What Is Creative Non-fiction?



Many of us writers know and understand what falls in the category of non-fiction. Defining the term “non-fiction” by first defining what we know, most of us would think:

Well, fiction is anything I make up. So non-fiction can’t be made up, and therefore must be true.


Using this ideology, some writers are immediately thrown for a loop when they are presented with the opportunity to write creative non-fiction. By its very name, “creative non-fiction” seems like an oxymoron. If non-fiction is about true, non-made up situations, what exactly is creative non-fiction?


Lee Gutkind, from Creative Nonfiction, explains that the word creative refers more so to the art form of writing itself. Simply relating everyday events to a person is boring, but vividly describing how those events took place makes the literature creative.


Going into further detail of what different types of non-fiction literature can be considered creative, Phil Druker, a professor at the University of Idaho, describes creative nonfiction as a “hybrid between (the fields of) literature and non-fiction.”


Some people may wonder if this hybrid form of literature is welcoming to moderate exaggeration, especially since it is utilizing creativity. If the exaggeration is based upon a person’s perspective, it would be difficult to argue whether their perspective was more accurate than someone else’s. However, if the exaggerations create a series of absolute lies that are unfounded within the parameters of the story, the piece is no longer non-fiction and would move toward the fiction category.


Others may speculate that non-fiction is of little interest to most readers looking for entertainment. On the contrary, creative non-fiction has gained such a following because people want to read stories about experiences they can relate to and experiences that will teach them a lesson.


Both Gutkind and Druker support the idea of using creative non-fiction to present the public with information they want know, and to do so in an entertaining fashion that completely engages the reader. Newspaper and magazine articles can be good examples of creative non-fiction literature because those articles make the reader feel as if they are experiencing every aspect of the reported story.


Many stories are presented in the non-fiction forms of essays, journalistic articles, research documentation, and even exposition papers. Combining these story styles with the literary art forms of focusing on a particular point of view, including detailed descriptions, presenting dialogue, and the use of the more refined language, just to name a few, all work together to produce the creative side of non-fiction literature.


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