Fact With Passion
That phrase is the formula and the method the writer of non-fiction must use.
It is also his central problem, and success in this kind of writing depends upon finding a skillful solution. The writer of non-fiction writes because he wishes to communicate to others the facts and ideas which excite and fascinate him. Since he is intent upon the facts and ideas, he is likely to ignore or neglect the emotion which alone can attract and hold the interest of the reader. Often, indeed, the writer feels that his facts and ideas are so important that they should be able to stance alone, and he resents any emotional quality in his work as an intrusion and a distortion of his subject matter. Just here is the rock on which so many earnest writers have been wrecked. They have been so intent upon their subject that they have neglected to take into account the capacities and demands of their readers.
Sometimes you will hear people make a false distinction between creative and non-creative writing. By creative writing they mean plays and novels in which the characters are more or less imaginary and the events are “made up” by the author. In short, they mean fiction or poetry. On the other hand they will tell you that non-fiction is non-creative, implying that the author need use no imagination and excite no emotion in the reader.
This is a great error, for the simple reason that it requires more imagination to deal with reality and find the meaning of its complex, stubborn facts than it does to make up a dream out of the fears and desires of one’s reader. Any second-rate writer can give us a story about life on the moon. But it takes a great man to imagine what is known to have happened next door, so as to make it comprehensible and significant. Truth is stranger than fiction. A good biographer must therefore use more imagination than a good novelist.
Next: Why People Read Non-Fiction?