One of the newest genres to rise in the world of literature is creative nonfiction, an interesting hybrid that can go in several different directions. It can be used to write nonfiction like technical writing and journalism, to write comedy pieces like that of David Sedaris or Jim Gaffigan’s work, or to examine life through the eyes of individuals for powerful narratives.
However creative nonfiction is approached, it is an incredibly difficult genre to navigate and analyze. In 1989, Chris Anderson wrote that “Nonfiction is no longer the bastard child, the second class citizen; literature is no longer reified, mystified, unavailable.” It is now being analyzed, but slowly and in small quantities.
Even as late as 1997, Lee Gutkind wrote that very little is being analyzed by scholars.
So what goes into creative nonfiction? What’s it all about?
As Gutkind’s website creativenonfiction.org boldly displays in its banner, they are “true stories, well told.” Creative nonfiction has to be a true story told creatively but also told simply. Nobody enjoys listening to the person who adds into far too m any details in a story; likewise, nobody likes to hear the person tell an over-the-top untrue story or tell a story missing crucial details.
When it comes to story-telling as a whole, they need to be attention-getting. With the rise of memoirs and all kinds of stories, like the previously mentioned comedy works of many writers, the stories need to be fun but also relatable.
We all live fairly interesting lives: what makes one person’s story worth reading and not another?
This is one of the biggest challenges to creative nonfiction, a genre still finding its merit in the literary world. As long as true stories keep being told well, it should fit that merit soon.
- Gutkind, Lee (1997).The Art of Creative Nonfiction: Writing and Selling the Literature of Reality. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p. 8. ISBN 0-471-11356-5.
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