Creative Nonfiction is Hot! But What is It?

Creative Non-Fiction is Hot! Cases in point, these below are considered creative nonfiction and flying off the shelves:But what is creative nonfiction exactly? I like to think of it as the op-ed of the fiction world. It can be called Literary Nonfiction, Narrative Nonfiction, Imaginative Nonfiction or Literary Journalism, and can come out of any of the following genres:
Memoir                       Journalism
Historical pieces              Lyric Essay
Personal Essay                     Personal Narrative
Literary Memoir             Travel writing
Humourist writing         Nature writing
Science writing             Sports writing
Biography                 Autobiography

Creative nonfiction writing can embody both personal and public history, and both the familiar and the personal essay.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, for example, is a true crime story from an crime journalist turned amateur sleuth, who mysteriously dies while writing this book, but the manuscript is still published. This would be considered Literary Journalism, but it is also part memoir and also part biography, with a true mystery thrown in too.

A lot of personal memoirs can be considered creative non-fiction (see past blog post on differernces between autobiography and memoir here).

Educated by Tara Westover is a straight up Literary memoir similar to The Glass Castle. Tara Westover tells the true story of her evolution from a young girl home-schooled by her survivalist family and went on to get a PhD from Cambridge University, among other struggles.

The Happy Hammock is considered a combination of travel writing, memoir, personal essays and humourous stories (Lake came in second in a storytelling competition by performing the humourous chapter called Siesta Sex).

There has been a noticeable increase in the number of requests to help with non-fiction books, memoirs with true stories that want to be told with more poetic prose, more humourous intent, or more adventurous storytelling, in other words, leaving the boundaries of dry journalistic biographical objectivity, so they are wandering over the edges into creative nonfiction. The published results are finding huge audience rewards.

“No one loves a great storyteller for their accuracy… Who gets excited about extreme accuracy really? Accountants and bowlers? And even they long for a good story.” – from Writing with Cold Feet

The Library Book by Susan Orlean was described on bustle dot com as a love letter to libraries, but it is also a Historical Biography of the Los Angles Public Library fire of 1986. An example of her style:
“…One recent warm morning, the people in the garden were clustered under the canopy of trees, and beside the long, trickling watercourse that seem to emit a small breath of chilled air. Rolling suitcases and totes and book bags were stashed here and there. Pigeons the colour of concrete matched in a bossy staccato around the suitcases…”

To get a better handle on the seeming non-rules of creative non-fiction I give my students this list/diagram that may (or may not) help:

There is no question that the subject of a creative non-fiction will reel in readers, however, it is the craft of writing and storytelling, if raised to a quality or downright exciting level, that generates rave reviews and creates a hot property.

Got your memoir or true story to write, consider joining us at one of our popular writing retreats in Mexico (or Victoria):

Download this list:


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