Poetry Fiction - An Introduction to the Elements of Creative Writing

Some Elements of Writing

—Poetry—

Some Elements of Poetry

ELEMENT Characteristic
Sound —Definition:
Take advantage of the aural qualities of language.
  —Example:
"ring, ring, ring 'round the rosey"
  —Effect:
Emphasis, support of meaning and theme, pleasure of music
Rhyme —Definition:
Repeat sounds, usually at the end of a line.
  —Example:
“In the room the women come and go Talking of Michelangelo.” (“Prufrock,” Eliot)
  —Effect:
Emphasis, connection between ideas, tone, mood
Rhythm —Definition:
Produce a regular pattern of accented syllables in a line (e.g. iambic pentameter = five alternating beats per line)
  —Example:
“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate.” (Sonnet 18, Shakespeare)
  —Effect:
Memorability, music, mood and tone, pleasure of expectation.
Free verse —Definition:
Use no set pattern, rhyme, or rhythm
  —Example:
“I saw the first pear as it fell—“ (“Orchard,” H.D.)
  —Effect:
Openness, spontaneity, naturalness
Alliteration —Definition:
Produce a regular pattern of accented syllables in a line (e.g. iambic pentameter = five alternating beats per line)
  —Example:
“The plum tree, black and brittle, rocks stiffly in winter wind.” Look Homeward, Angel, Thomas Wolfe)
  —Effect:
Connection between ideas, emphasis, psychological effect of phonemes.
Assonance —Definition:
Repeat vowels sounds of words in close proximity.
  —Example:
“Her million little twigs are frozen in spears of ice.” (Look Homeward, Angel)
  —Effect:
Similar to alliteration but more subtle.
Consonance —Definition:
Repeat consonants of words in close proximity.
  —Example:
“million little twigs”
  —Effect:
Similar to alliteration but more subtle.
Dissonance —Definition:
Create harsh or cacophonous rhymes our sounds.
  —Example:
“Twit twit twit Jug Jug Jug Jug Jug Jug” (Waste Land, Eliot)
  —Effect:
Confusion, chaos, harshness
Sight —Definition:
Take advantage of the appearance of words on a page.
  —Example:
 
  —Effect:
 
