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BruceJ
12-06-2006, 07:10 AM
I heard this term--creative non-fiction--on a radio interview once and I really liked it. Liked it so much I adopted it in the title page disclaimer on my Biblical historical novel.

If a novel is based upon a Biblical figure and includes Biblical events, unless we're prepared to discount the Biblical record as historical, it's not really fiction, in my way of thinking. The "creative" part comprises the elements of the story (characters, scenes, etc.) that are contrived to advance the story line. The "non-fiction", of course, are the characters and occurences reflected in Scripture.

Is this old news and I'm just now waking up? Am I being too much of a purist? Are there enough of me to change anything? Is anything really worth changing? Will our hero escape in the final reel? (Sorry, got carried away...)

Nateskate
12-06-2006, 07:24 PM
People like to categorize things. It's a human nature thing.

I guess there are some books like Tommy Tenney's 'Hadassah', which has historical elements and fiction elements. It's not entirely made up, but it extrapolates and doesn't pretend to be fully historical- It has a "It could have gone something like this..." element to it.

When you blend the two, fiction and history, it has to come under some classification. Although, I think labels tend to confine rather than help people.

Let me explain. When people find out I'm a Christian, they almost ask right off, "Oh...where do you go to church..." Often, they are really saying, "I want to know where you are coming from...if I can trust you...are you in a cult...are you really, really, really saved, or are you a baptised heathen, were you dunked, sprinkled, or held over a fire, so I know if I can convert you- or dare say, write you off???"

Sad, but I almost never ask that question for that reason. Once people know that one thing, they assume they can define you and know exactly where you're coming from, where you vote on issues.

So, labels in reality are a lazy man's way of trying to sum up everything and simplify so everyone around has to think less. Still, that's the way of the world, and the market place. They want a quick and easy definition because they will either buy or pass by based on presuming to know what's in the book or what's in the person, from a title, before turning a page or letting us speak.

Nate

BruceJ
12-06-2006, 09:32 PM
People like to categorize things. It's a human nature thing.

I guess there are some books like Tommy Tenney's 'Hadassah', which has historical elements and fiction elements. It's not entirely made up, but it extrapolates and doesn't pretend to be fully historical- It has a "It could have gone something like this..." element to it.

When you blend the two, fiction and history, it has to come under some classification. Although, I think labels tend to confine rather than help people.

Let me explain. When people find out I'm a Christian, they almost ask right off, "Oh...where do you go to church..." Often, they are really saying, "I want to know where you are coming from...if I can trust you...are you in a cult...are you really, really, really saved, or are you a baptised heathen, were you dunked, sprinkled, or held over a fire, so I know if I can convert you- or dare say, write you off???"

Sad, but I almost never ask that question for that reason. Once people know that one thing, they assume they can define you and know exactly where you're coming from, where you vote on issues.

So, labels in reality are a lazy man's way of trying to sum up everything and simplify so everyone around has to think less. Still, that's the way of the world, and the market place. They want a quick and easy definition because they will either buy or pass by based on presuming to know what's in the book or what's in the person, from a title, before turning a page or letting us speak.

Nate

Thanks for the reply, Nate. Agreed, we do like to categorize thing--and sometimes to the detriment of the community of interest. But not always. It's a natural tool for learning/comprehending by association. The association could be good or bad, but it's still a tool. It can indeed be the lazy way to make a quick decision as to whether to continue with the subject, that's true. However, I'm not sure it's so negative, especially WRT your example. If you say you're a Christian, you've already tagged yourself. The probing questions can simply be a non-lazy method of ascertaining what you mean by the tag, which is often misapplied. For example, I had a friend many years ago who once opined, "I think everyone is Christian in their own way." Finding out what a person really means by identifying him/herself as a Christian can be important to the future of a relationship--or even just an ensuing conversation--and asking what church/denomination a person attends/claims is just peeling back the first layer of the onion. No snap judgment should be made on the answer to the question, but it's a start. It at least has the potential of pointing the questioner toward a creedal position. Your string of examples of what the person might "really mean" lessens in importance as you travel down the list, but the first ones are kind of important. I'm not sure I'd group them all on an equal plane.


...it has to come under some classification.

True, and that's really why I asked the question. The industry is going to label it if you don't (or sometimes in spite of what you do), so the question really is how much say you'd like to have in the tagging and how important is that tag as an author.

