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Like I shared notes from one of my 2010 The Future Project creative writing classes last week, today I’ll be sharing some of the notes taken from a class on narrative non-fiction which was facilitated by Nkiru Asika, a director at Storm 360. The class held on Saturday 12 June 2010.

She started by explaining that to achieve success in narrative non-fiction, a writer has to look for facts and accuracy. Any good writing starts with the idea, so what are the sources of your ideas? In order to build a wealth of ideas, it is important that you expose yourself to as much as possible – relate with people, read a lot and read widely. There is also the tendency to think that what you are interested in is what the world is interested to know. Therefore, you need to know your audience.

Also, the core thing in narrative writing is interviewing and for interviewing sources, there has to be a strong element of fact checking and you would do well to save the tough and sensitive questions for the last. She gave a basic reporting/magazine outline:

– Start with your LEAD (entry point into the story)
– NUT GRAF (the statement or theme of the piece)
– POINT(S) (1,2,3…)

Some other points worthy of note are:
– You are ultimately writing about people so you ought to look for a way to humanize the issue
– Show, don’t tell (that phrase again!)
– Engage all your senses
– Be precise in language & choice of words
– Avoid clichés; play with language
– Paint pictures
– Watch your grammar – always check sentence structure, syntax and do not rely on the ‘spell-check’
– Pay attention to your style
– Be objective and out-of-the-story – point of view
– Use specific details
– Develop an ear for language – by reaching widely, vary our sentences
– Your writing should be conversational
– Avoid writing words/using words to impress somebody
– Don’t use too many adjectives
– Use more nouns and verbs (in strong writings)

EXERCISE: Write a piece without a single adjective

– Use active words instead of passive words (it’s better to show the doing rather than the ‘done-to’)
– Be observant (day-to-day)
– Write with passion
– It can be useful to get a formal education I Journalism (it’s not absolutely necessary too)
– Show people whose opinion you trust your works/writings
– Writing is a talent but it is also a craft

To round off the class, Nkiru shared the titles some of her favourite books:
– A Thousand Splendid Songs by Khaled Hossein
– Kite Runner by Khaled Hossein
– To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
– The Bird Man and the Lap Dancer by Eric Hansen

Then, the last tip: “If you want to make a living off writing, you need to diversify your writing.” What do you think about the points raised? Do you write creative non-fiction and what has your experience been like? I’d like to hear from you. –GN!


About Nkiru Asika
Nkiru Asika is the Director of Storm 360, a media group. Since returning to Nigeria in 2004, Nkiru, in conjunction with other team members at the Storm Media Group, has produced hit TV shows like Doctor’s Quarters, Naija Sings, and The Apprentice Africa. She delved into journalism when she published a magazine alongside her brother Obi (the CEO at Storm 360) to celebrate Nigeria’s qualification for the 1994 World Cup. She studied at the London College of Communications and then Syracuse University, New York, where she obtained a Master’s degree in magazine journalism. After graduation, she wrote for Smart Money, the Wall Street Journal’s magazine for personal business, and won an award for outstanding writing by the National Press Club of America in 2003.

Photo credit: ehow.co.uk; naija-times.com