Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Nonfiction that gets readers off the couch!


The best of it not only gets the reader thinking, it gets them off the couch!

I love nonfiction, especially as it relates to doing good. I love it because it's one thing to "feel good" about the story I've just read whether it be in the newspaper, online, in a magazine or book; it's quite another to enjoy it so much that I want to change my life in some way.

There is a great thing out there called a Writer's Triangle, and it's great not just because a triangle is easy to visualize, it's great because in the visualization a person can remember the steps to a great piece of work--and in this case, a great piece of nonfiction.

Art by: qthomasbower, courtesy of Flickr

At the bottom of the triangle, visualize the word, "Data." Data is the sort of stuff we get when we read a recipe or keep track of our taxes. Data is necessary to some pieces of nonfiction, but data itself can be pretty boring to a piece if that is all we have.

Now, travel up this pyramid a bit and imagine the word, "Information." Information is the stuff just beyond the data. We read the instructions to the recipe, the data is put into context with the article and we can see why the data is important. Still, if our nonfiction piece leaves the reader here, they are still fairly bored; they may even be asleep on the couch.

Take the reader up to the next level: Imagine "Knowledge." You're not quite at the top with your reader but you are getting there. Along with data and information, you've given the reader knowledge in the form of a story, a personal experience, an example that states more than the facts and allows your reader to feel something. The scriptures are filled with knowledge, so are those stories from Reader's Digest. They take you beyond the outside of the story, to the guts. 

Do you see your reader standing at the pinnacle of this pyramid? Then your reader is receiving some "Wisdom." Wisdom is at the top of the pyramid. Your reader gets wisdom when they do more than receive knowledge but want to get off that couch and go to work. They want to ACT. The word, act, is a moving word; it takes the reader beyond the words and beyond their couch to TO SOMETHING ABOUT WHAT THEY'VE READ. They want to act because you've given them a call to action and they've accepted it! Perhaps you have a list of thoughts at the end of your book or article for your reader to remember. Maybe you end your nonfiction piece with a question. Whatever you do, this prompts your reader to ACT.

Maybe they share your words with someone else. They buy your nonfiction book for their best friend. Maybe they go out and help the homeless. Maybe they are a better person when it comes to telling the truth or organizing their life. They do something with what they've just read.

And in the scheme of life, that's something all writers want and all readers need.

Want to learn more? Take a look at my new book


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