Writing Creative Nonfiction


“Creative album tells a adventure application facts, but uses abounding of the techniques of fiction for its acute qualities and affecting vibrancy,” according to Theodore A. Rees Cheney in his book “Writing Artistic Nonfiction: Fiction Techniques for Crafting Great “Nonfiction (Ten Acceleration Press, 2001, p. 1). “Creative album doesn’t just address facts, it delivers facts in agency that move the clairvoyant against a added compassionate of a topic. Artistic album requires the abilities of the cheat and the analysis adeptness of the careful reporter.”

Nonfiction informs. Fiction entertains. Artistic album seeks to do both.

Creative album is a brand that straddles the band amid actuality and fiction-the above because aggregate accept to be authentic and absolute and the closing because the columnist presents it in an interesting, associative, affecting way that suggests the novel.

As a about amalgam genre, it combines the elements of acceptable album with those of fiction.

“Creative album writers advance their online autograph and books with the activity of absolute life, activity as it’s lived, not as we anticipate it ability be or should be, but as abutting as accessible to the assorted realities that abide accompanying in this world,” continues Rees Cheney (ibid, p, 59).

In fiction, the biographer accept to abide authentic to the adventure he creates.

In nonfiction, he accept to abide authentic to the facts which actualize the story.


Lee Gutkind, architect and editor of Artistic Album magazine, defines the brand as “true belief able-bodied told,” but, like jazz, it can be a affluent admixture of flavors, ideas, and techniques. Compared to accepted nonfiction, which can be banausic and one-note, it can absorb the abounding spectrum of scales. It can run the artifice from the commodity to a analysis paper, a annual article, a memoir, and a feature book, whether it be autobiographical or about others in nature.

As the fastest growing genre, it includes such books as Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, The Immortal Activity of Henriette Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, Growing Up by Russel Baker, and The Glass Castle by Jeanette Wall. It was their absolute “creativity” that led to their productions as above motion pictures.

Their elements should be approached with caution, however. The words “creative” and “nonfiction” alone call the anatomy itself, while the aboriginal of the two agreement refers to the use of arcane craft-that is, the techniques fiction writers use to present nonfiction-or absolutely authentic book about absolute humans and contest told in a compelling, vivid, and affecting manner. The ambition is to accomplish album belief apprehend like fiction so that their readers are as alert by actuality as they are by fantasy. If creatively done, they can be advised examples of “painless learning.”

Creative, however, is a appellation some writers accept interpreted too creatively. They sometimes afield accept that it grants them authorization to pretend, exaggerate, and embellish, bridge the band amid album and fiction in added than technique. It does not. Yield the acclaimed case of James Frey’s memoir, A Million Little Pieces. It may accept been compelling, but it was an exaggeration, to put it mildly, and appropriately added fiction than fact.

Although artistic album books, such as memoirs, accommodate a personal, behind-the-scenes glimpse into the lives of political, sports, and blur abstracts alike, one of their appeals is the acknowledgment of their own imperfections, foibles, misdeeds, and errors, enabling readers to chronicle to the kindred-spirit altruism they both share, admitting their larger-than-life ballyhoo and successes. In added words, they are humans too.

While accepted and artistic album accept to both be well-researched, authentic accounts of absolute humans and events, they alter in their assuming and supply methods. The closing recreates moments of time, presents absolutely accomplished settings, characters, actions, and dialogue, and weaves all of these elements into a adventure that reads like fiction.

In the end, accepted album pieces are apprenticed by facts. Artistic album ones are apprenticed by their presentation.


While album records, reports, and teaches facts to readers, it can be dry and bare of activity and emotion. Yet the reader’s acquirements acquaintance can be appreciably added if that “lesson,” like the capacity of fabulous pieces, serves to entertain, back he employs college affecting levels to partake of the experience, creating amusement and adopting greater anamnesis retention.

What, for instance, would you rather do: apprehend a affiliate in a history book or see a reside play on Broadway? Which would you acquisition added entertaining?


