Writing Creative Nonfiction

“Creative nonfiction tells a story the usage of information, however makes use of among the strategies of fiction for its compelling characteristics and emotional vibrancy,” in line with Theodore A. Rees Cheney in his ebook “Writing Creative Nonfiction: Fiction Techniques for Crafting Great “Nonfiction (Ten Speed Press, 2001, p. 1). “Creative nonfiction doesn’t simply record records, it offers statistics in approaches that circulate the reader in the direction of a deeper understanding of a subject. Creative nonfiction requires the skills of the storyteller and the research potential of the conscientious reporter.”

Nonfiction informs. Fiction entertains. Creative nonfiction seeks to do each.

Creative nonfiction is a style that straddles the road among reality and fiction-the former because the whole thing ought to be accurate and accurate and the latter due to the fact the writer presents it in an interesting, associative, dramatic manner that suggests the novel.

As a honestly hybrid style, it combines the elements of traditional nonfiction with the ones of fiction.

“Creative nonfiction writers make investments their articles and books with the feeling of real life, existence as it’s lived, not as we suppose it might be or have to be, but as near as viable to the various realities that exist simultaneously in this global,” keeps Rees Cheney (ibid, p, fifty nine).

In fiction, the writer ought to remain real to the story he creates.

In nonfiction, he must stay actual to the statistics which create the tale.


Lee Gutkind, founder and editor of Creative Nonfiction magazine, defines the style as “proper stories properly advised,” however, like jazz, it can be a wealthy combination of flavors, ideas, and strategies. Compared to conventional nonfiction, which may be monotone and one-note, it is able to comprise the whole spectrum of scales. It can run the gambit from the essay to a studies paper, a journal article, a memoir, and a complete-period e-book, whether it’s autobiographical or approximately others in nature.

As the fastest developing genre, it consists of such books as Unbroken by using Laura Hillenbrand, The Immortal Life of Henriette Lacks by way of Rebecca Skloot, Growing Up via Russel Baker, and The Glass Castle with the aid of Jeanette Wall. It was their very “creativity” that brought about their productions as most important movement images.

Their elements have to be approached with caution, however. The words “innovative” and “nonfiction” simplest describe the shape itself, whilst the first of the 2 terms refers to the usage of literary craft-that is, the techniques fiction writers use to give nonfiction-or factually accurate prose about real humans and events advised in a compelling, vivid, and dramatic manner. The intention is to make nonfiction memories study like fiction so that their readers are as enthralled via fact as they’re with the aid of myth. If creatively achieved, they can be taken into consideration examples of “painless mastering.”

Creative, but, is a term some writers have interpreted too creatively. They on occasion erroneously trust that it grants them license to pretend, exaggerate, and adorn, crossing the road between nonfiction and fiction in greater than technique. It does no longer. Take the well-known case of James Frey’s memoir, A Million Little Pieces. It can also have been compelling, however it become an exaggeration, to place it mildly, and consequently extra fiction than truth.

Although innovative nonfiction books, consisting of memoirs, provide a personal, in the back of-the-scenes glimpse into the lives of political, sports activities, and movie figures alike, certainly one of their appeals is the exposure in their very own imperfections, foibles, misdeeds, and errors, permitting readers to relate to the kindred-spirit humanity they each share, no matter their larger-than-life notoriety and successes. In different phrases, they’re human beings too.

While widespread and innovative nonfiction ought to each be well-researched, correct money owed of actual human beings and occasions, they vary in their portrayal and delivery strategies. The latter recreates moments of time, provides fully realized settings, characters, moves, and dialogue, and weaves all of those factors into a story that reads like fiction.

In the stop, fashionable nonfiction pieces are pushed by way of information. Creative nonfiction ones are driven through their presentation.


While nonfiction records, reviews, and teaches information to readers, it is able to be dry and devoid of feeling and emotion. Yet the reader’s mastering experience may be substantially more suitable whilst that “lesson,” just like the contents of fictional pieces, serves to entertain, for the reason that he employs higher emotional levels to partake of the revel in, growing leisure and fostering greater memory retention.

What, as an example, could you instead do: examine a chapter in a records book or see a live play on Broadway? Which would you locate greater pleasing?


