Thursday, 15 May 2014

Creative Nonfiction is as Good as Fiction: Show it Well and Don't just Tell It.

 I'm a writer of Creative Nonfiction and I love it. It's not the dry, dreary, boring or poor second cousin of fiction, but when written well, is just as vibrant, exciting and page turning. I love making my stories entertaining and informative and hope to enrich and excite readers' lives through the reading of those stories. And surely this is what good fiction aims for too, especially if you show and not just tell.

Just telling a story is not enough, in fact it's downright boring and I myself will put that book down fast. When you show me a story, i.e. bring it to life in my imagination, I'll read it with all that I've got. 

This is especially true for creative nonfiction. I've read some wonderful stories long and short that, to me, are excellent examples of the what the genre is all about. Coming Clean by Kimberley Rae Miller is a memoir about a child growing up in a house of hoarders. The book and her writing style are very contemporary examples of creative nonfiction. 

As is this very short piece First Kiss by Sharon Lippincott. It's only 474 words, but speaks volumes and paints pictures and images so beautiful they linger much longer in the memory than the words alone. 

Let's look a little deeper. Creative nonfiction has all the Elements of Fiction: characters, plot, theme, setting and style.   

One of my first forays into creative nonfiction was a short ebook called Hi, I'm Winnie. Winnie is my very clever Labradoodle. She dictated the book to me and insisted it be written in her voice. The book became a series of 4 and  included Hunny, my other Labradoodle.

When I write my creative nonfiction stories, I use all of the Elements of Fiction. For example:
~ characters ~ Winnie and Hunny
~ plot ~ everyday funny, quirky happenings and challenges only dogs can have
~ theme ~ Winnie and Hunny's lives
~ setting ~ our backyard, our town, the beach
~ style ~ humorous, 1st person dog perspective

First and foremost I need colourful and interesting characters with issues, who readers fall in love with or hate, and whose personalities evolve and enrich reader's imaginations.

There needs to be a plot which takes readers on a journey and has an ending, a theme which is engaging and page turning, and a setting vivid enough in print to bring images to mind.

Then I like to use charming humour for these short stories because it's perfect for gorgeous fur-babies who've written their own books :)

Just as much effort goes into the work of my books, into creative nonfiction in general, just as much research, just as much blood sweat and, oh yes tears, as goes into fiction. Follow the same process and structure, write, edit and question what stays in and what goes. Edit more, fine tune again and again, and at some point there is a book which you're happy with and is ready and good enough for publication. 

The technicalities are the same, yes, and nowadays the products are pretty damned good too. 

And that's it. The essence of writing either fiction or creative nonfiction is the same. Whether the story is made up or whether it's true life doesn't matter, it must be able to show not just tell. Creative nonfiction does that now too.  

Next week: Updates on "Staying Strong" and the crystal book

Have a great weekend everyone


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