Lineation —Definition:
Break text into lines that do not go to the edge of the page
  —Example:
“so much depends
upon
...” (“The Red Wheelbarrow, W.C. Williams)
  —Effect:
Unpredictability, music, support of meaning and theme
Enjambment —Definition:
Break line before a syntactic break
  —Example:
“so much depends
upon
...” (“The Red Wheelbarrow, W.C. Williams)
  —Effect:
Unpredictability, music, support of meaning and theme
Shape —Definition:
Create shapes that echo the meaning of the poem, as in concrete poems.
  —Example:
Apollinaire’s “The Little Car”
  —Effect:
Supports theme and meaning, humor
Stanza —Definition:
Break groups of lines in a poem with a double space between.
  —Example:
“so much depends
upon
...” (“The Red Wheelbarrow, W.C. Williams)
  —Effect:
Change in subject, visual pleasure, breathing and thinking space
Form —Definition:
Use existing poetic patterns, usually with rhythm and rhyme schemes or typical subject matters
  —Example:
Sonnets (14 lines), sestinas (7 stanzas with repeated end words, odes (poems of praise), villanelle (19 lines, some repeated), etc.
  —Effect:
Expectation, emphasis, plus the individual and varied effects of each form from the ecstatic ode to the meditative sonnet.
Image —Definition:
Create mental pictures that produce an emotional or intellectual effect.
  —Example:
“Ceylon falls on a map and its outline is the shape of a tear.” Running in the Family, Michael Ondaatje)
  —Effect:
Vividness, complexity, concreteness, emotional power
Figures of absence —Definition:
Condense or express denial like ellipsis, aporia (doubt), or litotes (understatement).
  —Example:
“Shape has no shape, nor will your thinking shape it.” (Sonnet, Conrad Aiken)
  —Effect:
Openness, thought-provoking
Figures of amplitude —Definition:
Expand or enhance like extended metaphor, hyperbole, repetition, allusion.
  —Example:
“A light swings over the hill. (We shall not come again.”) And over the town a star. (Over us all, over us all that shall not come again.” (Look Homeward, Angel)
  —Effect:
Richness, complexity
Figures of identity —Definition:
Compare like simile, metaphor, metonymy, personification.
  —Example:
“’My brother’s face,’” Eugene thought, ‘is like a piece of slightly yellow ivory.’” (Look Homeward, Angel)
  —Effect:
Connection, familiarity, clarification
Figures of unbalance —Definition:
Destabilize through irony, antithesis, paradox, etc.
  —Example:
“Life friends, is boring. We must not say so. After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,” (Dream Song 14, John Berryman)
  —Effect:
Chaos, confusion, unease
Symbol —Definition:
Represent an abstract concept with something concrete.
  —Example:
“Oh Rose thou art sick.” (“The Sick Rose, William Blake)
  —Effect:
Enhanced meaning, combination of concrete and abstract.
ELEMENT DEFINITION EXAMPLE EFFECT
Sound Take advantage of the aural qualities of language. "ring, ring, ring 'round the rosey" Emphasis, support of meaning and theme, pleasure of music
Rhyme Repeat sounds, usually at the end of a line. “In the room the women come and go Talking of Michelangelo.” (“Prufrock,” Eliot) Emphasis, connection between ideas, tone, mood
Rhythm Produce a regular pattern of accented syllables in a line (e.g. iambic pentameter = five alternating beats per line) “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate.” (Sonnet 18, Shakespeare) Memorability, music, mood and tone, pleasure of expectation.
Free verse Use no set pattern, rhyme, or rhythm “I saw the first pear as it fell—“ (“Orchard,” H.D.) Openness, spontaneity, naturalness
Alliteration Repeat beginning letters of a series of words. “The plum tree, black and brittle, rocks stiffly in winter wind.” Look Homeward, Angel, Thomas Wolfe) Connection between ideas, emphasis, psychological effect of phonemes.
Assonance Repeat vowels sounds of words in close proximity. “Her million little twigs are frozen in spears of ice.” (Look Homeward, Angel) Similar to alliteration but more subtle.
Consonance Repeat consonants of words in close proximity. “million little twigs” Similar to alliteration but more subtle.
Dissonance Create harsh or cacophonous rhymes our sounds. “Twit twit twit Jug Jug Jug Jug Jug Jug” (Waste Land, Eliot) Confusion, chaos, harshness
Sight Take advantage of the appearance of words on a page.    
Lineation Break text into lines that do not go to the edge of the page “so much depends upon” (“The Red Wheelbarrow, W.C. Williams) Unpredictability, music, support of meaning and theme
Enjambment Break line before a syntactic break “so much depends upon” Unpredictability, music, support of meaning and theme
Shape Create shapes that echo the meaning of the poem, as in concrete poems. Apollinaire’s “The Little Car” Supports theme and meaning, humor
Stanza Break groups of lines in a poem with a double space between. “so much depends upon

a red wheel barrow

Change in subject, visual pleasure, breathing and thinking space
Form Use existing poetic patterns, usually with rhythm and rhyme schemes or typical subject matters Sonnets (14 lines), sestinas (7 stanzas with repeated end words, odes (poems of praise), villanelle (19 lines, some repeated), etc. Expectation, emphasis, plus the individual and varied effects of each form from the ecstatic ode to the meditative sonnet.
Thought & Figuration      
Image Create mental pictures that produce an emotional or intellectual effect. “Ceylon falls on a map and its outline is the shape of a tear.” Running in the Family, Michael Ondaatje) Vividness, complexity, concreteness, emotional power,
Figures of absence Condense or express denial like ellipsis, aporia (doubt), or litotes (understatement). “Shape has no shape, nor will your thinking shape it.” (Sonnet, Conrad Aiken) Openness, thought-provoking
Figures of amplitude Expand or enhance like extended metaphor, hyperbole, repetition, allusion. “A light swings over the hill. (We shall not come again.”) And over the town a star. (Over us all, over us all that shall not come again.” (Look Homeward, Angel) Richness, complexity
Figures of identity Compare like simile, metaphor, metonymy, personification. “’My brother’s face,’” Eugene thought, ‘is like a piece of slightly yellow ivory.’” (Look Homeward, Angel) Connection, familiarity, clarification
Figures of unbalance Destabilize through irony, antithesis, paradox, etc. “Life friends, is boring. We must not say so. After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,” (Dream Song 14, John Berryman) Chaos, confusion, unease
Symbol Represent an abstract concept with something concrete. “Oh Rose thou art sick.” (“The Sick Rose, William Blake) Enhanced meaning, combination of concrete and abstract.

