I'm writing a long-form non-fiction piece that details the events of a young man's life from many different perspectives.

I have quotes from him, his family, and his friends.

What are some ways I can accurately and honestly dramatize what they told me, without transcribing their words? What if they provided very little experiential detail?

  • Are the inputs from each source grouped together or are they mixed up in your narrative? In other words, are all of his brother's quotes collected in a single chapter or are they inserted throughout the book? Jan 11, 2017 at 14:43
  • @HenryTaylor - They are inserted throughout the piece.
    – MSD
    Jan 13, 2017 at 23:44

2 Answers 2


There is no best way. The way you choose must come from your artistic vision and the demands of the story as you see it. Between the two, you must employ your creativity to find a form.

Biographies can be anything from a commented edition of original documents (in your case, the verbatim transcription of the interviews) to a fictionalized story large parts of which are made up and have never happened like they are told at all.

You could go to a library and look through some (recent) biographies or view some documentary movies to inspire you.

  • I feel like this was the type of encouragement and idea-line I needed to read. Thank you. (And I have a collection of "inspiration" that I now need to summon).
    – MSD
    Jan 13, 2017 at 23:46

One option is to fictionalize your narrative, such as...

Over the last six months, I've interviewed some of the people who were involved in the young man's life. In reviewing their contributions, I like to imagine them all sitting together in a room and discussing their insights.

Mary is the subject's older sister, an advertising executive living in New York. "He was always a shy child. I remember trying to include him in social events, but he almost always stayed home."

Bill is quick to contradict his sister. "I wasn't shy. I just didn't like your friends."

I can almost hear the siblings' discourse even though, of course, I met with each of them separately. My imaginary meeting really gets interesting when Bill's mother, Susan enters the room.


By creating a fictional encounter, you get to leverage the rich tool set of "He said" and "She said" alternatives to craft an information rich narrative, which accurately integrates your non-fiction quotes, with fictional (but fact based) responses from Bill (the subject) and yourself (the narrator).

  • Thank you for a lovely example. Wish I had more rep to upvote.
    – MSD
    Jan 13, 2017 at 23:45

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