Since we announced we do creative writing workshops on our site where we focus on fiction and creative non-fiction, we have been asked, ‘But what is creative non-fiction?’
Quite honestly, it’s just another label. Creative non-fiction is a hybrid that claims its roots in truth, then bestows upon writers a creative liberty. A writer can choose to write about a real-life incident, based on a report she read in her newspaper, with her own creative embellishments to satisfy her creative urge. A writer may also opt to write creative non-fiction to protect the privacy of the people she writes about.
Work with us here.
Say you know a girl called Zara who runs away from her home, at the age of fifteen. No one knows why. She makes it to Nepal, lives amongst the people of a small town, does odd jobs, and befriends a family who takes care of her. After a year, promptly and with minimal fuss, she returns home just as her parents have gotten used to believing her to be dead. At 17, she is a strange girl unlike any other. She is still the enigma alternatively cursed and admired for being so gutsy.
Now the writer that you are, you can’t give up a story like that. You interview her for hours to get some sense of her year in Nepal. Then you switch her name to Maya, add twenty pounds to hips and belly, grant her a long nose and the dimples she has always coveted, and you write her story. The descriptions of the weather, the food, the conversations she had with an old lady who told her folk tales, that disapproving housewife who thought her to be too easy with the town boys, become yours.
You are mastering her story. But is it her life? How much of your work belongs to Zara?
If you wrote a poem inspired by one line Zara said she saw her mother for the first time after a year, would that make your poem Zara’s story? Would you thank Zara for being your inspiration, your muse?
Is creative non-fiction an experiment for a writer? Isn’t it subject to controversy? Is it an inspiration of truth that makes for thicker fiction?
We won’t answer. At BWW, we will present you with options, leave you to form your own opinions, and encourage you to document your version of the truth. Feel free to share your thoughts on this topic. How do you feel about creative non-fiction? Leave us a comment.