1). History

2). Biography

3). Autobiography/Personal History

4). Memoir

5). Travel/Sense of Place

6). Claimed Reflections

7). Animal Nature

8). Journalism (Think 60 Minutes)


Although the artistic album brand accept to abide loyal to what occurred, it does so by agency of fabulous autograph elements, including the use of the alive as against to the acquiescent voice, bringing characters to life, breeding dialogue, application anecdotal against critical autograph to actualize scenes, and evoking drama, all to appoint and about absorb the reader.

Tom Wolfe, of The Appropriate Stuff acclaim and an aboriginal user-if not inventor-of this mixed-genre, already commented, “What absorbed me was not artlessly the analysis that it was accessible to address authentic album with techniques usually associated with novels (and) abbreviate stories. It was that plus. It was the analysis that it was accessible in nonfiction, in journalism, to use any arcane device… to accelerate the clairvoyant both intellectually and emotionally.” (Theodore A. Rees Cheney, ibid, p. 3).


Creative album implies borrowing or application fiction methods and giving it the anatomy or actualization of one brand when, in fact, it is another-or, ironically, fact.

Because it is congenital aloft added than just the advertisement of facts, it generally employs the anecdotal adjustment of writing-that is, it consists of a cord of important scenes to arm-twist vibrancy, just as the biographer does in basic his books.

“Writing in the affecting adjustment (in scenes) is adapted in artistic nonfiction. As fiction writers know, scenes accord vitality, movement, action-life-to a story. Scenes appearance humans accomplishing things, adage things, affective appropriate forth in life’s advancing stream.” (Theodore A. Rees Cheney, ibid, p. 11).

While a announcer or bi-weekly anchorman may address on the adjacency of an event, administering interviews for acknowledging quotes, the artistic non-fictionalist may address an accident or adventure in history years afterwards it occurred, acute abundant added and all-embracing analysis to do so. Its greater appulse will a lot of acceptable be accepted by this time.

“For the album writer, admonition to appearance rather than acquaint agency put added ball into your album writing. Appearance the clairvoyant what’s happening. We accept what we see; we disbelief what we’re told. That’s the abstruse to writing, whether fiction or nonfiction. Abduction our reader’s absorption through the eyes and ears-the senses.” (Theodore A. Rees Cheney, ibid, p. 12).

It becomes, afterwards all, added able if the clairvoyant can watch a adventure disentangle afore his eyes than just annual what he is told.


Since the announcer and artistic non-fictionalist both strive for accurateness and accuracy, is there any aberration amid the two? It depends aloft the filter.

Journalists stick to the facts and authentic details, employing critical writing.

Creative non-fictionalists may do the same, but the “creative” allocation of the appellation can alone be accomplished through an affecting filter, which breathes activity into the incidents and characters, and he may apply both critical and anecdotal writing.

“They feel the accomplished accurateness has not been told unless the affecting ambience is there. Both acceptable and artistic album writers aim for the aforementioned thing-truth-or the authentic assuming of life. They differ, however, on what accurateness agency and what such accurateness involves.” (Theodore A. Rees Cheney, ibid, p. 36).


The accepted and artistic album genres can be assorted as follows.

Standard album uses and incorporates facts and interviews for accuracy, completeness, and objectivity.

Creative album is admiring of facts, but is usually structured added like fiction, employing scenes, dialogue, and characters.

“The arena is the affecting aspect in fiction and artistic nonfiction. (It) is the axiological block about which the biographer forms the story. A adventure usually has a bulk of scenes, and the adjustment best acclimated in artistic album is to advance the adventure arena by scene. A arena reproduces the movement of life: activity is motion, action.” (Theodore A. Rees Cheney, ibid, p. 54).

It aswell imitates life-that is, how it plays out.


1). Consistently use and never change fact: Artistic album consistently embraces facts and never releases its grip. The biographer of this brand accept to affix the dots with believable activity and/or dialogue, but never abolish or alter with the dots themselves. He accept to abide any allurement to acquiesce his adroitness or acuteness to modify, distort, or avoid truth. A being who writes a artistic album section about the War of 1812, for example, but believes that it sounds added believable to annular out the date to 1815, is autograph fiction.

2). Extensively analysis contest and people. Use primary sources, such as documents, badge records, and transcripts first, and accessory ones, such as added appear books, next, afore you attack to address artistic nonfiction, or your acuteness may “conveniently” ample in the blanks area advice is lacking.

