Ink Thinkin

Random thoughts from Dy Larson of Ink Think, freelance editor and copywriter

Monday, January 23, 2006

What IS Creative Nonfiction?

According to various sources all over the web and in print, creative nonfiction is nonfiction told in a novel-style (or something close to that, I'm doing this from memory in the doc's waiting room!)

So... Let the questions begin.

First off - Do not imagine for a moment that Frey will appear anywhere in this discussion other than this line saying I'm not gonna talk about it - I refuse to even link to it so if you're reading this and don't know what I mean, google James Frey for yourself.

Back to my original thought from last week -

How & why do we use the label "creative nonfiction"?

To my knowledge I've never read any CNF so I picked up a couple of Robert Fulghum's books at a bookcrossing meeting a couple weeks ago to read up. Then I was told he is a humor writer, not CNF. David Sedaris (whom I have also never read) is considered CNF, but as far as I know what he writes is also, largely, humorous. So, which is it? Someone like Dave Barry who writes humorous essays on his life and his observations of the world - humor or CNF? Erma Bombeck - humor or CNF? Frank McCourt (of Angela's Ashes fame) - autobiography* or memoir* or CNF?

The conclusion I've come to so far (subject to change, as are all good hypotheses) is that creative nonfiction is a writerly distinction. Meaning writers are the ones who make the distinction - publishers, boobksellers, and the reading public don't seem to give a fig. Which begs the question why do we, as writers, make the distinction? Should we?

After a brief inner debate I've decided I don't think we should. We are locking ourselves into a box, and it's rather like the mime with the invisible box; only the people in the box know or CARE that the box is there. How big a waste of time and effort that could be better spent oh, writing, is this?

*Will someone please tell me the difference between autobiography and memoir & why I should care? Please? 'Cuz I really don't get it.


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