Saving Nonfiction From The Gutter

Tommy WroughtThis is a guest post by Peter Felton, author of “Tommy Wrought“.

Peter Felton was born and raised in San Francisco, CA.  He is the author of two books: Daily Public Transit Ridership: The Inside Scoop (2012), and Tommy Wrought: A Musical Reflection of Children With Special Needs (2015).

Felton’s well-rounded exposure to the multifaceted offerings of the world of American education as both a student and teacher has led him to a lifelong career serving numerous roles in a variety of schools touching upon all scholastic angles of the academic spectrum: public, independent private (co-ed, and single-sex [covering each gender]), parochial, cooperative, immersion, and special education.

Felton remains a firm advocate for the importance of integrating music and the arts into everyday learning, regularly exhibiting elements of each in his own routine instruction, working with students in all grades K-12.

To learn more about Peter Felton, visit his:

Author Page on Facebook (

YouTube channel (Learn Through Music And Lyrics!!) (

Peter Felton


In the digital age of the 21st Century, information is readily available literally at our fingertips.  Thanks to the presence of electronic devices in hand, knowledge at hand can be attained instantly in the form of fast facts displayed onscreen in a matter of seconds upon the click of a button, tap of a virtual keyboard, or swipe of a finger.  No sooner have you given your command to the machine you hold in the palm of your hand than what you are looking for for the time being appears right before your eyes effortlessly.

In this fast-paced world we live, work, and create in, knowledge and the information within it tend to be taken for granted as we use it more for data collections and self-promotion than to gain a deeper wisdom of its meaning and merits from more in-depth reading and exploration of the given content before us.  Despite the growing world of ease pertaining to online operations, when it comes to truly gaining insight and understanding of the universe at large from historical relevance to philosophical truths, only one form of literary expression can truly provide answers and ultimate fulfillment when it comes to making discoveries about the human race: Nonfiction.

Growing up, we are all used to reading nonfiction in the form of textbooks for subjects like Math, Science, Social Studies, and English/Language Arts in school.  To young minds, nonfiction books present basic information in bullet-point formatting, without any real emotional expression.  It is just a list of facts with some illustrations to make the material “come alive.”  Unless a child-age student is personally interested in the academic content at hand, nonfiction textbooks are merely assigned reading that you have to examine for the sake of making the grade.  As a result, the more intriguing Encyclopedias (now overtaken by the advent of Wikipedia and its regular electronic updates) and biographies of historical figures and celebrities in the worlds of sports and performing arts tend to get overlooked due to readers looking for flashier news pieces online and via television that present material in a glitzier manner without as much purity as a literary work of art that conveys ideas and ignites the imagination of the reader through provocative language, tales of realism, and most of all, acute insight into the subject matter (whether human, historical, or categorical) via the four key components to nonfictional success: research, topical passion, humor, and (if the author of such a literary work is so fortunate) firsthand experience with the criteria in question.

In order for nonfiction to remain alive in this world of electronic informational empowerment, the aforementioned three factors must be taken into account when penning a perennial masterpiece of sorts.  Clearly, any form of nonfiction writing is meaningless if there is no cited evidence to defend an author’s depiction of a human figure in a certain light, or when analyzing a historical timeline or event from a specific perspective, all the while conveying any of the hidden unknowns present within one’s life or the impact of a notable time period in the course of humanity.

Having learned the long-term value of the research process when writing term papers in school and then presenting them verbally upon their completion proves worthwhile when it comes to exploring a topic of combination personal interest and universal appeal, with timely relevance, in the early stages of penning a book revolving around information that is factual, ultimately articulated effervescently on paper (or E-reader as the case may be).  However, merely presenting the reviewed material in the same basic bullet-point format that antagonized your learning in school growing up simply will not do if you are seeking an audience for your informative literary work that is in competition with every online outlet out there for providing readers and subsequent learners with intellectual enlightenment.

