Craft True-to-Life Nonfiction Characters
Characters are the soul of what’s come to be called creative nonfiction, an umbrella term that covers memoir, the personal essay and literary journalism, among others. But characters in nonfiction present special problems: While characters in fiction are often based on real people, there’s still that screen. In nonfiction, by contrast, the writer is telling the reader: These people I’m bringing to you are real.
A lot has been written about characters and character when it comes to fiction. Many of the same techniques apply to nonfiction: Through detail, through gesture, through talk, through close understanding of whole lives before and after the scope of your story, you make your people vivid in your reader’s head.