*Please read Serious Non-Fiction Development: Part 1 of a Semester’s Reflections for an explanation of this series. This week’s post is a response to a reading from an insightful book on successfully publishing serious non-fiction. Below is the question prompt followed by my response.
For your blog/project assignment, make a simple list of your book’s chapters: give a working title for each chapter and a tentative, very short summary of what each chapter will cover. At this point, try to keep the chapter summaries to just 2-3 sentences each. In addition to summarizing each chapter’s scope, go ahead and indicate which type of chapter it will be, using Rabiner’s three categories: context chapter, narrative chapter, and break-narrative chapter. Lastly, after you make your table of contents and brief chapter summaries, finish your blog post with a statement about which part(s) of the book you’ll be drafting for your sample chapter. Give a couple reasons to explain why you have chosen to focus on that portion of the book.
I must admit this assignment intimidated me more than I anticipated. It’s typical to approach school assignments from a small mindset that’s hedged in by the safe walls of education, so looking at this like an actual project, a real book submission, is unnerving. Still, I’m looking forward to plotting out how this would break down. I’m currently unsure of which chapter would be best-suited for my sample chapter. Hopefully, this assignment will decide for me.
Self-explanatory, and Rabiner said “you don’t need to explain what will be in the introduction or epilogue.” It will, however, be narrative-driven and one of the more personal chapters of the book.
Part 1 (A brief history of the wolves in North America including the effect of settlers from the mid-1600s, recovery and rehabilitation efforts by environmentalists from the 1960s, and modern-day conservation efforts):
Chapter 1: Legend, Lore, and Legacy: The History of the Wolves in North America
This would mostly be a context chapter discussing some of the scientific origins of wolves and their characteristics. However, that would flow directly into their earliest history in North America and briefly begin the narrative by expounding on their interactions with the Indigenous Americans and how they lived in harmony with people and other species. This chapter would lead up to the start of the 1600s.
Chapter 2: Malicious Monsters: The Colonial Impact and the War on Wolves
This would be a narrative chapter and unfold the destruction of the environment and the direct attacks on wolves and other predators by colonial conquerors. This chapter is the backbone of the argument because it’s the direct cause of the wolves’ plight as well as all the environmental problems we face today. It will hint at the future impacts our ancestors’ actions caused and raise many questions that will not be fully addressed until the end of the book (here’s a hint: the malicious monsters are not the wolves).
Chapter 3: Answering the Call of the Wild: Deliberate and Coincidental Human-Wolf Interactions
This would be a break-narrative chapter that focuses on personal encounters with wolves in the wild and the humans who dared to answer their call. It will span from the days of Lewis and Clark all the way to a modern-day New Zealand couple who, with their dog, spent an entire year within stroking distance of these wilderness sages. I’m also considering including fictional or ancient tales of wolf-human interactions, like Native American histories and stories like The Jungle Book.
Chapter 4: Defending the Predator: The Subtle Journey from Resurgence to Silence
This would be a narrative chapter introducing the table-turning effect of the environmental awakening fronted by the likes of Rachel Carson and other public intellectuals in the 1960s. It will then describe the fallout during the 80s and the turn from environmental awareness. The chapter will close with the current situation today, including the open hunting of wolves and other predators in many states as well as the toll people are taking on the environment.
Part 2 (The benefit of wolves to our ecosystem and what will happen if things do not change or worsen, and suggestions to sustain and grow the wolf population):
Chapter 5: A Natural Antidote: The Wolf’s Critical Role in Restoring the Environment
This will be a strict context chapter that explains the positive impact wolves have on the ecosystem and therefore society—what impacts one species impacts another, and so on. This one will be extremely research and science-driven and will include a section on the transformation of Yellowstone after wolves were reintroduced.
Chapter 6: And Then There Was One: The Captivity Program and Reintroduction Challenges
This is a continuing narrative chapter and will discuss the process of reintroduction efforts from the mid-80s to the present. It will still incorporate hard data like wolf populations throughout rehabilitation and the exact processes used by scientists and reintroduction experts, but it will continue with the narrative feel discussing on-going efforts today and the challenges wolves and their protectors face.
Chapter 7: The Magic Pack: The Return to Glacier National Park
This is a break-narrative chapter closely following a specific wolf pack. It will force the readers to view the wolves in a direct narrative and personal light as I illustrate the struggles of a reintroduced pack, and emphasizing the wolves’ names and their relationships should show the readers a human side that they hopefully won’t be able to detach from easily. This should be successful after reading (in chapter 2) about how mankind put them in this detrimental situation in the first place.
Chapter 8: An Alpine Line: The Tipping Point Between Man and the Natural World and Visions of Equilibrium
The final chapter is a narrative that is strongly based on my own conclusions and projections given the history and research to this point. It will paint the picture of two possible futures: one with wolves and one without. I want to end the chapter with the latter because I want that climax of emotion prior to my epilogue.
Like the introduction, this section has a clear purpose. That being said, I intend to reiterate the steps people must take to better the future of the wolves and the environment (and, ultimately, ourselves). It’s going to be part conclusion and part call to action.
For the sample chapter, my instinct is to draw the first portion from chapters 2 and 4 (what I’m talking about) and the second half from chapters 5 and 8 (what I’m saying). This will give me historical grounds to build upon and a scientific approach to stabilize my claims, ultimately resulting in a sound diving board for my argument: the need for wolves and what life will look like without them if we do not acknowledge the errors of our ways.