View Full Version : What is "Creative Nonfiction"?

10-02-2007, 03:12 AM
Hi guys, I read this term somewhere and I'm not sure what it exactly means. Thanks!

10-02-2007, 03:17 AM
Try this link:


10-02-2007, 03:21 AM
Think David Sedaris.
I *think* is a nonfiction story with some fictional embellishment.

10-02-2007, 03:23 AM
very good example, Wendy. I would have cited him too.

10-04-2007, 08:19 PM
In this day and age, I would say almost all journalism can fall under this title. So can most lay-oriented nonfiction books. But I come from an academic background, so my idea of nonfiction and fiction are pretty rigid.

10-04-2007, 08:27 PM
tom wolfe did it over and over again.

question: how much fictionalizing must be present to disqualify a book from the creative nonfiction catalouge? i was wondering this when i read dave eggers' what is the what (excellent book btw). he combines many factual stories of the sudanese lost boys into one fictional-ish character. nonfiction?

10-05-2007, 03:58 PM
Creative nonfiction definitely takes license with the facts, also, perhaps covers a period of time/event where there is not a lot known (if any) about the actual event. One example of a children's book series, The Magic Schoolbus (some label this fiction) where fictional characters go through actual events and kids are learning without even realizing it ... edutainment!

10-05-2007, 04:17 PM
Magic School Bus is wonderful. My kids learned much from that series.

10-09-2007, 07:26 PM
Hi guys, I read this term somewhere and I'm not sure what it exactly means. Thanks!

Creative non fiction is a literary style used to tell a non fiction story. All facts are researched etc. It is a style that makes reading non fiction more like fiction.

10-13-2007, 03:34 AM
Another term used is "Narrative Non-Fiction" where indeed a story is told - complete with plots, dramatic rises, etc. I don't believe it's an license to embellish factual events by any means - so, I disagree respectfully with the comments of "SHBueche".

10-24-2007, 04:44 AM
Creative nonfiction is artful nonfiction. So, there's straightforward newspaper journalism--just the facts, ma'am. Get everything out in the lede paragraph, and craft the story so the reader can drop off at any time, or it can be cut, if space is an issue.

And then there are lyrical essays, memoirs, etc., with a beginning, middle, and end, themes, etc.

I would gently disagree with fellow posters and say that, if it's nonfiction, it should not be fiction. (Think of the trouble James Frey got in when people discovered that a lot of the things in A Million Little Pieces didn't happen.)

Here are some of my favorite examples of nonfiction books:

Scraping By in the Big Eighties (http://www.amazon.com/Scraping-Big-Eighties-American-Lives/dp/080324309X/ref=sr_1_1/102-7957162-7871320?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1193185934&sr=1-1) by Natalia Rachel Singer
Here If You Need Me (http://http://www.amazon.com/Here-If-You-Need-Me/dp/0316066303/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/102-7957162-7871320?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1193185775&sr=1-1) by Kate Braestrup
Winter (http://www.amazon.com/Winter-Notes-Montana-Rick-Bass/dp/0395611504/ref=sr_1_1/102-7957162-7871320?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1193185977&sr=1-1)by Rick Bass
Inside Passage (http://www.amazon.com/Inside-Passage-Living-Kwakiutl-Indians/dp/0966062507/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/102-7957162-7871320?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1193186026&sr=1-1) by Michael Modzelewski
This Boy's Life (http://www.amazon.com/This-Boys-Life-Tobias-Wolff/dp/0802136680/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/102-7957162-7871320?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1193186083&sr=1-1) by Tobias Wolff
The Things They Carried (http://www.amazon.com/Things-They-Carried-Tim-OBrien/dp/0767902890/ref=pd_bbs_2/102-7957162-7871320?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1193186143&sr=1-2) by Tim O'Brien

10-24-2007, 06:48 PM
I agree with ADS! (and with tombookpub and others)

Creative nonfiction refers to the application of creative writing techniques (symbolism, metaphor, poetic rhythms and resonances, etc.) to nonfiction. If you start including fictional events and characters, you're no longer writing nonfiction.

For instance, say you want to write about your famous father.

A journalistic approach would be "just the facts, ma'am"-- a biographical article that highlights his biggest accomplishments and main characteristics, perhaps in chronological order.

A creative nonfiction approach would likely be more anecdotal, less chronological, more about how you perceived these experiences...you might focus on your father's favorite chair or hobby and use creative techniques like symbolism and metaphor. You'd perhaps do more to establish atmosphere and tone, etc., etc.

But the factual events and characteristics would be the same. And the events you describe should have actually happened.