Someone expressed concern about the possibility of including fictional work within a nonfiction book. Is that possible? Here's how I replied.
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Absolutely a nonfiction book can have a fictional story within it. Especially when used to illustrate a point or shed light on a specific topic, ethnic group, or culture, fictional tales shared throughout history can be potent teaching mechanisms. Even though these fictional stories are part of the larger work, the book still remains nonfiction, or a factual work, because the main body of the work is nonfiction.
For instance, in a recently published book on Wilma Mankiller, the first female chief of a major Indian tribe in modern history, I used Cherokee and other tribal tales to enrich an understanding of the complex cultures of Native Americans. Within the book, (following each nonfiction chapter), I interwove various indigenous tales, such as The Mother and the Corn, The Long Way Back, The Cherokee and the Women, The Ending of War, The Lost Cherokee, The Race Between the Crane and the Hummingbird, Two Wolves, and The Coyote and Death.
Some of these stories have been passed down through native history for generations, going back hundreds of years or more. Each helps to illuminate a point about Wilma Mankiller, her tribal heritage, and how she succeeded in life despite overwhelming odds, both within and without. Each fictional story helps to create a deeper understanding of the Native American culture from which she sprang.
Judging from the positive feedback received from reviewers, the technique of including fictional tales within a nonfiction biography works. But including fiction inside a nonfiction book has to be based upon some greater understanding or enjoyment that the reader derives from that fiction. Haphazardly throwing in an occasional story for the sake of doing so isn't wise and won't work to advance the reader's understanding of the book's purposea and subject.
Clear? Good. Now … get writing! And if you have any more questions or need additional or more specific advice, feel free to contact me through my Website at djherda.org. I'll get back to you just as soon as possible. Until then ...
Smoke if you've got 'em.
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D. J. Herda is author of the new e-Book series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere. His blogs appear on his Website at www.djherda.org. You can also check out his columns, "The Author-Ethicist" and "Fury and the Beast," at Substack. They're free; they're entertaining; they're informative, and they run weekly. Well, almost weekly. Occasionally weekly. Sometimes weekly. (Hey, he does his best!)