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#15--WELL-CONSTRUCTED NON-FICTION

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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Postby Shann » Mon Jun 14, 2010 10:20 pm

Seeing it is this week's challenge the word library is often said as liberry. One my husband often uses is conversate instead of converse

Oh there's more, but for now that'll hafta be nuff cuz I'm tured. I guess many of those are slang or dialects, but I thought I would try to add a tad of humor.
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Postby glorybee » Mon Jun 14, 2010 10:27 pm

Thanks, Shann. A tad of humor is exactly what I needed just now.
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Postby GShuler » Tue Jun 15, 2010 1:43 am

Another word often mis-pronounced is February. A lot of people act like there is no 'R' after the 'B'. It's Feb-Ru-ary not Feb-U-ary.

Non-Fiction assignment:

I had been warned by the pastor about the unruly nature of the eleven boys I had agreed to teach. The boys all came from really rough neighborhoods and had no problem ruling the roost. I knew if I didn't gain their respect and trust at our first meeting it would be misery for me for at least the immediate future. As I walked into the classroom the boys, as expected, were energetically climbing the walls. I took out a coaching whistle and blew a shrill, ear-piercing blast. Every boy froze where he stood, suspended in time for a brief moment with absolute silence filling the room. "Boys," I said, "Tonight I am going to show you how Satan can trick any one of you into believing a lie." I took a rope from my shirt pocket, put it around my neck and smoothly pulled it through my flesh and bones to the other side. The shocked look on each boy's face told me I had their complete attention. Not one of them could figure out how I had pulled the rope through my neck. "Satan really does want you to believe this lie," I said as I pulled the rope through flesh again. "but boys, I won't lie to you. Sit down and I will show you how you were just tricked." Every boy in the room sat down.



I know, this should actually be three paragraphs but when you are only allowed one . . .

I didn't want to leave it with just getting their attention with the whistle because . . .

I have a question about writing non-fiction:

At what point does an actual event become fiction because of the writer's need to make it more appealing?

The example I wrote about did actually happen but I really used three different magic tricks (not just one): the rope through the neck, accurately reading their minds three times in a row, and making a pocket knife disappear. Since I didn't tell the event with 100% accuracy does that make it fiction based on fact or is it still non-fiction? Where's the line?

That class became one of the best group of boys I ever taught.
I had something really memorable to write here but I forgot what it was.
Gerald Shuler

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Postby Greghory » Tue Jun 15, 2010 1:49 am

I suppose that every region has its own quirks and peculiarities when it comes to pronunciation. I hail from the North of Ireland where we have the tendency to pronounce film as if it has two syllables, namely fil-um.
We also struggle somewhat with that delectable combination, th as parodied in my recent entry The Irish Muse. This particular phenomenon is noticeably worse in the South of Ireland but I still have to force myself to say faith and not faif. Bit tricky that when you're a preacher...

Its jest ass well t'at I can spill proper, innit?

Greghory

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Postby yvonne » Tue Jun 15, 2010 4:48 am

Oh, you don't want to get me started on Maine mispronounced words!
They leave "r's" out of some words and add them to of others. "Aren't" and "aunt" are pronounced the same. I drove me crazy when I first moved here. I even wrote about it. Ant or Aunt

There is one that irks me. I've rarely heard a person read or quote II Timothy 3:17 (KJV) correctly. "That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." Even the BIBLE GATEWAY computer program wrote it "thoroughly."

Also, I know someone who was telling everyone that his son had signed up for the army calvary.

Nonfiction is very hard for me. I like to write about famous people and historical things for children, but I find I do best if add a touch of fiction to make it more interesting. I've tried newspaper journalism and have decided that it's not for me. I feel so constrained!

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Postby GracefulWarrior » Tue Jun 15, 2010 6:53 am

Okay, thanks Jan.

I can now see why you mentioned that my first try might have been an anecdote.

For 1a, the anecdote, can you really put fictional elements in your non-fiction? I could see if you said "take for example this paragraph" and told about it, or if there was some mechanism to let the reader know it didn't really happen. When I read something non-fiction my assumption is that everything in it is true and proven.

