send your results to Teen Ink!


A memoir is another word for an autobiography, except that it does not have to be an account of your entire life. You can write a short piece about a particular experience in your life that was meaningful, funny or sad, whether it be about your awkward first kiss, the terrible but hysterical days you spent at your first summer job, or how the death of a relative affected you. You can vividly describe the setting, explore quirky characters, and meditate on important revelations, just as you would in fiction, except that you get the added benefit of personal reflection.


In a meditation piece, you creatively explore any object or subject. In my college class, they ranged from smoke to fear to bees to losing. The styles with which you can approach your topic are just as varied, whether it be association-based (similar to stream-of-consciousness), writing from the object's point of view, exploring all of the various meanings of a subject, using the object as part of a more traditional narrative . . . the list goes on. This is a great way to explore your personal voice and let your senses run wild.

Creative Research    

Everyone groans when they get assigned a research paper in class, but creative research doesn't just involve going to the library. Why not stand on a street corner and ask everyone who walks by what they want most in life, as my professor's previous student did. If you're researching fish, go to the ocean and the aquarium and write about your observations. Read old diaries, children's books or pictures about your topic. Once the research is done, you can write about it just as creatively, whether in the form of a list, an invented character, a conversation - the possibilities are endless!

Some final words of wisdom . . .

- You don't need to have a point when you begin your piece - just write. Eventually you'll figure out what you really want to say and edit accordingly.

- Always remember: what is the readers' stake in the story? Why do they care, why should they keep reading?

- Be creative. The possibilities are endless, and there are no definite rules. Have fun, and we can't wait to see what you come up with!



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