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 Forms (Chapter 5)

Forms are the ways in which writers fashion situations into central questions, knots of meaning, and, ultimately, art. Form gives content shape, and shape is what distinguishes the chaos of experience from artifact, raw material from masterpiece. 

Traditional Form, The, is when creative nonfiction narratives have a beginning, middle, and ending and typically uses standard chronology. 

Braided Form, The, weaves together two or more ideas, experiences, and/or images, eschewing chronology and formal logic as its organizing principle. The braided form slowly intertwines questions, ideas, and/or moments, bit by bit, until by the end, the reader cannot help but see these ostensibly separate strands as naturally linked. One of the components that comes along with this weaving is that the ideas being explored are revealed to the reader slowly. 

Collage Form, The, juxtaposes multiple and often seemingly unrelated images or ideas side by side. Thoughtful juxtaposition is key to the collage. How two or more images or ideas bounce off each other is where the collage gathers its strength. Rather than working chronologically or by neatly tying things together, as in the braided narrative, the writer is after the affect that comes from putting together a range of startling or striking images or ideas

Flash Form, The, is less defined by what it is and more defined by the size of itself. For the flash form, there is a strict word count, which leads to a compression of ideas and images. Some consider flash to be anything under five hundred words. Others set the word count higher or lower. Regardless, it’s the use of compression that sets the flash apart. 

Lyric Form, The, is what poets call the prose poem. The lyric form leans into poetic elements to create meaning: language, rhythm, sound, alliteration, torque, repetition, cadence, musicality. Indeed, the root of the word lyric is lyre, a musical instrument that accompanied ancient song. The lyric form is songlike; it hinges on the inherent rhythms of language and sound, both to create shape and to reveal meaning. Lyric forms are artful, but with purpose, requiring the reader to complete the meaning by provoking meditation. 

Graphic Form, The, pairs visual images with words. These images might be pen and ink, photographs, paintings, etc. These images establish tone, setting, and other vital details. The writer relies less on words, especially because there is less space on the page for words, and more on the intersections and combinations of words and images. 

Found Forms, The, adopt a structure from other structures. For example, a writer might create a narrative that looks like a take-out menu, a website for a pet adoption facility, a how-to format, playlists, address books, a field guide, a set of directions to building something, an email, a map, an interview, a math problem, a test, or a multitude of other forms. The only limitation of found forms is the writer’s imagination.