Creative Nonfiction Defined: Yes You Can

November 6, 2009 § 2 Comments

Oftentimes, at the end of a long day of manuscript sorting high up in the Brevity corporate towers, we will push back our chairs, throw some Miles Davis onto the big speakers, pour small offerings of Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon, and wonder at people who have trouble defining creative nonfiction. “Really,” we might say to one another. “It’s not a mystery.  What we do is pretty straightforward.  Can you pass the Blanton’s, Mr. Jeeves?”

So we were pleased when running across poet/memoirist/blog-provocateur Steve Fellner’s discussion of definitions on his blog Pansy Poetics. Here’s a bit, but the entire post is worth reading as well.

I tell (my students) they need to break up the word. Creative. Non-Fiction.

Non-Fiction=The Real=Autobiographical Experience and/or Texts and/or History=”The Content” of the Piece

For the “Creative” aspect of the definition, they need to ask the question, “Where would the author locate his artistry in the piece?”, “What special formal strategies does she employ?” (ie point-of-view, diction, organization, etc.”)

“That’s why,” I say, “Journalism and diary writing cannot be creative non-fiction. There’s nothing inherently special about its formal strategies. It’s simply meant to convey. To an audience. Or to oneself. It’s not meant to convey in a way that is special or artistic.”

Of course, there are an infinite number of ways to deconstruct this definition. (Even though I think it’s pretty good.)

The endless battles about this definition as a result of that can go on and on.

But it offers a starting point rather than simply raising your hands in the air, and offering nothing except to claim no one can pin it down, that it transgresses boundaries and refuses to be defined. Of course, it refuses to be defined; that’s why we’ve become writers, to fumble our way towards a useless, necessary naming.

Tagged: , , , , ,

§ 2 Responses to Creative Nonfiction Defined: Yes You Can

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading Creative Nonfiction Defined: Yes You Can at BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.


%d bloggers like this: