1. Ameasha
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    Ameasha Member

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    How to write a non-fiction

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Ameasha, Nov 9, 2008.

    :confused:Is there a forum for non-fiction that has insturction, formats, tips, advice, dos' and don'ts ect.? I am thinkig about writing a true story, but I would like to learn how first. Is there a certain way one should be written? What is acceptable? What would I need to know that would contribute to the success of a non-fiction?
    Ameasha
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    There are different kinds of nonfiction - essays, tutorials, articles, biographies...

    Each has its own conventions and wisdom. It sounds like you are relating a true story, which differs from fiction in that the characters and events are based on actual people and events. I say based on, because no matter how many facts you collect, there will be holes that must be filled from speculation, and there will be viewpoints which bias the facts.

    There are a couple of approaches to filling in the gaps. One is to openly acknow;edge the gaps, or simply skip over them. Yje other approach is to weave a fictional thread through the facts. In this case, the story is considered a work of fiction in a nonfiction setting.

    The problem with pure nonfiction is that you can't create conflicts at will to advance the plot, or tweak the characters' personalities. You can only emphasize the existing drama of the story.

    But the other elements of fiction mostly remain intact - when and how to use description, framing scenes, matching sentence structure to the narrative pace, and the all important mastery of point of view.

    There aren't enough members here who specialize in nonfiction for us to have many informational threads. But you have begun one. :)
     
  3. Ameasha
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    Ameasha Member

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    What I want to write about

    Thank you for the response and advice. I live in Canada and I want to write a biography about my son, when he was younger and up to the present time. He had learning disabilities, and the school system wasn't there for him. I have a title for the book, What Is A Mother To Do?

    Then what we as a family went through because of the accident, where at just seventeen, he was struck down by a speeding car while riding a bike, breaking his neck, putting him in a coma, his reabilatation and lack of resourses and having to live the rest of his life with an tramatic brain injury. His maturation period was taken from him. He is a thirty-three year old man in an approximate age of thirteen/fourteen year old. So basically, biologically he is thirty-three, mentally he is thirteen and will remain thirteen the rest of his life.

    It's been sixteen years and I am just at the point that I think I could write about it. By writing and letting others know what we went through and still are, the possibility of helping others would be even greater. Maybe even changing some laws dealing with brain injuries.

    Names in the book would be changed because of privacy and legal issues, but I would want my son's name to remain the same as well as mine.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ...the problem with that is people you write about will be able to recognize themselves and others by the events, even if you change the names, so if you don't get releases from everyone in the book and if any that you write about will unhappy with how you portray them, you will still be at risk of being sued for libel, even though you changed the names...

    ...you should consult a literary attorney before going ahead with this plan, so s/he can advise you how to handle this and publishers you approach will feel secure in re potential lawsuits...

    ...fyi, that title has been used for several other books, so you may want to consider some alternatives...

    i'm currently finishing up a book like this that i've rewritten for someone, so if you want any further advice/help, drop me a line...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  5. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ameasha,

    My best friend in the world of tournament bass fishing is going through exactly what you described. His son was 23 years old (a 3 month newly wed) and a strapping, 6' 3" young man with a new management job. He had an unexpected heart attack. After the fact, doctors determined he had contracted a virus that settled in his heart causing it to swell to almost twice normal size. He went to bed one night, complaining about the "flu" and in the early morning his wife woke to him in the middle of complete heart failure. Paramedics arrived fast and started his heart at least a dozen times between home the nearest emergency room. He survived the heart attack but has permanent brain damage due to lack of oxygen...anoxia.

    At first, there was great relief that he survived. Reality turned out to be far worse than anyone could have imagined. His heart returned to normal with medications, but he had to learn to talk and walk all over again. In addition, he cannot perform even the simplest calculations (can't even count) and his socialization was initially that of a 6 year old. Of course, he is disabled for life and doctors warned that he is unlikely to improve much beyond that which was accomplished in the first two years after the heart attack/anoxia.

