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 Topics (Chapter 5) 

Topics are simply the situation, especially what is occurring. Topics are often confused for genre or forms. We can write about any given topic in any genre, using any degree of veracity, and within any form. 

Autobiography is a chronology of the writer’s entire life. It begins at the beginning and ends whenever the writer stops writing. It focuses on all the major details of a writer’s life. The autobiography is shaped to reveal the impact of seminal events and/or shifts on the subject's emotional, physical, and/or intellectual development—or the subject's impact on others.  

Environmental and Nature focuses on how humans interact with or affect the world around us. These pieces often focus on a place, especially details about the location in question. 

Immersion is where the writer tries on a next life, experience, or activity. This is either something the writer has never done before or something the writer hasn’t done in many, many years. The newness of the activity is what the writer is exploring.  

Literary Journalism is the intersection between journalism (factual reporting) and creative nonfiction. Here, writers focus on reporting, but also lean more into heightened language and scene work. 

Meditations is more philosophical, and often works to unpack an ideas of profound personal importance to the writer. Meditations tie back to Montaigne’s Essais. Often meditations don’t aim to prove a point, but rather to explore a question in depth and with precision. These narratives are often not structured chronologically, but instead follow the movements of the mind.  

Memoir examines a period of a writer’s life, especially as related to a single question or idea, and especially related to past moments, which is why memoir takes its name from “memory.” This is a major focus of the memoir, probing our memories in order to reveal complex meaning. 

Personal is similar to memoir. Some writers highlight page length as the difference between these two topics (personal is often considered short, say under twenty pages, while memoir is book length), but we argue that the personal is not determined by length, but by a focus on more immediate events than memoir. Whereas memoir looks backwards, the personal examines the immediately lived life. In some ways, the distinctions between the two are negligible and indefinable, but worth offering here as a launching point for discussion. 

Portrait examines someone or something other than the writer themselves. The writer turns their gaze from their own life and instead focuses on a person, event, or place. 

Persuasive focuses its attention on proving a point. Here, the writer, rather than exploring a question—as seen in the meditative—stares right at the issue and tries to convert the reader to a new point of view. 

Science and Math deals with explaining or highlighting key new discoveries. This topic often works to “translate” a complex scientific or mathematical idea into a language an average reader can understand. 

Speculative focus on situations where the writer uses speculation, deduction, and extrapolation to write about something they do not fully know. Often, the speculative looks forward or backward in time to make an educated guess on how an event might have turned out differently.

Sports zeroes in on an event or athlete and focuses on the game or activity being played. These can, often, overlap with the profile.

Travel focuses on giving the reader an inside look at another place. The travel topic also often examines insiders and outsiders.