—Fiction—

Some Elements of Fiction

ELEMENT Characteristic
Plot - Pyramid plot —Definition:
Conflict resulting in climax followed by resolution
  —Example:
The Hound of the Baskervilles
  —Effect:
Suspense, causality, emergence of a theme
Plot - Rising Action —Definition:
Introduction of sources of conflict
  —Example:
Family curse, death of Sir Charles, threats to Sir Henry, the suspicious Stapletons and Barrrymores
  —Effect:
Suspense, causality, thematic development, introduction of characters
Plot - Climax —Definition:
High point of conflict
  —Example:
The murder of Seldon in Sir Henry’s suit
  —Effect:
Excitement, Schadenfreude
Plot - Denouement —Definition:
Resolution of conflict
  —Example:
Discovery of Stapletons’ identities, motivations, and actions
  —Effect:
Catharsis, reassurance
Plot device —Definition:
Something that advances or resolves plot, such as deus ex machina, red herrings, Macguffins, death traps, quests
  —Example:
Deus ex machina (Holmes’s rebirth), red herring (Snape in Harry Potter), Macguffin (the Maltese falcon), deathtrap (James Bond), quest (Lord of the Rings)
  —Effect:
Depends upon the skill of the writer. Well done they increase suspense and complexity. Not well done, they seem artificial and clumsy.
Flashback and Foreshadow —Definition:
Flashback tells what happens before story began. Foreshadowing hints at what will happen
  —Example:
Flashback (the story of Heathcliff and Catherine told by Nelly in Wuthering Heights), foreshadowing (“I have just returned from a visit to my landlord, the solitary neighbor that I shall be troubled with.” Wuthering Heights )
  —Effect:
Flashbacks provide background and both answer and raise questions. Foreshadowing increases suspense.
Suspense —Definition:
Anxious anticipation about what is to happen (or has happened), why, and how.
  —Example:
“I was sick—sick unto death with that long agony; and when they finally unbound me . . .” “The Pit and the Pendulum”
  —Effect:
Delayed gratification, uncertainty with the certainty that it will be resolved.
Nonlinear plots —Definition:
Experimental plots that rely on chance, use collage, or undermine causality and temporality
  —Example:
Chance (End Zone), collage (“The Babysitter), undermine temporality (Slaughterhouse Five)
  —Effect:
Challenging, unexpected, antimimetic
Scene —Definition:
Moment-by-moment interaction of characters, including dialog
  —Example:
“What is his name?” “Bingley.” “Is he married or single?” Pride & Prejudice
  —Effect:
Reveals character, moves plot, creates immediacy.
Exposition —Definition:
Background or analysis that doesn’t move story along
  —Example:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged . . .” Pride & Prejudice
  —Effect:
Varies pace, directs reader toward interpretation, provides background
Narration —Definition:
Summary of action that moves plot along
  —Example:
"Mr. Bennet was among the earliest of those who waited on Mr. Bingley." Pride & Prejudice
  —Effect:
Moves plot along quickly when scene would be cumbersome or unnecessary.
Description —Definition:
Pictures of the setting and characters
  —Example:
“A steep, boulder-sprinkled hill lay upon the right . . .” Hound of the Baskervilles
  —Effect:
Provides context, mood, support for theme, and sometimes source of conflict.
Protagonist —Definition:
Main character, who experiences the conflict of the story
  —Example:
Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye
  —Effect:
Sympathy (usually).
Antagonist —Definition:
Person, place, or thing that creates conflict for the protagonist
  —Example:
Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye
  —Effect:
Anxiety.
Other character types —Definition:
Round (complex) and flat (uncomplicated), dynamic (changing) and static (stagnant), stereotyped (predictable), hero, antihero, sidekick, foil (contrast)
  —Example:
Round (Elizabeth Bennet), flat (Mr. Collins in P & P), dynamic (Elizabeth Bennet), static (Mr. Micawber in David Copperfield), hero (Harry Potter), antihero (Holden Caufield), sidekick (Ron Weasley in Harry Potter stories), foil (Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter stories)
  —Effect:
Advance the story; provide variety and balance, conflict.
Narrator —Definition:
Person who tells the story
  —Example:
Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye
  —Effect:
Depends on reliability of narrator. See also point of view.
Point of view —Definition:
