A Brief Perspective on Writing Non-Fiction Articles

You come across something that moves you. It may strike responsive chords at multiple levels, such as the emotional and intellectual. Ideas start to percolate and you find yourself looking at that event in terms of issues. Now the excitement begins as you build upon that initial crop and brainstorm numerous other potential issues. You expand the scope of interest beyond your personal sphere by identifying the groups of people and organizations (social, political, etc.) who are potentially impacted by the event. Who are they, how are they affected by it and what attitudes are they likely to take towards it?

As interest groups appear you engage in research and conversations – trying out ideas, getting valuable feedback and expanding your contact base, research objectives and understanding. An inner excitement grows as perspectives start to emerge. A richer set of relationships starts to develop as you learn about the event’s setting and the factors that may have played key roles in its development. Similarly, you get a sense of the possible ramifications of the event in the future and its relationship to other groups and events. Now you can identify with greater clarity the individuals who can provide the human interest aspects for the article.

Within the writer the focus starts to shift from the investigative to the creative. It is time to become selective and choose what to present to the readers in your piece. Conceptually the choice extremes may range from a comprehensive and well organized development of the factual data to the creation of an emotional and intellectually moving experience for the readers. A good article can not only inform but also expose the reader to new perspectives, attitudes and considerations. It can stimulate and connect him to events and people far beyond his personal sphere.

The choices that you make in this area determine whether the article takes the form of an essay, feature, interview or opinion piece. In fact, you may decide that the significance of your topic and the scope of its impact deserve creative expression in multiple articles and in different literary forms. As you consider the possibilities of the various expressive forms you also need to ask yourself about the potential audiences for the article and the media for reaching them. The prospective readership will usually be much broader than those who are immediately impacted by the event presented in the article, and the channels for reaching the readers can be numerous and diverse.

As a writer, you need to find the right forum, which means queries to and conversations with editors. They will consider whether the article fits the identity of their magazine (or other media) and will appeal to their subscribers and other readers. The opportunities that you discover here and the advice that the editors give you will have a major impact on the article’s ultimate form and its success in communicating your message. Through it all you learn, grow and create, satisfying the writer within.

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