AnnieColleen
12-06-2006, 10:16 PM
Why not call it historical fiction? Books in that category often include real historical events; it doesn't imply that those events didn't happen.

Nateskate
12-07-2006, 12:59 AM
Thanks for the reply, Nate. Agreed, we do like to categorize thing--and sometimes to the detriment of the community of interest. But not always. It's a natural tool for learning/comprehending by association. The association could be good or bad, but it's still a tool. It can indeed be the lazy way to make a quick decision as to whether to continue with the subject, that's true. However, I'm not sure it's so negative, especially WRT your example. If you say you're a Christian, you've already tagged yourself. The probing questions can simply be a non-lazy method of ascertaining what you mean by the tag, which is often misapplied. For example, I had a friend many years ago who once opined, "I think everyone is Christian in their own way." Finding out what a person really means by identifying him/herself as a Christian can be important to the future of a relationship--or even just an ensuing conversation--and asking what church/denomination a person attends/claims is just peeling back the first layer of the onion. No snap judgment should be made on the answer to the question, but it's a start. It at least has the potential of pointing the questioner toward a creedal position. Your string of examples of what the person might "really mean" lessens in importance as you travel down the list, but the first ones are kind of important. I'm not sure I'd group them all on an equal plane.



Laughs- I am prone to painting myself into a corner, then having to paint my way out.

You're right. I agree that we need to have definitions and distinctions. I'm rather against blurring the meaning of words, or people have no idea where they stand. And it is important to know who people are as well as who we are and where we stand.

In the context I meant this was that people tend to judge quickly based on little information. And this is true throughout the world. They used to call it "snap judgments".

But ponder this. Jesus allowed the disciples space, and they followed him for quite some time before he said, "And who do you say that I am?"

He didn't expect them to know simply because he said, "I am the Messiah!" Rather, if Jesus wants to give people the space to figure out who he is, then it is actually wise to allow space for that to happen.

So, when John the Baptist, who quotes from Isaiah about winnowing forks and threshing floors and the Lion of Judah, he winds up stumbling because things stopped going according to plan. He expected the Messiah to come in judgment. - and so after declaring, "This is he..." He winds up in prison and sends his disciples to ask, "Are you he...or should we look for another."

And so Jesus tells John's disciples to go back and tell John "what you saw" the lame walk, the blind see...etc.

In life we tend to like certain scriptures and views of God, and human nature also tends to avoid those that don't fit our own worldview. John expected judgment, and instead he sees Mercy. He, like most of his followers, who were Zealots, like Peter, wanted the Lion of Judah to come in and take Israel out of the hands of foriegners.

John was the voice crying in the Wilderness that Isaiah described, "...he will prepare the way of the Lord." But John himself failed to recall other scriptures in Isaiah about a light shining in the darkness, and the sacrificial Lamb (Isaiah 52-53), and about the healing deliverer Messiah.

What Jesus was doing was actually saying to John through these disciples was, "Look at the rest of Isaiah, and you will realize that this is also a function of the Messiah". (Paraphrasing the context)

Still, my origional point was that it's best if we're slow to judge, and quicker to listen, and not make up our minds based on superficial things. But in the balance, there is a place for making distinctions like you say.

BruceJ
12-08-2006, 12:53 AM
Why not call it historical fiction? Books in that category often include real historical events; it doesn't imply that those events didn't happen.

You're probably right, Annie. That was really the underlying point of my question--am I paying too much attention to it. I guess I tend to focus on the term "fiction" and equate "make-believe" to it, thereby implying that all the events in the story are fictional. I could take the same historical era and create all my characters and all my plot, and that, to me, would be historical fiction. But you're right, the story can have historical elements and still be considered fiction.

But that brings up an interest thought. Where does something cease being non-fiction and become fiction? For example, critics of Oliver Stone's JFK decried his mixing of fact and speculation, saying he represented the speculation as fact. (No personal opinion on this, I didn't see the movie)Same by the religious community over The Da Vinci Code. Is there a valid portion of the spectrum for something like creative non-fiction, where you can perhaps appeal to factual history to provide some weight for what you might be trying to say, and still build an interesting story line out of your imagination? And in the interest of integrity keep the two separate?

Thanks for the reply.

AnnieColleen
12-08-2006, 01:20 AM
where you can perhaps appeal to factual history to provide some weight for what you might be trying to say, and still build an interesting story line out of your imagination

See, to me this describes historical fiction, maybe with an author's note to make it more clear what is factual and what is imagined. I guess I'm not entirely clear what creative nonfiction might be -- do you have any examples?

