Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What Is Creative Nonfiction?



The picture above is exactly what might be the motivation for a creative nonfiction story. This picture was taken a few years ago in South Africa at a game reserve farm. Samantha and Jonathan are grandchildren of a close friend of mine and the baby elephant was born on the property. The children live on the game reserve farm and have access to many animals that we would not think of being so close to. Here's another one of Sam holding a new tiger cub.

You could write a factual article about life on a game reserve farm or you could add something to it to make the story more interesting to the reader. Certain topics would work best in the factual nonfiction category but many can be done in this more creative style.

How does creative nonfiction differ from plain, ordinary nonfiction? It tells us a story that is true. Nothing in it can be made up. It really happened. The writer must take all the facts and weave them into a story that reads
like fiction. It should have a beginning, middle and ending. It should use the techniques of writing fiction, like sensory details and showing rather than only telling or 'reporting' what occurred.

There has been an increasing interest in creative nonfiction. Look at the many anthology series that have become popular, Chicken Soup for the Soul is one of the best known. All the stories in its multiple books are classified as creative nonfiction. If they had a book theme on Unusual Pets, the children and animals in these two pictures would qualify as a great true but unusual story. The writer could tell about the children waiting for the birth of the baby elephant whose mother is named Three. And how about that tiger cub Sam is holding the same as most girls might hold a new puppy? There has to be a good story to be related in that scene.

Creative nonfiction can often be found in magazines and even some newspapers. Memoirs might also be classified as creative nonfiction. 

Have you tried your hand at writing creative nonfiction? If you've written a family story about someone or something that happened in your family, whether present day or long ago, you're writing in this genre. List a bunch of facts and figures and leave out the story line, and you're writing strictly nonfiction. A report on a country or an economic situation would qualify here. But if you give us that report on a country by telling a true story about someone who traveled there and what happened, it's creative nonfiction. 

Use a search engine to find detailed articles on writing good creative nonfiction. I probably write more of this type of story than any other. Have you tried it? If not, give it whirl. You may find a whole new category for your writing skills. The important thing to remember is that it must actually have happened. No make-believe.

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