If you’re a writer yourself, or an avid reader, you may already know what literary types mean by “Creative Nonfiction.” Otherwise, maybe not.
“True stories well told” is how it’s described by the journal named after the genre, Creative Nonfiction. Or, you can say Creative Nonfiction consists of the taking an experience—your own or someone else’s—and writing about it in a way that reads like fiction, but isn’t.
Creative Nonfiction Editor Lee Gutkind says, “The word ‘creative’ refers simply to the use of literary craft in presenting nonfiction—that is, factually accurate prose about real people and events—in a compelling, vivid manner. To put it another way, creative nonfiction writers do not make things up; they make ideas and information that already exist more interesting and, often, more accessible.”
That looks like a good definition to me.
One of my favorite quotes about writing comes from Allan Gurganus, best known for his novel The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All. In an interview he once said, “Stories only happen to people who can tell them.”
Years ago, a friend of mine drove solo from Virginia to Vermont, straight through New York City — which she’d never before visited — without a map.
“Wow,” I said when she got home and told me about it. “How did that go?”
“Oh, when I got into Manhattan I lost my way. But people were nice and I found the right road again.”
But she simply shrugged. She didn’t think any other details were important enough to tell. In someone else’s hands, the ordeal of getting lost in the largest city in the U.S., asking strangers for directions, and getting back on track would have made for a lengthy, and likely humorous, adventure.
Stories only happen to people who can tell them.
Creative nonfiction turns ordinary — and extraordinary — experiences into stories that others will want to read. Enjoy.
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