Writer, copy editor, and educator who finds joy in reading, writing, and thinking along life’s trails

 Writing Creative
or Narrative Nonfiction:
 Telling Your Own Unique Story

   Newsletter from Martha Stoddard     

Creative Nonfiction, also called Narrative Nonfiction is the completely true story about an experience. The author recalls details about setting, wording of remembered conversations, and information facts. Real people, places, things, and events in this genre of writing are written about in chronological scenes like in a movie. The story has a beginning, a middle, and an end and guides the reader toward the solution of a problem. Prewriting follows a narrative arc or story map and includes elements of fiction like similes, metaphors, dialogue, characters, and actions.


Brainstorm Ideas

  • Write a list of many different topics that interest you and beside each topic,
     write notes about an experience you have had related to the topic.

  • Draw and complete a mind map graphic organizer for specific details about your topic.

  • Write a temporary working title for your piece. Write a theme statement for the writing.

A theme is an idea or a message that a writer wants to share with the readers.  Some theme ideas are: courage, honesty, curiosity, reaching goals, overcoming challenges, caring about the environment, and saving endangered animals.

  • Read about and collect current information about your topic, writing down the resource and date for each. Use your story map to write scenes like for a movie to show plot on storyboard. Write your introduction, then your creative nonfiction piece.





Primary sources are original materials that provide direct evidence or firsthand testimony concerning a topic or question under investigation. Examples of primary sources include:

  • Autobiographies and memoirs

  • Diaries, personal letters, and correspondence

  • Interviews, surveys, and fieldwork

  • Original documents such as birth certificates, property deeds, and trial transcripts

  • Photographs, audio recordings, and video footage

  • Creative works such as poetry, music, and art

  • Research data and statistics

secondary source provides thought and reflection based on primary sources, generally at least one step removed from an event. It contains analysis, evaluation, interpretation, or synthesis of the facts, evidence, concepts, and ideas taken from primary sources. 

As you collect the most recent resources about your topic, be sure to also write down information about each one for your bibliography or resource list.


Clark, Caitlin. “UT Turtle Pond is drained, cleaned.” Austin American-Statesman, June 9, 2014.

How to write resource items correctly can be found in a book about Grammar and Usage.



As an author, you will use the stages of writing as a process which are:

*Prewriting—This step involves brainstorming, considering purpose and goals for writing, using graphic organizers to connect ideas, and designing a coherent structure for a writing piece to decide topics on which to write. Online graphic organizers like a storyboard form or story map might help upper elementary students to organize their ideas for specific writing genres during the prewriting stage.

For writing narrative nonfiction, use your story map putting events in chronological order. Write each scene in the story on your form for a storyboard. Ensure that just like scenes in a movie, each written scene has a character(s), dialogue, place, action, sensory images, well chosen unique words, and ends with a hook to make the reader turn the page.


Possible story hooks to make readers turn the page:

1. a surprise unexpected situation involving character

2. a sentence describing some unfinished business in passage

3. a fantastic fact from the passage that reader has to read for the answer

4. a question about the plot of the story

5. a suggestion about an eminent disaster

*Drafting—Students work independently at this stage. Talk with students individually as they write, offering praise and suggestions. Notice any areas with which students might require separate conference time or minilessons.

During drafting of a narrative nonfiction piece, each scene should contain: character(s), place or location, dialogue (what they say), action, and a last sentence or hook which makes the reader turn the page. Scenes should include descriptive literary elements found in fiction.


An example of a scene of narrative nonfiction writing using these elements is:

When a substitute teacher faced older students for the first time, she never imagined what happened next. The chatter in the hallways as she squeezed politely through animated crowds of people. The cramped office she shared with a teacher and a counselor. The day that the counselor came in and placed a worn-out shoebox on a nearby table. Then the teacher heard the sounds.”

*Revising—Reading the rough draft aloud shows any confusing or inaccurate wording. Students then revisit the rough draft only for clarifying meaning of the content.

*Editing—This stage involves students in correcting errors in grammar, spelling, and sentence structure, and choice of words using an editing guide.

*Rewriting—Have students incorporate any changes when carefully writing or typing their final drafts.

*Publishing—Sharing student writing can be done in many ways: reading aloud to the class, posting writing on bulletin board, including writing in a class anthology, put students’ writing in a class or school newspaper, or having each student make a booklet of folded blank paper which includes the writer’s work.





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