Using Fiction to Write Better Non-Fiction

I have written quite a bit already about Alan Watt’s book “The 90 Day Novel” and how it revolutionised my approach to writing fiction. The central premise of this book is that when you write a novel you are essentially exploring some important dilemma that your characters face. Whereas a problem is solved, a dilemma is overcome by going through a transformation. This is similar to Einstein’s quote that says: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” We have to evolve through it.

The thought struck me this past week whether the same could apply when writing non-fiction. I had been researching what makes really good and engaging non-fiction, and while there is a lot of information available on the role of learning methodologies in the way you write (Learning Theory), what became apparent is that story and dilemma is still important.

Think about the reader for a moment. They are reading your book because they want something. In your book, by reading the blurb or jacket cover, something tells them that the answer lies with you. A mere problem is not enough of a motivator to make the investment in you. And when I mean investment, I mean the real sacrifice of time and not the financial exchange. They are sitting with a dilemma, be it conscious or unconscious. I want to expand my team, but I keep on hiring the wrong people. I must increase sales, but my market seems saturated. These dilemmas cannot be solved in the way you would faulty plumbing or a broken down car. A shift in consciousness is required.

If you are writing non-fiction at the moment, perhaps think about what is the real dilemma your reader faces and what kind of transformation is required of them to really get value out of what you offer. Does this resonate with you? Do you solve problems or dilemmas? What is your approach to defining the central dilemma of your book / article / research paper?

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