Grammatical point of view from which the story is told: first person (I or we), second person (you), third person (we) omniscient (can see everything every character does and is not a character in the story), limited (can only see from one character’s psyche), shifting (moves from one limited third person narration to another), multiple (moves from first to third person, for example), dramatic (see inside no one), stream of consciousness (interior monolog)
  —Example:
First person singular (most memoirs and bildungsroman like Catcher in the Rye and David Copperfield; first person plural (Virgin Suicides); second person (Bright Lights, Big City), third person omniscient (Pride and Prejudice), third person limited omniscient (Daisy Miller), shifting (Harry Potter novels), multiple (The Sound and the Fury), dramatic (“Hills Like White Elephants”), stream of consciousness (Mrs. Dalloway)
  —Effect:
Point of view affects the intimacy and immediacy of the story and the reader’s relationship to the characters, with stream of consciousness and first person being the most intimate and third person omniscient the most distant and authoritarian. Dramatic narration is also distant but nonauthoritarian.
Setting —Definition:
Time and place of the story
  —Example:
Early 20th century Chicago, Sister Carrie
  —Effect:
Mood, tone, context, and sometimes a source of conflict
Subgenres - Mysteries —Definition:
Disruption of the social order by crime and restoration by solution
  —Example:
The Maltese Falcon
  —Effect:
Anxiety and ultimate reassurance
Subgenres - Romance —Definition:
Love stories, with our without sex
  —Example:
Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre
  —Effect:
Emotion and sometimes lust
Subgenres - Fantasy —Definition:
Stories about magic or science fiction
  —Example:
Harry Potter novels
  —Effect:
Escape from everyday
Subgenres - Historical —Definition:
Stories featuring historical characters or events or set in the past
  —Example:
The Name of the Rose, which is also a mystery
  —Effect:
Escape from problems of the present and the pleasure of new knowledge.
Subgenres - Realistic —Definition:
Stories about everyday real life
  —Example:
Everyman
  —Effect:
Identification, familiarity, self-knowledge.
Subgenres - Magical realism —Definition:
Combines fantasy and realism
  —Example:
Like Water for Chocolate
  —Effect:
The pleasures of both realism and fantasy, and the tension between the two.
Subgenres - Identity fiction —Definition:
Focuses on issues of identity, especially for minorities
  —Example:
The House on Mango Street
  —Effect:
The tension between familiarity and unfamiliarity
ELEMENT DEFINITION EXAMPLE EFFECT
Plot Causal sequence of events    
Pyramid plot Conflict resulting in climax followed by resolution The Hound of the Baskervilles Suspense, causality, emergence of a theme
Rising Action Introduction of sources of conflict Family curse, death of Sir Charles, threats to Sir Henry, the suspicious Stapletons and Barrrymores Suspense, causality, thematic development, introduction of characters
Climax High point of conflict The murder of Seldon in Sir Henry’s suit Excitement, Schadenfreude,
Denouement Resolution of conflict Discovery of Stapletons’ identities, motivations, and actions Catharsis, reassurance
Plot device Something that advances or resolves plot, such as deus ex machina, red herrings, Macguffins, death traps, quests Deus ex machina (Holmes’s rebirth), red herring (Snape in Harry Potter), Macguffin (the Maltese falcon), deathtrap (James Bond), quest (Lord of the Rings) Depends upon the skill of the writer. Well done they increase suspense and complexity. Not well done, they seem artificial and clumsy.
Flashback and Foreshadow Flashback tells what happens before story began. Foreshadowing hints at what will happen Flashback (the story of Heathcliff and Catherine told by Nelly in Wuthering Heights), foreshadowing (“I have just returned from a visit to my landlord, the solitary neighbor that I shall be troubled with.” Wuthering Heights ) Flashbacks provide background and both answer and raise questions. Foreshadowing increases suspense.
Suspense Anxious anticipation about what is to happen (or has happened), why, and how. “I was sick—sick unto death with that long agony; and when they finally unbound me . . .” “The Pit and the Pendulum” Delayed gratification, uncertainty with the certainty that it will be resolved.
Nonlinear plots Experimental plots that rely on chance, use collage, or undermine causality and temporality Chance (End Zone), collage (“The Babysitter), undermine temporality (Slaughterhouse Five) Challenging, unexpected, antimimetic

