Non-Fiction Prompts #26-30

April 13, 2016 at 3:27 pm  •  Posted in Articles, Contest, Home Page, Welcome by

Completed some of our previous prompts but don’t feel your essay is quite done yet? Or do you have an older essay you’d like to whip into shape to submit to our Non-Fiction Contest? Try the five revision exercises below. These encourage you to generate new material, re-consider what you have, and offer ways to shape and hone your piece.

1. If your essay only describes an indoor setting, write a new paragraph about the outside setting. For example, if there’s an argument that occurs between you and your father in the kitchen of the house where you grew up, somewhere else in the piece there might be an opportunity to describe the broader setting: the backyard with the treehouse your father built, the North End Halifax neighbourhood, the playground down the street where people did cocaine, etc. Bonus: Visit the place where the essay is set and write an on-the-spot description.

2. Is your essay primarily written in the “voice of innocence” or the “voice of experience”? Write a paragraph or two using the voice that is used least in your current draft, or, writing directly on your manuscript, intersperse this new voice throughout your essay. Recall that the “voice of innocence” describes the narrator’s experience in the moment, while the “voice of experience” features the present-day narrator looking back on events and interpreting them. (See prompt 12 if you’re wondering what these mean.)

3. Consider the opening and ending of your narrative. Then try re-writing your opening or ending to focus on a symbolic image, on a scene of dialog, or an anecdote related to your main subject matter.

4. Re-think your essay’s structure by getting a pair of scissors and chopping up the printed pages into their different sections, scenes, chunks of exposition, etc. Then spread these out on a large surface and try moving the pieces around. Do you need all of them? Are there gaps that can be filled with new information?

5. Find a section of your essay that needs more detail and personality. Experiment with the style, and consider using any of the following:

  • Imagery & Sensory Detail: Minimal or ornate?
  • Diction: Simple or complex? Casual or formal? Recall that the musicality of prose can be affected by the sounds of words themselves
  • Figurative devices: Personification, metaphor & simile, symbolism
  • Allusion: Pop culture, literary references, etc.
  • Sound techniques: Alliteration & assonance, onomatopoeia, repetition & anaphora
  • Sentence fluency: Vary sentence length and structure to create rhythm and musicality

Friday, April 15, 2016 is the deadline for EVENT’s 2016 annual Non-Fiction Contest. Submit your essay for a chance to win cash prizes and to have your writing read by people across the country.