1. Home 
  2. Introduction
  3. On Our Glossary and Taxonomy
  4.     Glossary of Terms
  5.     Taxonomies of Creative Nonfiction
  6.             Central Questions
  7.             Dramatic Design
  8.             Forms
  9.             Genre and Veracity
  10.             Imagery
  11.             The Mind
  12.             Language
  13.             Narrative Energy
  14.             Narrators
  15.             Scene
  16.             Topics
  17.             Truth
  18. The Central Question Podcast
  19. Contact the Authors

Taxonomy of Central Questions (Chapter 4) 

Central Question, The, is the curiosity (or set of curiosities) that serve as a writer’s motivation, inspiration, and compositional directive. The central question is the ideas or actions that the writer will explore. Some might call it a creative nonfiction writer’s hypothesis. The central question arises from reflecting on the situation. 

Creative Memory is the plumbing of our complicated memories to try and make sense of them by fitting them into our personal mythologies. Writers work to discover who we are by mining where we've been. 

Creative Research is actively observing and researching the world around us (and this includes everything from remembering to researching to interviewing to reviewing maps and photos) and connecting this research to our central questions. 

Knot of Meaning, The, is the conclusion arrived at after writing toward and writing with our central question. The knot of meaning is most often not a single answer but a complicated view of our central question. If the central question might be considered the creative nonfiction writer’s hypothesis, then the knot of meaning might be considered the (subtlety stated) thesis that proves, disproves, or complicates the writer’s hypothesis. This proving, disproving, and complicating arises from creative memory and creative research and is creative in nature.

Situation, The, is what is being explored: who (the characters), what (the plot), where (the setting), and when (the time period). The situation is tied to the central question. 

Social self is understanding who we—the writer—in context to the larger world. We can understand our social selves by looking at where we are situation in the larger world. This includes examining gender, race, religion, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc while also exploring the social, historic, and cultural shifts that take place during our lifetimes.