Also, question on these,
b. If you started with a personal story, you may want to end with ‘the rest of the story’.
c. Rather than sermonizing, end with an exhortation to action.


I think b and c happen often. Even in my current entry, I made a real story appear fiction, but it doesn't have a happy ending at that time; so, I wrote an "if only she had known" at the end. I was afraid that if I said "Later in life she found ..." I would be told that I should have broken it into two pieces. Since the story appeared fiction anyway, perhaps I should have changed the story to make it end in a way that shows the "if only she had known" actually come out as a strength in her.

So I guess based on the kind of writing, different things are expected. If I make a real story appear fictional, then I'd better tweak it a bit to make it a strong piece and put aside my concern about it being genuine -- because after all, its fiction to the reader!

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Postby glorybee » Tue Jun 15, 2010 8:50 am

Gerald, I'm not sure how to answer that question--but I'm also not sure that the semantics matter.

If you'd gone on to provide a lesson for your readers, perhaps on Satan's lies, it'd be non-fiction with an opening anecdote.

If you'd gone on to tell a narrative about the actual events in that class, based on actual events, it'd still be non-fiction. I guess we'd just call it a first-person account. These can read very much like fiction--with dialog, characters, conflict, etc. I don't really think it matters if characters are combined, dialog is altered, that sort of thing. No one's memory of any event is absolutely accurate.

If you'd written a narrative simply "based on" or "inspired by" your experiences with that class, it'd be fiction. And the difference between this and the preceding paragraph is shades of gray.

I guess the only place where it would matter would be in a contest where the requirement was to write non-fiction, or something along that line. But in the Writing Challenge, fiction and non-fiction are judged side-by-side--so I really don't think it's an issue.

Every time I've written a story based on my own true life events, I've fiddled with it, either to make it more interesting, or clearer to the reader, or funnier, or sadder, or less recognizable, or something. There's nothing wrong with that, unless there's someone in the story who would be hurt or upset by its alteration, or if the deception somehow harms the reader. It's not lying, it's writing.

Did I come anywhere close to addressing your question?
Jan Ackerson

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Postby glorybee » Tue Jun 15, 2010 8:53 am

Greghory, thanks for a morning grin!
Jan Ackerson

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Postby glorybee » Tue Jun 15, 2010 8:55 am

Yvonne, 'throughly'? Really? I've never, ever heard it that way. I didn't even know that was a word!

I know what you mean about non-fiction; it's not my favorite way of writing, either. In fact, of all my challenge entries, I can only think of 2 or 3 that'd fall into that category.

Maybe we should have a quarter when all of the challenges are different kinds of non-fiction!

Nah...
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Postby glorybee » Tue Jun 15, 2010 9:02 am

GracefulWarrior wrote:For 1a, the anecdote, can you really put fictional elements in your non-fiction? I could see if you said "take for example this paragraph" and told about it, or if there was some mechanism to let the reader know it didn't really happen. When I read something non-fiction my assumption is that everything in it is true and proven.

Yes, you can put fictional elements in your non-fiction. Take that widget-making woman I wrote into my lesson in a few places. She doesn't exist--she's a construct to get across my point (which might have been something about working conditions in the third world). I doubt that any readers thought Mavka was an actual person...I wrote her as 'any woman'.

Also, question on these,
b. If you started with a personal story, you may want to end with ‘the rest of the story’.
c. Rather than sermonizing, end with an exhortation to action.


I think b and c happen often. Even in my current entry, I made a real story appear fiction, but it doesn't have a happy ending at that time; so, I wrote an "if only she had known" at the end. I was afraid that if I said "Later in life she found ..." I would be told that I should have broken it into two pieces. Since the story appeared fiction anyway, perhaps I should have changed the story to make it end in a way that shows the "if only she had known" actually come out as a strength in her.

So I guess based on the kind of writing, different things are expected. If I make a real story appear fictional, then I'd better tweak it a bit to make it a strong piece and put aside my concern about it being genuine -- because after all, its fiction to the reader!