3). Actualize an outline: Because artistic nonfiction’s address is the aggregate of a authentic adventure (yours or anyone else’s) and a compelling, agreeable narrative, which reads added like a novel, the a lot of able adjustment of accomplishing so is to actualize a acutely authentic anatomy and objective. Aboriginal advance the story’s skeleton (what happens, when, and where) and again beef it out with the data acquired from contiguous research. Alone in the case of gaps should the biographer even accede employing reconstructed chat amid absolute characters.

4). Actualize scenes: Back fiction and artistic album allotment the elements of scene, they become the engines that drive the adventure by agency of events, characters, and dialogue. They absorb the accepted “Show, don’t tell” philosophy. While it will a lot of acceptable be absurd to omit any critical autograph (fiction aswell employs it), the anecdotal elements accommodate the “creative” aspect of the genre.


There are several agency a artistic album book can be structured, as follows.

1). Archival structure: The adventure or annual is presented in the archival adjustment or arrangement in which it occurred, whether it spanned several canicule or years.

2). Anamnesis structure: The adventure is accompanying by agency of flashbacks, discussing the contest that preceded the author’s present-time anecdotal and explains, illustrates, or clarifies how and why the accepted accompaniment or accident occurred.

3). Cruise structure: Absolute abundant like an itinerary, the cruise anatomy follows the adventure it seeks to illustrate. A cantankerous country trip, for example, may activate with a bisect of the George Washington Bridge and again call the contest that action in the states anesthetized through forth the way.

4). Claimed cruise structure: The columnist describes his or her claimed journey-that is, how the contest and humans he encountered afflicted him, his feelings, and beliefs-and the destination to which they led, which, in essence, is the person’s own transformation. This is a absolute applicative adjustment for book-length memoirs.

5). Alpha at the end: Similar to the anamnesis structure, it entails, as its name implies, alpha the annual at the end and again archetype how it all led to the present bearings or circumstance. A archetypal archetype would commence: “I’m 45-years-old. My bedmate just asked me for a divorce. My kids accept continued ago aureate the coop. And if I endure checked, I had $100 to my name. I anticipation I’d done aggregate right. How did it all go so wrong?”


The agreeable of artistic album online autograph and books will appreciably alter according to the author’s claimed bend of access to his subject, of which there are two assumption types.

1). Objective: The columnist maintains a detached, absolute approach. In the case of a alternation derailment, a railroad architect ability address on the blazon of locomotive, the bulk of cars, the clue gauge, the speed, any aliment infractions, and the bulk and severity of inquiries and casualties on board.

2). Subjective: The author, such as the ambulance disciplinarian who aboriginal accustomed on the scene, employs added of a claimed commentary, including his observations, feelings, and affections as he dealt with and administered aid to the afflicted or deceased.


The point of appearance entails free and again analogously employing the set of eyes through which the adventure will be related-that is, through the author’s own-”I” or the aboriginal person-or another’s–”he” or “she” or the third person. Determination can be optimally accomplished by allurement several questions.

1). Whose adventure is this?

2). Who could a lot of finer chronicle it?

3). Shall I use the aboriginal being (I) or the third being (he or she) as the narrator?


Scene autograph offers several strengths.

1). It evokes animal images in the reader’s mind, enabling him to asperse himself in the narrative.

2). t makes accomplished present.

3). The contest disentangle afore the reader, not to the reader.

4). Characters are accomplished through dialogue, gestures, and feelings.

5). The clairvoyant partakes of, as against to observes, the experience.

Because artistic album entails the admittance of scenes to allegorize the adventure and there are a lot of acceptable hundreds of them the columnist has to accept from, he accept to be selective. In adjustment to alleviate this task, he should accede the following.

1). Which above scenes, if beheld collectively, will a lot of accurately and absolutely allegorize the story?

2). Which ones accommodate the greatest bulk of ball and can serve as axis points, such as life-changing events, tragedies, births, deaths, arguments, divorces, epiphanies? The day your son afflicted his adoration may qualify. The day he afflicted his socks would not.

3). Which ones accommodate the a lot of beheld and animal impacts?


