Breaking the Traditional Narrative Arc

Wednesday, April 6, 2022 @ 2:00 pm - 3:15 pm Eastern

The pull to write along the traditional narrative arc is strong, but sometimes defying that instinct creates a more compelling and creative essay or book.


Additional Information

In her recent book On Freedom, Maggie Nelson quotes social theorist Brian Massumi: “Freedom always rises from constraint—it’s a creative conversion of it, not some utopian escape from it.”

The traditional narrative arc is a creative choice that restricts how action, climax, and eventual resolution will flow through an essay’s or book’s structure. But what happens when you abandon that approach? Breaking the traditional arc goes beyond braiding or collaging; it can also mean adopting a nonlinear chronology and leaving space for the reader to fill mentally.

This webinar will consider how and when to reach for nontraditional structures, with examples of essays that do this successfully.  A reading list will be provided at the end of the webinar for additional independent study.

In this webinar, you will:

  • ANALYZE a nontraditional narrative to see how it works,
  • CONSIDER craft elements when breaking the narrative arc, and
  • EXPLORE the possibilities of using nontraditional structure in your own writing.

There will be time for a Q & A at the end of the presentation.

The following essays will be referenced during the webinar:

“The Machine” by Krys Malcolm Belc

“Clean Slates” by Laura Laing


“The Long Fall of One-Eleven Heavy” by Michael Paterniti

This webinar is ideal for experienced essayists or memoirists who are interested in exploring nontraditional narrative structures that experiment with time, space, and structure.

All registrants receive a recording.

To request closed captioning, please email [email protected].

Course Presenter

Course Registration


Out of stock

Become a Supporting Subscriber today and get up to 10% off your purchase.

Please Note

It is not uncommon for classes to fill up before the end of early registration, particularly in the last few days before the deadline. If you know for certain that you wish to take a particular class, we recommend registering early. If you'd like to be added to a waitlist for a sold-out class, please email our director of education, Sharla Yates, at [email protected].

Hear from our Students

Creative Nonfiction’s online writing classes have helped more than 3,000 writers tell their stories better.

Read Success Stories


I enjoyed reading other peoples work and getting feedback about my own work– the handouts/video links and class lessons were also very informative and relevantly paced to the give structural guidelines.

Catherine O’Neill