I think you answered your own question here--and also see my response to Gerald, above. If you've fictionalized a story, it's fiction--write the ending any way you wish! If you're writing it as memoir or autobiography, you should stick closer to the actual events, but don't dwell on trying to get every syllable instant-replay accurate. We just can't do that. Be as accurate as you can, caputre the intent and the nuance of what happened. And don't shatter the impact of it by adding a disclaimer of any sort.
Jan Ackerson

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Postby Shann » Tue Jun 15, 2010 12:26 pm

Now that many of us have shared words that have been pronounced with a bit flair. I must admit, I'm often found myself in the predicament where most of my new words come from the written word, so I sound it out in my head.

If I don'5t know the meaning I would always look it up. But since I was taught to read by memorization and not phonetically, I find even when I do go to the dictionary for the correct pronunciation, I have a hard time.

I can't tell you how many times I had to look up macabre and genre to get the pronunciation right. There have been many times when I've heard a word said on TV and I go oh that's how you say it.

Not really part of the homework but I thought I'd explain the troubles of a small town girl who has never really left her rural home to go out in the world, but still love big words. I could so relate to Anne of Green Gables.
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Postby choosingjoy » Wed Jun 16, 2010 1:25 pm

This is all so great! I have struggled with that question of where non-fiction stops and fiction begins, for all the reasons you mentioned, Jan.

I have this strait-laced, no lying personality, partly from my upbringing, and I battle with writing truth mixed with embellishment. :roll: When you consider that it's simply drawing from life's experience and adding afterthoughts of your own, as well as ways to say it in an interesting form, it makes it a real challenge. Wow, I should have written about that this week, instead of being lazy! :mrgreen:

Thanks again for all your help, Jan, and for all the contributors
:grouphug that make me think.
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Muscial Instrument

Postby flyingcross » Thu Jun 17, 2010 3:16 pm

It was the grand of all grands. It outshined them all. Those that tickled its ivories felt like they had seen inside their own souls. Though the four legs could never run a race, the sounds that emanated from wires and pedals would make any heart race from the stories the masters told. The Steinway next to a harp and heaven and earth collided.



As for mispronounced words...ha, ha, funny. I live in the country.

Ya gotta luv it. Ya ain't gonna find nuthin like it nowheres else.

...and I do love it! My grammar needs work, but still wouldn't trade it for anywhere else.
Cindy
PS...Jan don't cringe at the explanation point. I can't explain it, but thought an exclamation point was needed.
C
PSPS...it's probably not good when you are a perfectly good example of what not to do, but there has to be something good in being perfect.
;)

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Postby glorybee » Thu Jun 17, 2010 9:45 pm

Hiya, Cindy--

Nothing wrong with exclamation points in casual writing or in dialog. It's in essays, devotionals, and other types of more formal writing where they're to be avoided.

As for your paragraph--it's got lots of great stuff in it, and as a pianist myself, I could really appreciate that you made the piano seem almost like a character.

But is it non-fiction? I think I'd have to have another paragraph, at least. If you went on to tell about a time when a piano was significant in your life (a memoir), or if you went on to give a lesson or a devotional based on this piano--yes, that'd be nonfiction. But as it is right now, it reads like the beginning of a piece of fiction.

Can you help me out by telling me where you'd go with this, if you expanded it?
Jan Ackerson

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Love to

Postby flyingcross » Fri Jun 18, 2010 8:28 am

Hi Jan,
Asking a writer to write more: "Be werey, werey careful." (Elmer Fudd).

I do see your point...and I take that as quite a compliment.

See if this helps.
Thank you,
Cindy

It was the grand of all grands. It outshined them all. Those that tickled its ivories felt like they had seen inside their own souls. Though the four legs could never run a race, the sounds that emanated from wires and pedals would make any heart race from the stories the masters told. The Steinway next to a harp and heaven and earth collided.

Even the outside of a Steinway was beyond craftsmanship. It involved around a year to create these masterpieces. The craft appeared more like a piece of art than something that produced a sound that could bring in crowds off the streets and mesmerize them with the music that it produced.

Even the poor could enjoy this heavenly creation if they listened to some of the greats like Sergei Rachmaninoff, John Phillip Sousa, or George Gershwin. Others might have found themselves swept away by the musical scores of Cole Porter, jazz artist Diana Kroll, or the wonderful Billy Joel. All these artist and many more chose the grand of all grands, the Steinway, to transform their music into heavenly sounds.

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