Close Encounters in Nonfiction

September 16, 2022 § 1 Comment

Rebecca McClanahan, in our newest issue of Brevity, uses a scale devised by an astronomer to describe three levels of UFO encounters to encourage encounters of the deepest kind in our memoir and creative nonfiction.

Here is an excerpt of her fascinating Craft essay:

 Indeed, how does any writer make contact with their subject and experience communion? First, by acknowledging the subject as an animated force, a life form with a language and structure different from ours but from which we can learn. This requires listening closely during the writing process, watching for clues. For me, this meant discovering a structure I’d never used before in my writing.

Here’s how it felt: I’m traveling with my ancestors in a space/time vehicle I’ll call the narrative. Sometimes they’re in the driver’s seat, talking through their letters and documents, and I’m in the backseat listening, recording their words. But sometimes I climb into the passenger seat and strike up a conversation on the page—sympathizing, talking back, arguing, questioning, speculating, expanding their stories through what I’m discovering through research, and even imagining their lives from the inside out: “Is this how it felt?” I might ask before entering the landscape of interior thought.

And sometimes, because by now I’ve allowed myself to be abducted by these creatures, they have claimed me as their own. Go ahead, they say, take the wheel.

Read Rebecca’s full essay here to learn more about abduction and achieving depth in your storytelling.

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