Narrative Strategies

Ways of developing the plot    
Scene Moment-by-moment interaction of characters, including dialog “What is his name?” “Bingley.” “Is he married or single?” Pride & Prejudice Reveals character, moves plot, creates immediacy.
Exposition Background or analysis that doesn’t move story along “It is a truth universally acknowledged . . .” Pride & Prejudice Varies pace, directs reader toward interpretation, provides background
Narration Summary of action that moves plot along "Mr. Bennet was among the earliest of those who waited on Mr. Bingley." Pride & Prejudice Moves plot along quickly when scene would be cumbersome or unnecessary.
Description Pictures of the setting and characters “A steep, boulder-sprinkled hill lay upon the right . . .” Hound of the Baskervilles Provides context, mood, support for theme, and sometimes source of conflict
Character The cast of a piece of fiction   Sense of identification or fascination with the Other
Protagonist Main character, who experiences the conflict of the story Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye Sympathy (usually)
Antagonist Person, place, or thing that creates conflict for the protagonist Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye Anxiety
Other character types Round (complex) and flat (uncomplicated), dynamic (changing) and static (stagnant), stereotyped (predictable), hero, antihero, sidekick, foil (contrast) Round (Elizabeth Bennet), flat (Mr. Collins in P & P), dynamic (Elizabeth Bennet), static (Mr. Micawber in David Copperfield), hero (Harry Potter), antihero (Holden Caufield), sidekick (Ron Weasley in Harry Potter stories), foil (Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter stories) Advance the story; provide variety and balance, conflict
Narrator Person who tells the story Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye Depends on reliability of narrator. See also point of view.
Point of view Grammatical point of view from which the story is told: first person (I or we), second person (you), third person (we) omniscient (can see everything every character does and is not a character in the story), limited (can only see from one character’s psyche), shifting (moves from one limited third person narration to another), multiple (moves from first to third person, for example), dramatic (see inside no one), stream of consciousness (interior monolog) First person singular (most memoirs and bildungsroman like Catcher in the Rye and David Copperfield; first person plural (Virgin Suicides); second person (Bright Lights, Big City), third person omniscient (Pride and Prejudice), third person limited omniscient (Daisy Miller), shifting (Harry Potter novels), multiple (The Sound and the Fury), dramatic (“Hills Like White Elephants”), stream of consciousness (Mrs. Dalloway) Point of view affects the intimacy and immediacy of the story and the reader’s relationship to the characters, with stream of consciousness and first person being the most intimate and third person omniscient the most distant and authoritarian. Dramatic narration is also distant but nonauthoritarian..
Setting Time and place of the story Early 20th century Chicago, Sister Carrie Mood, tone, context, and sometimes a source of conflict
Subgenres      
Mysteries Disruption of the social order by crime and restoration by solution The Maltese Falcon Anxiety and ultimate reassurance
Romance Love stories, with our without sex Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre Emotion and sometimes lust
Fantasy Stories about magic or science fiction Harry Potter novels Escape from everyday
Historical Stories featuring historical characters or events or set in the past The Name of the Rose, which is also a mystery Escape from problems of the present and the pleasure of new knowledge.
Realistic Stories about everyday real life Everyman Identification, familiarity, self-knowledge
Magical realism Combines fantasy and realism Like Water for Chocolate The pleasures of both realism and fantasy, and the tension between the two.
Identity fiction Focuses on issues of identity, especially for minorities The House on Mango Street The tension between familiarity and unfamiliarity

—Drama—

Some Elements of Drama

Many of the elements of fiction are also crucial to drama, including setting, characterization, conflict, plot, suspense, and theme. But in the theater, the story is told entirely through dialog and the external behavior of the characters. Rarely is there any narration or exposition to get the audience into the minds of characters, to fill in the background of the story, or to make transitions.
That means the dramatist must reveal through dialog and action:

The dialog must also create suspense, foreshadowing the climax and denouement of the play without giving it away, and it must support the theme of the play. In developing the plot, the dramatist must make sure each scene, each exchange of dialog, has a purpose and involves an underlying conflict of personal agendas. A scene without conflict is a boring and probably unnecessary scene, though the conflict can be, and often is, veiled.
In the theater, setting is limited by the limitations of the stage. Contrary to the Busby Berkeley movies of the 1930s, you cannot get a hundred dancing girls and an Olympic sized swimming pool onto one. So a dramatist must also think in terms of scale and feasibility, as well as in terms of audience attention spans. Movies, with their virtually unlimited possibilities for settings, action, special effects, and close-ups registering subtle emotions, pose fewer or at least different limitations and tend to be more visual than verbal. That does not mean a screenwriter can go on and on, however. Submission scripts (as opposed to shooting scripts) should contain only dialog and a few, very brief action and camera directions.

—Creative NonFiction—

Some Elements of Creative Non-Fiction

ELEMENT Characteristic
Fictional
Elements
—Definition:
Narrative strategies such as scene development, dialog, suspense, flashbacks, description, etc.
  —Example:
“What happened to the others?” / “Which others?” / “The others of his clan.” / “Shot,” said Arkady, “By police patrols in the twenties.” (Songlines, Chatwin)
  —Effect:
Immediacy and a sense of personal connection. Readability.
Polarities:
Ladder
of
Abstraction
—Definition:
Per S.I. Hayakawa, the hierarchy of language from specific (Bessie the cow) to highly abstract (wealth).
  —Example:
“You’ll have to come back,” my sister warned me. “You can not fight it. Your family is your family.” (Dawn Powell)
  —Effect:
Vivid, engaging writing if you go from concrete to abstract. Boring if you stay in the middle levels of generalization.
Polarities:
Balance
—Definition:
Maintaining an equilibrium between fictional and nonfictional techniques, specificity and abstraction, the personal and the universal.
  —Example:
“Bodybuilding is a parody of labor, a useless accumulation of the laborer’s bulk and strength. . . . I harness myself to a Nautilus cage.” (“Late Victorians,” Rodriguez)
  —Effect:
The pleasure of thinking. The grounding of generalities and abstractions in the recognizable and familiar.
Structures:
Cause
&
Effect
—Definition:
The many effects produced by one cause, the many causes of one effect, or complex chains of causality.
  —Example:
“Anyone wanting to answer the question of ‘how we began’ in Iraq, has to confront the monumental fact that the United States . . . had no particular and specific idea of what it was going to do there . . .” (“Iraq: the War of the Imagination,” Mark Danner)
  —Effect:
The comfort of causality.
Structures:
Comparison
&
Contrast
—Definition:
Similarities between the apparently disparate, differences between the apparently similar, or differences and similarities exhibited by something, someone, some place.
  —Example:
“No matter how factual and sparse police reports may seem to us, they must make use of a selection of vital detail, similar to that which a writer of short stories has to make.” (“Cops and Writers,” Jean Hollander)
  —Effect:
Differentiation.
Structures:
Deduction
&
Induction
—Definition:
Moving from premise to evidence to conclusion or from data to generalization.
  —Example:
“White people can’t cook, Aunt Marguerite used to say; that’s why they need to hire us.” (“Sunday,” Henry Louis Gates Jr.)
  —Effect:
The pleasures of logic.
Structures:
Definition
&
Classification
—Definition:
Explanation by structure, function, analysis, anecdotes, examples, or what a term does not mean.
  —Example:
“indeed, it represents everything that the English most dislike . . .” (“Chic—English, French, and American,” Nancy Mitford)
  —Effect:
Knowledge. Discernment.
Structures:
Process
—Definition:
How something is done.
  —Example:
“Before you even get the cone, you have to do a lot of planning about it.” (“How to Eat an Ice-Cream Cone,” L. Rust Hills)
  —Effect:
Knowledge, and often humor
Structures:
Mosaic
—Definition:
A structure resembling free-association or free verse.
  —Example:
Richard Rodriguez’s “Late Victorians”
  —Effect:
Association. Subtlety.
Structures:
Spatial
&
Chronological
—Definition:
A journey through space and / or time.
  —Example:
Virginia Woolf’s “Street Haunting: A London Adventure.”
  —Effect:
Adventure, personal growth.
Factuality:
Facts
—Definition:
Data, statistics, verified events
  —Example:
“I recently read that the average American eats 17.8 . . . pounds of pretzels a year.” (“Junk-Food Heaven,” Bill Bryson)
  —Effect:
Credibililty, the pleasure of knowledge
Factuality:
Interviews
—Definition:
Information and quotations provided by relevant participants.
  —Example:
“’What does it mean when the Mahdi returns,’” I asked the fighter.” (“In the Mosque of the Imam Ali,” Phillip Robertson)
  —Effect:
More Credibililty, personal detail.

