Monday, July 27, 2009

Talking about Creative Nonfiction


I was asked to speak on the art and craft of creative nonfiction at the Springfield (MO) chapter of the Writer's Guild last week. I'm no public speaker, and so I made myself an outline, which served as a hand-out as well, and was able to fill the 30 minutes.

The two things that created the most vigorous discussion were the idea of "truth" and, more prosaically, the definition (What is ... ?) creative nonfiction.

I offered my idea that there is objective truth and subjective (individual) truth, which some attending questioned. As to the definition, one writer attending thought that that writers could fictionalize essays to get across a "true" point, to which I replied no, no, no.

Another writer mentioned faction, particularly Michael Shaara's Killer Angels. I suggested the difference might be discerned by reading and comparing Evan S. Connell's Son of the Morning Star.

So how does a person write a creative nonfiction essay? I'd say incorporate these elements in telling a true story ...
  • Reportage
  • Interpretation
  • Scene
  • Drama
  • Dialog
  • Character
  • Back story
  • Sensory amplification
  • Introspection
  • Lyrical language.
  • Visibility of the writer

1 comment:

Carter said...

I think you're right all the way, Gary--except on one point. I cringed when I read "lyrical language."

To some that means simply decent prose, but to a great many writers these days it seems to mean drop in a metaphor or a simile with every other breath. Stuff like that simply makes me sneer--the writer tries too hard, and it shows.

I'm not condemning figures of speech--I'm attacking gross overuse of such things.