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Virtual Event Virtual Event

Contain Your Narrative: Five Time-Tested Structures Nonfiction Writers Need to Know

August 1 @ 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm EDT

Virtual Event Virtual Event

    $15.00 (early bird) | Nonfiction

Build on traditional narrative structure and break out of old forms to tell your story in fresh ways.

Writers of narrative nonfiction want to tell compelling true stories, whether as short or long personal essays, creative nonfiction, or a book-length memoir. The vexing question is, “How?” Structure is the bugbear of many a memoirist, especially when your story shifts in time or has multiple timelines. Unfortunately, narrative nonfiction writers can get stuck in chronology: “this happened, then this happened, then this happened…”

There are other ways to structure your story.

Learn five time-tested structures, narrative “containers,” to help best shape and hold your narrative. We’ll begin by understanding the classic chronological “building the mountain” structure (exposition/status quo —> inciting incident —> rising tension —> climax —> resolution/denouement). Then we’ll break out of that mold to explore the non-chronological “in medias res” sandwich (scene —> backstory/flashback—> scene); the “looking back” frame (flashback from the present day); simple or complex braids (of narrative timelines and possible non-narrative materials), and using found forms such as hermit crab, compression/flash, and lyric essay. You’ll leave the seminar with new structural tools to tackle your personal narratives anew.

In this webinar, you will:
  • EXPLORE the key elements of structure in narrative nonfiction
  • DISCOVER a new way to tell your true story, using both traditional and traditional forms
  • LEARN HOW to apply five different structures to a personal story
  • READ excerpts from inspirational works to see how it’s done

This webinar is for…

  • Nonfiction & personal narrative writers beginning to tell their stories, or with a draft in progress  
  • Writers at all levels, who want to expand their use and understanding of narrative structure
  • Memoirists and essayists who feel “stuck” in their current structure
  • Writers struggling with story timeline management in their narratives

This webinar is not ideal for…

  • Novelists and short fiction writers
  • Authors focusing on prescriptive nonfiction where the focus is on information rather than personal narrative

Closed captioning is available ✔
All registrants receive the recording ✔


ETHAN GILSDORF is a writer, teacher, performer, and the author of the Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Esquire, Wired, Salon, O the Oprah Magazine, Brevity, Electric Literature, Poetry, The Southern Review, among other publications, and named “Notable” by The Best American Essays. He teaches workshops in essay, creative nonfiction and memoir at GrubStreet in Boston, where he leads the Essay Incubator program,  and at LitArts RI. He is also on the faculty of the Solstice MFA Program at Lasell University. 




Questions? Please email