Creative Non-Fiction: a term introduced to me by my mentor, fellow author Lee Scott. Finally I had a name for what I had been working on all these years! Up until that day I had been calling my first book a ‘biographical novel’.
The words ‘creative’ and ‘non-fiction’ describe the style. These are stories about real people and events, but unlike a biography or autobiography, are written to read like fictional stories. It is a way of storytelling that creates a safe platform for anybody to tell their story and retain their privacy. As the writer, you also have the ability to be more creative, free of the restrictions of facts.
Creative Non-Fiction is not restricted to novels. The genre, also known as literary nonfiction, includes travel writing, nature writing, science writing, sports writing, biography, autobiography, memoir, interviews, and essays.
The Wilted Rose: A Creative Non-Fiction novel
The first book manuscript I ever wrote was The Wilted Rose, a creative non-fiction novel based on a Brisbane family’s struggle with mental illness during the 1960s & 70s. I was asked to write the book and given a detailed outline of the story, which I then proceeded to rewrite it in a fictional narrative.
A Few Tips on Writing Creative Non-Fiction:
Get Your Facts Straight
Even though you are writing a story that is stylised as fiction, the bottom line is is that the story is still based on fact. While you can be more creative with the narrative, you are still responsible for getting the facts straight. For example, you might be writing a story about the Titanic. You might create your own characters, but you will still need to get the dates correct, statistics etc. You could come up against scrutiny otherwise, for which you will be ridiculed.
Think of the opening of ‘Law & Order’.”The following story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event.” Although we can tell by watching many episodes that they have been inspired by true events, with minor detail changes slipped in here and there.
In my experience of writing The Wilted Rose, my book was received relatively well by the family and friends of the main character. Some minor complaints were made that the book was too harsh on the Brethren church, however the events recounted in the story were based on the main character’s personal experiences, for which I had full permission to use.
Everybody has a right to tell their side of a story, even if someone else might not agree with their particular angle. However sometimes our best efforts to change detail are not enough. I have heard stories from other authors who, despite doing their absolute best to disguise detail, received complaints from readers whose inspired character had only a minute role and mention in the story. And even when you have the blessing of the person you’re writing about, be sure to maintain good communication with them about the details of the story, so that you are both clear on what will be included.
When I am writing Creative Nonfiction, I like to think that I am laying out the facts on the table, telling a story from someone’s point of view. If someone else comes along and challenges the idea that I have conveyed in the story, then that is their opinion. Allow the reader to take from the story what they will and form their own opinion without creating an air of bias by putting your own voice and angle.
Good news! Because you are working with a fictional narrative, you have the ability to be more creative with your language! You can veer away from the mundane ho-hum of factual nonfiction, with the ability to make full use of language and storytelling techniques.
Selection of Stories
As mentioned before, Creative Nonfiction is a great way for many people to share their stories, which may go unheard otherwise. However as the author you should still be mindful of which stories you select to use. A memoir about an ordinary person’s first year of college isn’t incredibly interesting. There would want to be some drama, something inspiring perhaps. When writing creative nonfiction, a clearly defined audience is also essential. Who can relate to the material you’re writing about?
In The Wilted Rose, I have had many people reflect on their experiences working as nurses and professional women in the 1950s, and also people dealing with mental illness within their families.Creative Nonfiction is perhaps the fiction world’s answer to reality entertainment. What I love about the genre is that it gives the ability for more and more people to share their stories with the world, whether they write them themselves or utilise a professional writer to do so. I certainly hope we start seeing more of these types of stories in circulation.
View and purchase a copy of my Creative Nonfiction novel The Wilted Rose HERE