    Cost of his care is another matter entirely. His medical insurance covered the first $2,000,000 of medical expenses (plan lifetime maximum). The cost of his care came to $2,750,000 by the end of the second year...financially wiping out his mom and dad as they paid off the $750,000 deficit. They were informed that if he could not pay his rehab bill then the institution providing care would have "no choice" but to discontinue his treatment plan. This particular state-of-the-art private hospital does not accept government medical insurance (MediCal) because the government payment schedule is too low. So my friend cashed in his retirement plan, sold his home and paid his son's bills to keep him in a program that was showing some slow progress. That was about five years ago. Today, my friend and his wife are divorced, my friend is the primary care giver for his son (had to retire from full time employment for this) and the son's new wife is gone as she couldn't handle the stress associated with her husband's limitations.

    As far as telling your son's story, I think people need to read about what happens in such cases. I agree with mammamaia about concern for "liable", and your story should be guided by a good literary attorney. I expect your attorney to advise you that libel is avoided as long as your statements only deal with provable facts...truth is not libelous. So, if you simply tell the truth and avoid casting slanderous personal opinions at anyone, then your story will be compelling, as well as valuable for society.

    The only other thing that comes to mind is that if you are not an experienced writer, then you might be better off to hire a ghost writer to assist you in writing the story. If you choose a "known" ghostwriter, you may also improve the odds of getting your story published.

    Good luck.
     
  6. Ameasha
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    Ameasha Member

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    In my son's case NaCl, no "normal" woman will have him and he gets taken advantage of quite often. It is so sad to see marriages break up and eventually even the ones who say they'll stay no matter what, will end up leaving. I have a friend at the bank, and her husband has a tramatic brain injury from seven years ago. She finally had to leave last week because of mental stress and protection of her teenag son.

    It wouldn't be so bad if the laws would change here in Canada, but the fact is anyone over the age of twelve can refuse help. There is a gray area in the law and my son is one of the walking wounded that will become a statistic or end up dead. My hands are tied and I would love to reach the public in the way of a book, because I know there are more people than just my son out there suffering. The system needs to take a real look at what is going on.

    When my son needed help for rehabilatation there was nothing here in Canada for him. We had to go to the US to get him help. It is pretty sad.

    I guess my next step would be save for a literary attorney, which will be next to impossible because they are very expensive. But I'll try.
    Ameasha
     
  7. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    You might also consider setting up your own website about the subject. That is inexpensive and reaches a lot of people.

    My sister suffers from Thoracic Outlet Snydrome and surgery to correct the problem often leaves the patient in worse condition than before the medical "care". After becoming totally disabled from such treatment, she did some research and discovered there was no support system for such patients, nor was there any central repository of information about the disease, treatment and qualified surgeons. She set up ATOSA (American Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Association) a not-for-profit association and a webstie ATOSA.org for assisting people.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ameasha...
    a short 'n simple consult with an attorney will probably cost you a couple of hundred, but will be worth it, if you want to have this story published...

    i'm definitely not one, but have done a lot of paralegal work and i work with many who write their life stories or those of loved ones, so if you want, i can help you with some legal basics that will at least let you get started on the writing, while you save up for the 'real thing'...

    books like the one you want to write can be invaluable in getting official attention paid to injustices in the health care system, as well as being helpful to others who had/have to go through similar trials and tribulations, so if you have the determination and the courage it takes to go through it all again in writing the book, i'd be happy to help you in any way i can...

    the book i'm just now finishing up with a final polishing edit is about a woman who lost her sister, mother, and youngest daughter all in the space of a couple of years and had to battle the health care systems of two countries in the 2 years it took her child to die of a little-known disease with no cure... so, if you want a freebie ghost, i'll be available in about a month and can start on pre-writing stuff at any time...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  9. Dcoin
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    Dcoin Contributing Member

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    First, its a very strong and brave act to write about an event that is no doubt difficult for you and yours.

    A few suggestions... If your intention is to inform than a biography or (other non-fiction) is certainly feasible. If however, creating an impact piece of writing that will draw others to your plight you may want to explore fiction-based writing.

    For example, writing a story from your son’s point of view might be an effective way to accomplish this. There was a documentary on HBO some time ago called EDUCATING PETER. If memory serves, the original idea was based off a fictional book that Peter's mom wrote about Peter.

    Just an idea. Good luck with any path you take.
     
  10. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ameasha,

    There are very few times in life when we are dealt great opportunities. I hope you have the courage and energy to take mammamaia up on this offer!
     

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