Upon obtaining the necessary facts and figures for building an argument about your chosen topic, it is time for the next essential element of creating a work of nonfiction to enter the scene: passion, with a dose of humor thrown into the mix.  These factors are especially effective when concocting biographies and autobiographies.  After all, if only one person is the focus of the work at hand, they must have lived a pretty fascinating life in order to be the center of attention from the first page to the last!  While putting one’s own life story on paper in the form of a memoir may seem easier for some than others, learning about the lives of those you admire either in person or from a distance via their celebrity status or historicity provides you with a sense of fascination and intrigue never felt prior to taking in the content soon to be revisited in your upcoming book.  That is where your own love and passion for the material that you yourself are compiling to be revealed in an entirely new light in your brand new literary masterpiece come into play most eloquently!  In order to sell your readers on the avenue of information you are examining in tremendous depth from one or more angles of choice, you will want your audience to experience the same sensationalism you felt when researching the material and then delivering it accordingly through convincing yet enticing language.  If the readers see that the author not only has strong knowledge of and (perhaps) a background in the content they are presenting literarily, but also remains fascinated by its facets, such a written display will shine through, leading the readers themselves to develop a newfound enamoration with the subject matter thoroughly outlined before them.

But it can nor should stop there.  Just like teaching a class showcasing the importance of enhancing a certain area of learning and life skill to a bunch of curious souls at your feet, one additional key ingredient to successfully connecting with your audience when it comes to holding their attention through this rainforest of knowledge and information coming towards them like a hurricane when excitedly turning the pages of your book remains: having a sense of humor about what you are showcasing.

Factual information tends to be taken seriously for the sake of its heavy implications on the historical, personal, ultimately worldly scales both by those articulating its foundations and recipients of the wealth of knowledge heading in their direction.  However, in the end, we are all human and need to have a laugh to truly become at ease with what we are writing so that our readers can (like they have done already) share similar sentiments about the underlying content at large.  Everybody has their own sense of humor; some are more clichéd, outlandish, or wry than others.  May whatever make your cup of tea in this department quickly let itself be known in your informative writing…more than once!  Of all the fields of humor that exist, the one that arguably makes the most sense on the literary front appears in the form of puns.  After all, writers are (in-)famous for having a wide-ranging vocabulary, as much as the English language is notorious for bearing synonyms, antonyms, and infinitives of multitudes of terminology that can be used at leisure to liven up an in-person conversation and subsequently spice up a piece of writing that already contains waves of passion, intellect, and persuasion in its aura, as does the author to his or her name.

Why not add some layers of humor (sophisticated or simplistic as seen fit by the author themselves) to the mix to create a literary masterpiece that captivates audiences from all different angles, ALL THE WHILE TURNING THEM ON TO THE ETERNAL VALUE OF LEARNING THROUGH EXPANDING THEIR GROWING KNOWLEDGE BASE THANKS TO YOUR INSTILLING AN ENLIVENING, COMPASSIONATE, YET ALL THE WHILE HUMOROUS WRITTEN WORK OF ART (SOON-TO-BE) HOT OFF THE PRESS, INTO THEIR CONSCIOUSNESS?

Above all, what sets nonfiction apart from online information is its humanity.  That human touch is felt within the author’s own unique approach to their topic of interest through articulate writing that includes all of the above described elements of an effective yet entertaining delivery of informative material unbeknownst to the readers in the picture.  Although people create websites and people provide regular updates to networks containing useful information databases, the intellectual approach is as robotic as the mechanical wireless server holding it all together.  You may not even know if in fact a human being procured the factual information presented on the spotlighted network of perusal, let alone if the material represents actual events and the notable names involved therewith (exceptions include appropriate citations appearing in the footnotes section of networks such as Wikipedia).  When all is said and done, the reality that this electronic offering serves as a platform for fast-paced accumulations of short-term knowledge that is forgotten as soon as the screen shifts to the next means of online interactive entertainment allows for in-depth, well-thought-out works of nonfiction to take the cake when it comes to truly instilling unforgettable wisdom and corresponding insight into the human race as a whole.

Websites come and go, but books live forever in the minds and hearts of those who wish to learn from the best and experience the fruits of life through the literary lens.  And THAT is a fact!

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