1). History

2). Biography

3). Autobiography/Personal History

four). Memoir

five). Travel/Sense of Place

6). Personal Reflections

7). Human Nature

eight). Journalism (Think 60 Minutes)


Although the innovative nonfiction style need to stay loyal to what came about, it does so by means of fictional writing factors, along with using the lively as opposed to the passive voice, bringing characters to lifestyles, generating speak, the use of narrative versus expository writing to create scenes, and evoking drama, all to interact and almost entertain the reader.

Tom Wolfe, of The Right Stuff fame and an early user-if now not inventor-of this blended-style, once commented, “What involved me was not surely the invention that it was feasible to write down correct nonfiction with techniques generally related to novels (and) short testimonies. It was that plus. It become the discovery that it changed into viable in nonfiction, in journalism, to apply any literary tool… To excite the reader each intellectually and emotionally.” (Theodore A. Rees Cheney, ibid, p. 3).


Creative nonfiction implies borrowing or using fiction techniques and giving it the structure or look of one style when, in truth, it’s miles another-or, ironically, fact.

Because it’s far constructed upon extra than just the reporting of statistics, it frequently employs the narrative technique of writing-this is, it includes a string of vital scenes to awaken vibrancy, just because the novelist does in composing his books.

“Writing in the dramatic method (in scenes) is suitable in innovative nonfiction. As fiction writers understand, scenes supply energy, motion, action-existence-to a tale. Scenes show human beings doing things, pronouncing things, shifting proper along in lifestyles’s ongoing flow.” (Theodore A. Rees Cheney, ibid, p. Eleven).

While a journalist or newspaper reporter may record at the immediacy of an occasion, undertaking interviews for helping fees, the creative non-fictionalist may additionally record an event or episode in history years after it passed off, requiring plenty greater and in-depth research to achieve this. Its greater impact will maximum probable be regarded by this time.

“For the nonfiction writer, advice to expose in preference to tell method positioned greater drama into your nonfiction writing. Show the reader what is occurring. We accept as true with what we see; we mistrust what we’re told. That’s the name of the game to writing, whether or not fiction or nonfiction. Capture our reader’s attention via the eyes and ears-the senses.” (Theodore A. Rees Cheney, ibid, p. 12).

It turns into, in spite of everything, more effective when the reader can watch a tale spread earlier than his eyes than simply analyzing what he is advised.


Since the journalist and creative non-fictionalist each strive for truth and accuracy, is there any difference among the two? It depends upon the filter.

Journalists keep on with the facts and concrete details, employing expository writing.

Creative non-fictionalists may additionally do the same, but the “creative” portion of the designation can most effective be done thru an emotional filter, which breathes existence into the incidents and characters, and he can also employ each expository and narrative writing.

“They sense the entire reality has now not been informed until the emotional context is there. Both traditional and innovative nonfiction writers aim for the equal thing-fact-or the correct portrayal of existence. They fluctuate, however, on what reality method and what such accuracy includes.” (Theodore A. Rees Cheney, ibid, p. 36).


The widespread and creative nonfiction genres can be contrasted as follows.

Standard nonfiction makes use of and consists of facts and interviews for accuracy, completeness, and objectivity.

Creative nonfiction is respectful of statistics, but is normally based extra like fiction, employing scenes, dialogue, and characters.

“The scene is the dramatic element in fiction and creative nonfiction. (It) is the fundamental block around which the writer paperwork the tale. A tale normally has a number of scenes, and the technique first-class utilized in creative nonfiction is to develop the tale scene by way of scene. A scene reproduces the movement of lifestyles: existence is movement, action.” (Theodore A. Rees Cheney, ibid, p. 54).

It additionally imitates existence-this is, the way it plays out.


1). Always use and by no means exchange truth: Creative nonfiction continually embraces records and in no way releases its grip. The author of this style have to connect the dots with plausible action and/or talk, however never dispose of or tamper with the dots themselves. He should withstand any temptation to permit his creativity or imagination to regulate, distort, or ignore fact. A man or woman who writes a innovative nonfiction piece approximately the War of 1812, for instance, but believes that it sounds extra possible to round out the date to 1815, is writing fiction.

