A Creative Nonfiction ABC

August 25, 2017 § 27 Comments

zz zeyBy Karen Zey

Avoid adverbs assiduously.

Befriend brevity.

Capture sensory details: creamy, crackling or crisp.

Devise dialogue that sounds like real talk. Drop the tags.

Em dash your way to emphasis—and limit those exclamation points!

Flash your essay. Or pen your theme in long form.

Grasp the grammar rules. Ain’t no problem bending ’em on purpose.

Heed your inner muse, but write beyond the self.

Imagine the reader imagining your experience. Read your work aloud.

Juxtapose tender and tough to add depth.

Keep studying your craft—writing is arduous.

Lay down heartfelt moments with lyricism.

Merge metaphors and memories for prisms of meaning.

Narrate with a compelling arc: sweeping tale or braided strands of thought.

Open with a strong hook that hints of more to come.

Punch up your ending with a powerful thought that lingers.

Question every word choice. Quell your penchant for purple prose.

Revise, obsess; revise, lose sleep; revise and sweat; revise, get it right.

Slant your story: angled insights yield creative nonfiction.

Tell the truth; show it with beauty. Take time before you write about hurt.

Understand the importance of the universal. Frame recognizable truths.

Venture for strong voice and narrator vulnerability.

Weave words and ideas into stunning sentences.

X out any clutter that doesn’t serve the story.

Yes, I can. Make this your mantra as you huddle over the keyboard.

Zero in on rhythm and flow until your paragraphs sing.


Karen Zey is a Canadian writer and Pushcart nominee, who spent three decades reading ABC books to students in Quebec schools. She now pursues the writing life in Pointe-Claire, Quebec. Her essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Burningwood Literary Journal, Crack the Spine, Hippocampus Magazine, Prick of the Spindle, River Teeth’s “Beautiful Things” and other places.

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