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For example, my memoir ‘The Dangerous Bride’, was set during a troubled time in my life when my marriage was unravelling.
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) blended personal essays into memoir-esque collections that became best sellers.
I even portrayed myself with constantly dishevelled hair even though in reality I sometimes do brush it.
I wasn’t faking, but rather working along the lines of advice from Robin Hemley who in his book about creative non-fiction, ‘Immersion’, wrote: “It’s possible to be completely honest about yourself and at the same time selective and manipulative in the details you choose, for the sake of keeping the prose focused.” To reveal the emotional truth of our stories without boring our readers silly we are ‘allowed’ to reveal about ourselves just the stuff that is relevant to the particular story we are telling.
Raise the stakes with each paragraph until you reach a climax or turning point. It’s not enough to say “And that’s what happened.” You have to describe how whatever happened shaped you.
Plan to add a conclusion that will evoke an emotional response in your reader. Your essay may well be about sexism, but you need to illustrate it through the lens of a defining incident that’s deeply personal to you. Just as a good lead hooks readers and draws them along for the ride, a good conclusion releases them from your essay’s thrall with a frisson of pleasure, agreement, passion or some other sense of completion.
Circling back to your lead in your conclusion is one way to give readers that full-circle sense.
Try to restate your thesis in a way that reflects the journey the essay has taken.
I suggest starting with creative non-fiction classics – the likes of Truman Capote’s ‘In Cold Blood’, Ernest Hemingway’s ‘A Moveable Feast’ and Joan Didion’s ‘Slouching Towards Bethlehem’.
It is also not a bad idea to read some popular creative non-fiction – Gretchen Rubin’s ‘The Happiness Project’, for example.