I’m a guy who writes creative nonfiction, and I was asked the other day what that term means.
Nonfiction itself occupies such a wide avenue in book writing. From journalist Malcolm Gladwell to historian Doris Kerns Goodwin to Bob Woodward's commentaries on Washington, this is a genre with breadth.
But in recent years, a new term emerged for a type of story telling that sees the author add a certain voice to the writing style: creative nonfiction. This form incorporates writing styles that are usually more associated with fiction and that readers find engaging and enjoyable.
For instance, self-discovery is an element of creative nonfiction that I use in my most recent book "Pushing The Boundaries: How To Make Life Awesomer". I explain to the reader up front that I'm searching for ways to enhance my life, just as they are, outlining my personal connection to the subject matter. I then go on to invite them to join me in meeting interesting individuals who have overcome their fears about taking risks, and have gone on to gain greater fulfillment in their lives. Essentially, I am inviting the readers to come with me on a voyage of discovery. That's one aspect of creative nonfiction.
I think readers respond to stories featuring real world characters who are emotionally invested in the story’s outcome. Publishers call this a story arc. At the same time, the information has to be based on authentic facts since nothing undermines nonfiction books more than inaccuracies or exaggerations.
Another device I have used regularly in my writing is humor – where it fits. This may be as simple as a wry comment about someone or something, or a self-inflicted put down of myself, but for the fun of it. If the going gets heavy, nothing like a little smile to take you down from the high road.
Ginevra Grasso, who's an Editor with Europe Books, wrote me recently to praise "Pushing The Boundaries": "From a literary point of view there is no need to say that is a very well done job, it is obvious that you have a good experience in writing, interviewing, collecting information and transforming it into a motivation for your public. I love your positive attitude and your ironic tone which can always steal smiles." Aha: there is it: the ironic tone that can always steal smiles. That's creative nonfiction.
Lee Gut kind, Editor and Founder of Creative Nonfiction Magazine (that’s right: this category even has its own journal now), defines the genre as “True stories well told", which I think does a pretty good job of summing up the category. He goes on to say, "In some ways, creative nonﬁction is like jazz – it’s a rich mix of ﬂavors, ideas, and techniques, some of which are newly invented and others as old as writing itself."
Creative nonﬁction has become the most popular genre in literary and publishing communities. That's nice. Because that's the category I trade in!