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Picturing the Personal Essay

In Creative Nonfiction‘s latest issue, devoted to survival stories, is Tim Bascom’s “Picturing the Personal Essay: A Visual Guide.” Comparing the writing process and form to diagrams, Bascom explains that “the remarkable thing about personal essays . . . is that they can be so quirky in their ‘shape.’ No diagram matches the exact form that evolves, and that is because the best essayists resist predictable approaches.” However, he says that understanding some basic structures can help create a new form. He then goes on to explain different structures: narrative with a lift, the whorl of reflection, the formal limits of focus, dipping into the well, and braided and layered structures.

Also in this issue are stories of survival about a plane crash, a drug trip, a drowning, a search for a missing woman, and a man on the tracks before an oncoming train.

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