Every nonfiction writer should insert fiction into their writing.
In Brevity's "Taiwan 1969," Karen Kao does this and creates a haunting story. Children give the point of view for this piece. Since imagination infiltrates children's lives, it's easy for Kao to make their world a metaphorical ocean.
So naturally, the mother is an octopus, the customs officer a dogfish, and the children, eels.
The story's precise metaphors leave readers with unforgettable imagery.
Long after the piece ends, we remember the mother octopus and all of her arms collecting, prodding, embracing. We recall the threat of the customs dogfish. And the playfulness of a cousin's fins.
And isn't that what every writer wants--for readers to think back to their story?
The metaphorical world inserts another element of mystery.
The new world of Taipei and Beijing is an ocean and we wonder how the mother and her children will navigate it. Will they come out unscathed or joyful? Or will the new world bring on more mysteries that the children can't solve?
These questions bring suspense and tension to the story.
And fittingly for the children protagonists, the metaphorical world is fun and instructive--where else can you learn that octopuses have beaks for teeth?