Factuality:

Objectivity
&
I
mpartiality

—Definition:
Not to be confused with a lack of commitment or concern.
  —Example:
“We are now starting to poke tentatively at ‘Best,’ which is the most obviously fraught and bias-prone word on the cover.” (Introduction to BAE 2007, David Foster Wallace)
  —Effect:
More Credibililty, logical detail.

ELEMENT DEFINITION EXAMPLE EFFECT
Fictional
Elements
Narrative strategies such as scene development, dialog, suspense, flashbacks, description, etc., “What happened to the others?” / “Which others?” / “The others of his clan.” / “Shot,” said Arkady, “By police patrols in the twenties.” (Songlines, Chatwin) Immediacy and a sense of personal connection. Readability.
Polarities      
Ladder
of
abstraction
Per S.I. Hayakawa, the hierarchy of language from specific (Bessie the cow) to highly abstract (wealth). “You’ll have to come back,” my sister warned me. “You can not fight it. Your family is your family.” (Dawn Powell) Vivid, engaging writing if you go from concrete to abstract. Boring if you stay in the middle levels of generalization.
Balance Maintaining an equilibrium between fictional and nonfictional techniques, specificity and abstraction, the personal and the universal. “Bodybuilding is a parody of labor, a useless accumulation of the laborer’s bulk and strength. . . . I harness myself to a Nautilus cage.” (“Late Victorians,” Rodriguez) The pleasure of thinking. The grounding of generalities and abstractions in the recognizable and familiar.
Structures      
Cause
&
effect
The many effects produced by one cause, the many causes of one effect, or complex chains of causality. “Anyone wanting to answer the question of ‘how we began’ in Iraq, has to confront the monumental fact that the United States . . . had no particular and specific idea of what it was going to do there . . .” (“Iraq: the War of the Imagination,” Mark Danner) The comfort of causality.
Comparison
&
contrast
Similarities between the apparently disparate, differences between the apparently similar, or differences and similarities exhibited by something, someone, some place. “No matter how factual and sparse police reports may seem to us, they must make use of a selection of vital detail, similar to that which a writer of short stories has to make.” (“Cops and Writers,” Jean Hollander) Differentiation.

Deduction

&
Induction

Moving from premise to evidence to conclusion or from data to generalization. “White people can’t cook, Aunt Marguerite used to say; that’s why they need to hire us.” (“Sunday,” Henry Louis Gates Jr.) The pleasures of logic.

Definition

& Classification

Explanation by structure, function, analysis, anecdotes, examples, or what a term does not mean. “indeed, it represents everything that the English most dislike . . .” (“Chic—English, French, and American,” Nancy Mitford) Knowledge. Discernment.
Process How something is done. “Before you even get the cone, you have to do a lot of planning about it.” (“How to Eat an Ice-Cream Cone,” L. Rust Hills) Knowledge, and often humor
Mosaic A structure resembling free-association or free verse. Richard Rodriguez’s “Late Victorians” Association. Subtlety.

Spatial
&

Chronological

A journey through space and / or time. Virginia Woolf’s “Street Haunting: A London Adventure.”

Adventure, personal growth.

Factuality Credibililty, the pleasure of knowledge    
Facts Data, statistics, verified events “I recently read that the average American eats 17.8 . . . pounds of pretzels a year.” (“Junk-Food Heaven,” Bill Bryson)  
Interviews Information and quotations provided by relevant participants “’What does it mean when the Mahdi returns,’” I asked the fighter.” (“In the Mosque of the Imam Ali,” Phillip Robertson)  
Objectivity
&
Impartiality
Not to be confused with a lack of commitment or concern “We are now starting to poke tentatively at ‘Best,’ which is the most obviously fraught and bias-prone word on the cover.” (Introduction to BAE 2007, David Foster Wallace)  

*Creative nonfiction includes everything from memoirs and personal essays to food, nature, and travel writing; narrative and gonzo journalism; reviews; true crime novels; and popular histories.