Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Creative NonFiction? Yes, Please


A friend and I have had discussions about the term "creative nonfiction." He asserts that all nonfiction is fiction and all fiction is nonfiction. He doesn't like the term, "creative nonfiction." That's his opinion and he's sticking to it - and I say that with a smile. It is one where we disagree, though I also wondered about it for a while, as well. It isn't that I disagree with my friend in terms of nonfiction and fiction overlapping, but I believe there is a place for this term. And I'm sticking to my opinion.

But as I'm returning to the M-book, I'm finding - again - that I love this term. Especially right now, when I need to write an important scene in the book but I am coming up blank.

Let me back up.  I will start with : What is "creative nonfiction?"

There are many books written on this subject - what it is, how to write it, books of it. There are pages and pages of websites. Many colleges offer creative nonfiction courses and their own interpretation of that label. Here is one example from UVM Tutor Tips:
Creative nonfiction merges the boundaries between literary art (fiction, poetry) and research nonfiction (statistical, fact-filled, run of the mill journalism). It is writing composed of the real, or of facts, that employs the same literary devices as fiction such as setting, voice/tone, character development, etc. This makes if [sic]different (more “creative”) than standard nonfiction writing.
Here is a another definition from Creative Nonfiction Magazine:
The words “creative” and “nonfiction” describe the form. The word “creative” refers to the use of literary craft, the techniques fiction writers, playwrights, and poets employ to present nonfiction—factually accurate prose about real people and events—in a compelling, vivid, dramatic manner. The goal is to make nonfiction stories read like fiction so that your readers are as enthralled by fact as they are by fantasy.
These two definitions are not really in contrast with each other, but they do have a different tone. And that, I
say, is one of the beauties of "creative nonfiction." "Creative nonfiction" can encompass a more straightforward travelogue and a personal travel memoir and an experiential poem.

And it gives some flexibility to fill in the blanks.

Like right now.

I don't remember this particular first date. I should, I know; but I don't. And that missing piece is one thing which comes up repeatedly in feedback on the M-book, comments asking where the scene is showing the first date. To help show the progression of the relationship.

But. I. Don't. Remember.

So that part will be a piece of creative nonfiction. A memoir generally does fall into the category of creative nonfiction, in my opinion, and some would say that some memoirists hide behind that label rather than telling the truth. Or that stories are deliberately slanted or exaggerated to cover up or twist the truth. For me, such as with the "first date" scene, if it stays in the book, it means I had to take what I know to be truth without a doubt, put it together with other examples of similar incidents and try to capture the sense of that first date with what might have been, within the context of the time and what is known.

It means I have to go to my body to remember what it was like and build the story from what I know to be true. Creative fiction and nonfiction put together to make a whole story.

Is it true? Yes. Is it fiction? Yes. Is it based on actual facts and experiences? Yes. Is it a good story? That is what I'm working to make true.

For this scene, I have to begin with a freewrite. Which will be followed with revision and rewrite. And, perhaps, in the freewrite, the memory will be triggered so that the percentage of facts is higher than the percentage of fiction by the time I get to the rewrites.