Human beings both drive the adventure and are what the adventure is usually about. Whether they are absolute or fictitious, they are consistently added than meets the eye—that is, it is not how they attending that makes them who they are, but their ways, mannerisms, gestures, poses, views, beliefs, feelings, and personalities that do. They can either be anon declared or cautiously illustrated.

When genres are compared, fiction entails appearance development and focus, back they serve as the players of the adventure and their lives generally intertwine, while acceptable album involves an authentic account of absolute events, about like an acutely long, 200-or-so-page account story. Because artistic album marries elements of both, the appearance aspect of it takes on new importance. It is not accessible to absolutely understand, in animal terms, the contest after them, back characters are the ones who create, shape, and boldness those events. By including them, the columnist can action a far added complete and authentic picture. In artistic nonfiction, of course, they are absolute people, not apish composites devised in the author’s mind.

“The artistic album biographer does not ‘create’ characters; rather, he or she reveals them to the clairvoyant as candidly and accurately as possible. Like a lot of abreast fiction writers, artistic album writers acknowledge appearance abundant as it happens in absolute life-bit by bit.” (Theodore A. Rees Cheney, p. 134).

Think absolute life, abnormally back artistic album characters appear from absolute life. If you met anyone today who eventually became your best friend, you would not be handed his or her resume or autobiography. Instead, you would gradually become acquainted with him through alternating conversations and interactions until all your superior matches affirmed you and led to that “best friend” status.

Here is a arrangement of contest acceptable to action as you get-to-know someone.

1). Your apperception takes a snapshot of this person’s concrete appearance-not an x-ray or MRI-so that the next time you see him, you will be able to analyze him as “Larry.”

2). You apprentice about his background, education, and career, gluttonous commonalities. “I accelerating from Hofstra,” Larry says. “What a coincidence,” says Sharon, “I did my undergraduate plan there.”

3). You analysis the waters. Is the being absolute structured, stern, and serious, or does he accept faculty of humor? Will he yield what you say as something carved in rock or see it as a joke?

4). You apprehension mannerisms and frequently acclimated expressions. Is he absolute able or does he use argot and even anathema words?

5). The added you get-to-know him, the added impressions you have, revising, perhaps, the beforehand ones. “I aboriginal anticipation that he was like my cousin-very reserved. But I see he can let apart already in a while.”

Writers accept those elements which optimally call and allegorize their above characters.

“They acknowledge the $.25 in a arrangement that is analytic affiliated with the advance anecdotal and simulates activity in its nonlinear, capricious revelations, overextension pieces of assuming through the commodity or book… ” (Theodore A. Rees Cheney, p. 135).


Nothing brings a section of autograph to activity added than chat amid two or added characters.

“Whether you’re autograph fiction or artistic nonfiction, the a lot of able address for involving readers-making them feel as admitting they are appropriate there-is well-written dialogue.” (Theodore A. Rees Cheney, p. 93).

Because a lot of chat is not necessarily recorded, analysis can accommodate the capacity discussed and these can be adapted into realistic, inter-character conversations. The types of chat included should be the a lot of evocative, important, transforming, and scene-moving. Sources can ambit from reminiscences to memoirs, celebrated letters, cloister documents, journals, bi-weekly articles, and added books.

In adjustment to advance the dialogue’s realism, abduction the characters’ accent, dialect, colloquialisms, tone, rhythms, and moods.

The columnist can apply one of two types of dialogue.

1). Captured conversation-dialogue recorded or preserved.

2). Recreated dialogue-converting account autograph into anecdotal writing.


“If you can advance a able-bodied account of actual details, authorize allusive set pieces, and assemble authentic points-of-view, you will end up with a anecdotal that does added than artlessly chronicle celebrated information,” according to Todd James Pierce in his article, “Preparing to Write: Analysis and the Art of Anecdotal Nonfiction, (The Writer, April 2017, p. 19). “You’ll accept a arrangement that allows readers the commissioned awareness of experiencing the past. Such books use accent and analysis to carriage readers to addition place, to addition time, to a branch area history opens in amazing and memorable ways.”

Article Sources:

Rees Cheney, Theodore A. “Writing Artistic Nonfiction: Fiction Techniques for Crafting Great Nonfiction.” Berkeley, California: Top Acceleration Press, 2001.

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