What is Creative Non-Fiction?
Also known as narrative non-fiction, it generally means describing or telling a true story, events or experiences—and doing so creatively in a narrative way, or through literary or even poetic description. It usually recounts and reflects on a personal narrative, event or experience. Good creative non-fiction is factual, unique and draws us in.
Creative non-fiction includes:
- Nature writing
- Travel writing
- Writing about place
- Food writing
- Narrative/immersion journalism
- Lyric essays
…but it doesn’t include:
- Academic or research essays
- Historical or other articles
- Criticism or reviews
- Political/philosophical/other essays
- Scripts or screenplays–prose narratives only
- Recipes, technical instructions and the like
Can you write about the rules of football? No, but it could be a particular match you attended, and telling us a unique and vibrant story about it. The history of Alcoholics Anonymous? No. Your personal experience with AA as distinct from anyone else’s, perhaps weaving in some aspects of its history? Definitely. Two pages on eating a burger? Sure, if you delve into the hidden history of ketchup, bring in childhood memories or your romantic entanglement with the fry cook.
If you are writing about difficult subjects and experiences, you may want to change names as well as use a pen name of your own. If you have concerns or want to alter facts significantly, it’s best if you define your work as fiction even if it contains strong autobiographical elements.
Draw on your direct experience. Don’t include a bibliography or reference footnotes—your work should be a creative narrative.
What’s key in all successful creative non-fiction is emotion and reflection—how the writer was affected by the subject or event being written about, or otherwise something larger than the topic directly: themes, ideas, insights, connections.
Show the reader places and faces; tell them what they said. Write things that are true, move the reader, and open their eyes to something they’ve never seen before or new ways to look at it.