BruceJ
12-08-2006, 02:03 AM
Okay, let me use my book as the example (since that's what prompted my thought's about this thread anyway).

The book is based upon 2 Kings 14:25 concerning the restoration of the land to Israel under the reign of Jeroboam II as revealed by God through the prophet Jonah. So the plot (or ultimate outcome of the book is factual). Jonah, Jeroboam II and Elisha are all in the book and are real historical Biblical figures. However, the individual scenes and many supporting characters that stitch the story line together are purely imaginary (as far as I know ;) ). So to say this is historical fiction may imply that the whole story is made up (aka "fictional"), which is not true. Hence the term "creative non-fiction", because the basis for the story and many of the prime characters are real, but other fictional elements are added to fill in the story.

Still just historical fiction? Maybe, I dunno...

AnnieColleen
12-08-2006, 04:21 AM
historical fiction may imply that the whole story is made up (aka "fictional")

To me the "historical" part of the description negates that, though. It's a balancing act, I guess.

I do think your book sounds like historical fiction. I guess I was wondering if you knew of any other books that used the creative nonfiction tag, so that I could get more context. Not a biggie.

BruceJ
12-08-2006, 07:34 AM
To me the "historical" part of the description negates that, though. It's a balancing act, I guess.

I felt the "historical" element simply meant it was placed in a specific era in the past, not that any of it needed to have actually happened.


I do think your book sounds like historical fiction. I guess I was wondering if you knew of any other books that used the creative nonfiction tag, so that I could get more context. Not a biggie.

I really don't have any other specific examples. I heard the term used on an NPR interview, but I tuned in too late to hear what the actual work under discussion was. Francine Rivers, in her recent Sons of Encouragement series of novellas describes what I'm talking about in her Introduction, although she doesn't use the term "creative non-fiction"--to support your impression, she really does just use the term "historical fiction" although she qualifies the work thusly: "These are historical men who actually lived....The outline of the story is provided by the Bible, and I have started with the facts provided for us there. Building on that foundation, I have created action, dialogue, internal motivations, and in some cases, additional characters that I feel are consistent with the biblical record. I have attempted to remain true to the scriptural message in all points, adding only what is necessary to aid in our understanding of that message." I don't know how she'd feel about the "creative non-fiction" tag (or if she'd even care).

In the final analysis, you're probably right. It's no biggie. It was just a point of curiosity on my part. Thanks for taking the time.

AnnieColleen
12-08-2006, 08:32 AM
I felt the "historical" element simply meant it was placed in a specific era in the past, not that any of it needed to have actually happened.
One more quick thought:

A specific era in the past will be defined by the events of that era. So, for example, I can write a Civil War novel about a fictional Yankee soldier and his cousin on the Confederate side. But I can't have them meet in battle if there wasn't a battle at that time and place. I can't have them take a message to a fictional general, and if I have one of them meet a real general, my description had better match what's historically known. Otherwise it's either poorly done historical fiction, or it's not historical fiction any more (if I've changed enough to make it alternate history or something else). Dealing with kings and prophets (high-level/historically people and events), I don't think you'd have too much trouble with people thinking they were made up.

Either term works. I just wanted to put that thought out there because it was nagging at me.

BruceJ
12-08-2006, 06:07 PM
One more quick thought:

A specific era in the past will be defined by the events of that era. So, for example, I can write a Civil War novel about a fictional Yankee soldier and his cousin on the Confederate side. But I can't have them meet in battle if there wasn't a battle at that time and place. I can't have them take a message to a fictional general, and if I have one of them meet a real general, my description had better match what's historically known. Otherwise it's either poorly done historical fiction, or it's not historical fiction any more (if I've changed enough to make it alternate history or something else). Dealing with kings and prophets (high-level/historically people and events), I don't think you'd have too much trouble with people thinking they were made up.

Either term works. I just wanted to put that thought out there because it was nagging at me.
True, and your description is probably a better one than what I was thinking. I more had in mind that I could have a pioneer family settling out west. This could be a self-contained story only implying an era and a general location with which at least most American readers would easily comprehend without mentioning any real places, historical events or real people. (This, to me, would be pure historical fiction). It would work (I've seen a few do that), but subjectively it's more interesting to me to have actual historical events tie into the story.Good reply, though, Annie and, again, thanks for your thoughts on it.