Creative nonfiction is a genre of writing that can be described in many ways. It is also called many different things, such as Literary Nonfiction; Narrative Nonfiction; Literary Journalism; Imaginative Nonfiction; Lyric Essay; Personal Essay; Personal Narrative; and Literary Memoir. With these many names, creative nonfiction is basically defined as a genre of writing that uses literary techniques while telling a narrative based on factually accurate information.
Creative nonfiction writer Barrie Jean Borich describes the genre as “memory-or-fact-based writing that makes use of the styles and elements of fiction, poetry, memoir, and essay.” Basically, a main characteristic of the genre is that it is a writing that is “about or from a world that includes the author’s life and/or the author’s eye on the lives of others.”
Creative nonfiction can take many different forms of writing. It can be a personal essay, memoir, literary journalism, travel writing, biography, cultural commentary, journal, or a combination of many different forms. It is a mix of many different techniques and styles, but it is based on personal or public history. It is a way of recording memory, observations, ideas, opinions, researched facts, and experiences into a kind of writing that crosses genre boundaries. The use of the word “creative” as a description to nonfiction has been criticized. Some say that nonfiction cannot be “creative” because “creative” writing means that facts are invented and embellished with made-up details. Literary writing is about telling the truth by creating imaginative narrative. Creative nonfiction uses the actual while also using a literary style of writing. Defenders of the creative nonfiction believe that creativity can be achieved even with an honest delivery of facts. They say that being “creative” does not equal to making stuff up and writing about things that do not exist.
Creative nonfiction is now a popular genre especially in magazines and publications such as The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Esquire, and even in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. The beginning of the genre can be traced back to the 18th Century when “disaster journalism” was prominent. The 1960s paved the way for the emergence of a revolutionary journalistic form that includes the first person in the narrative of a journalistic report. The pioneers of this new journalistic form are the likes of Tom Wolfe and Joan Didion. This modern form of journalism highlights the writer’s interpretation of observations. The writer’s point of view is present throughout the whole piece. The article is mainly about how the writer sees the facts presented in front of him or her. Annie Dillard, one of the most popular writers of creative nonfiction, says that her venture into creative nonfiction coming from attempting poetry felt like she “had switched from “a single reed instrument to a full orchestra.“ Creative nonfiction writing is a genre that is free of constraints that other genres have. It can take any form that the writer wants as long as it is faithful to the actual things he or she experiences.
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