2). Extensively studies events and those. Use number one assets, which include documents, police information, and transcripts first, and secondary ones, which include other posted books, next, earlier than you try to write creative nonfiction, or your imagination might also “conveniently” fill inside the blanks where facts is missing.

Three). Create an outline: Because innovative nonfiction’s appeal is the mixture of a true tale (yours or someone else’s) and a compelling, attractive narrative, which reads greater like a novel, the simplest technique of doing so is to create a honestly defined structure and goal. First develop the story’s skeleton (what happens, while, and wherein) and then flesh it out with the info obtained from first-hand research. Only inside the case of gaps ought to the author even consider using reconstructed communicate between actual characters.

Four). Create scenes: Since fiction and innovative nonfiction percentage the factors of scene, they turn out to be the engines that power the tale via activities, characters, and speak. They comprise the proverbial “Show, do not inform” philosophy. While it’ll maximum probably be not possible to omit any expository writing (fiction additionally employs it), the narrative elements provide the “creative” component of the style.


There are several methods a creative nonfiction e book may be structured, as follows.

1). Chronological structure: The story or account is provided within the chronological order or series wherein it occurred, whether it spanned several days or years.

2). Flashback structure: The story is associated by way of flashbacks, discussing the events that preceded the author’s gift-time narrative and explains, illustrates, or clarifies how and why the current nation or event took place.

3). Trip structure: Very just like an itinerary, the experience shape follows the adventure it seeks to illustrate. A go u . S . A . Ride, as an example, can also start with a traverse of the George Washington Bridge and then describe the activities that arise inside the states passed via alongside the manner.

4). Personal trip shape: The creator describes his or her personal journey-this is, how the activities and people he encountered changed him, his emotions, and ideals-and the vacation spot to which they led, which, in essence, is the man or woman’s own transformation. This is a very applicable technique for e-book-period memoirs.

5). Beginning on the quit: Similar to the flashback shape, it includes, as its name implies, beginning the account on the quit and then tracing the way it all brought about the existing situation or circumstance. A standard example would start: “I’m forty five-years-antique. My husband just requested me for a divorce. My children have long in the past flown the coop. And once I remaining checked, I had $a hundred to my name. I concept I’d achieved the whole thing right. How did all of it pass so wrong?”


The content material of innovative nonfiction articles and books will appreciably vary according to the author’s private angle of method to his subject, of which there are two principle types.

1). Objective: The creator maintains a detached, actual method. In the case of a train derailment, a railroad engineer might file at the type of locomotive, the wide variety of vehicles, the music gauge, the speed, any protection infractions, and the number and severity of inquiries and casualties on board.

2). Subjective: The writer, consisting of the ambulance driving force who first arrived at the scene, employs extra of a personal remark, including his observations, emotions, and emotions as he handled and administered aid to the injured or deceased.


The factor of view involves figuring out and then uniformly using the set of eyes through which the tale can be related-that is, via the writer’s own-“I” or the primary character-or another’s–“he” or “she” or the 0.33 individual. Determination may be optimally finished via asking several questions.

1). Whose story is that this?

2). Who ought to maximum correctly relate it?

3). Shall I use the first person (I) or the third character (he or she) because the narrator?


Scene writing gives several strengths.

1). It inspires sensual images inside the reader’s mind, enabling him to immerse himself inside the narrative.

2). T makes beyond gift.

3). The events spread earlier than the reader, not to the reader.

Four). Characters are experienced via dialogue, gestures, and emotions.

Five). The reader partakes of, instead of observes, the revel in.

Six) r-cushion-and-pockets-5-colors

Because innovative nonfiction involves the inclusion of scenes to demonstrate the tale and there are most possibly masses of them the writer has to select from, he need to be selective. In order to ameliorate this undertaking, he must don’t forget the subsequent.

1). Which essential scenes, while considered collectively, will most correctly and absolutely illustrate the tale?

2). Which ones provide the greatest quantity of drama and might serve as turning points, inclusive of life-converting activities, tragedies, births, deaths, arguments, divorces, epiphanies? The day your son modified his faith may also qualify. The day he changed his socks could not.

Three). Which ones provide the maximum visual and sensual impacts?