Lecture 2: Creative non-fiction

Creative non-fiction is to tell a story out of fact. Its subject matter is life as we live in. To use raw materials out of life to write a new story of life.

It is truth writing. The readers read something which is real, the truth i nhuman experience. The writer also gains insight and clarity while writing.

Difference between creative non-fiction and memoir: Memoir is part of creative non-fiction, but the subject matter is “me”, while creative non-fiction is someone else than ourselves, and the author is not the point.

4 tips to produce vivid, clear non-fiction:

Tip 1: Forget yourself. Get “I” out of way, because “I” colors the narrative. Think of creative non-fiction as viewing a portrait or advertisement.

Tip 2: To be curious and be  brave. Approach to strangers and talk to them, build relationship.

Tip 3: Be a sculptor. Every stone has a statue of sculture in itself, and it takes a sculptor to discover it. Sculpt out what is important and portrait it. Be selective. Move the frame around to cut out part of picture to show the better impact that really affects the readers. To pick up the better truth, a truer truth.

Tip 4: Teach. Stand back and see what you taught, the wisdom. Remember it should be surface story, underlying truth.

Suggested readings:

  • Up in the Old Hotel      Joseph Mitchell           Essays
  • Slouching Towards Bethlehem      Joan Didion    Essays
  • A Wanderer in the Perfect City     Lawrence Weschler     Essays
  • Hell’s Angels     Hunter S. Thompson     Nonfiction Narrative
  • In Cold Blood     Truman Capote     Nonfiction Narrative
  • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek     Annie Dillard     Nonfiction Narrative
  • A Garden of Forking Paths     ed. Beth Anstandig, Eric Killough     Anthology
  • The New Yorker     Various     Magazine
  • Harper’s      Various     Magazine
  • Atlantic Monthly     Various     Magazine
  • Three Genres: The Writing of Fiction/Literary Nonfiction, Poetry and Drama     Stephen Minot     Craft
  • If You Want to Write     Brenda Ueland     Craft
  • Writing Down the Bones     Natalie Goldberg     Craft
  • Elements of Style     Strunk & White     Craft