At the time, I was working on my MFA in fiction, and as part of the requirement for the degree, I enrolled in a class in another genre, creative nonfiction. This was the first braided essay I encountered, and I was enthralled by its possibilities. I found the form to be freeing and innovative; I was especially taken with how placing two unlike things side by side causes each to cast a light on the other, illuminating previously unseen facets of both. Photographers will wait days for the right light. In photography, light is everything. And this, I think, is true in braided essays as well.
The Braided Essay
Nonfiction Explosions: THE BEST OF BREVITY - CRAFT
In literary nonfiction, no form is quite as complicated as the lyric essay. For both poets and creative nonfiction writers, lyric essays are a gold standard of experimentation and language, but conquering the form takes lots of practice. The lyric essay combines the autobiographical information of a personal essay with the figurative language and form of poetry. In the lyric essay, the rules of both poetry and prose become suggestions, because the form of the essay is constantly changing. The lyric essay combines autobiographical writing with the figurative language and form of poetry. You might start your essay with a normal paragraph, then describe something specific through a sonnet or villanelle, then express a different idea through a prose poem, a list, or even a contrapuntal. Or complain.
Nonfiction Explosions: THE BEST OF BREVITY
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The image of the braid is powerfully suggestive of attempts to reconcile threads that are sometimes difficult to reconcile. In this way, the braided essay can be a helpful teacher: an exercise in creative nonfiction that encourages non-linear storytelling. Three narratives are brought together by connecting words or images that puts the threads into conversation with each other.