Writers' Treasure Creative Writing Tips Creative Non-Fiction: What is it?

Creative Non-Fiction: What is it?

Now, we’ve come to Part Six of the Creative Writing 101 series. So far, we have learned:

1. An Introduction to Creative Writing
2. How to Get Started in Creative Writing in Just Three Steps
3. Creative Writing vs. Technical Writing
4. Fiction Writing 101: The Elements of Stories
5. Poetry Writing: Forms and Terms Galore

Hence we advance to creative nonfiction. What is it? It’s just writing which is true, but which also contains some creativity. Creative nonfiction differs from other nonfiction because a certain amount of creativity is needed to write in it, as for example a biography. It uses literary styles and techniques to create factually correct narratives, says Wikipedia.

Let’s suppose you’ve got knowledge on a famous personality (it needn’t necessarily be famous, just for saying). But to cover a whole life in a single book is a pretty hard task. The purpose isn’t just to give information. It’s to show things, it’s to entertain and intrigue the reader, or show them accounts of the subject in a compelling and creative manner. That, in a nutshell, is the meaning of creative nonfiction.

There is high demand for biographies and autobiographies. But what else constitutes creative nonfiction? There are memoirs, published by famous business people. Some of them sell for over a million. Then there are essays. There can be short essays and there can be long essays. There are food and travel books. There is literary journalism. We’ll look at them in a while. First, let’s take a look at the autobiography…

An Autobiography is…

An autobiography is the book about the whole life of a person, written by the person itself. Hence the “auto” in autobiography. An autobiography is pretty much essential in some political fields. It is now expected for celebrities to produce autobiographies. Some people hire a ghostwriter to write their autobiography.

It is almost needless to say that in autobiographies people tend to portray themselves in a more positive light. In the same case, when people write unauthorized biographies, it becomes the opposite and all the negative qualities are brought to the light. The autobiographies and biographies of personalities, heroes, etc are nowadays sold like hot cakes (although perhaps not in our bookstore — excuse the cliché).

The History of Autobiographies

If I were to write the entire history of autobiographies, I would be merely repeating information that can be easily found on Wikipedia, and boring you all. If you do have an interest in how autobiographies came to be, click here for appropriate information.

The Difference Between Autobiographies and Other Similar Forms of Creative Nonfiction

An autobiography differs from a biography in the significant fact that it is written by the person of whom it is based on. The biography is written by a different person. Then there is the memoir. Memoirs, although written by the person of whom it is based on, does not cover the whole life of the period. They cover only a select time period or single experience.

The Types of Autobiographies

1. Diaries
2. Fictional (consider it as first person novel)
3. Sensationalist (mostly written by ghost writers)
4. Memoirs may be considered as autobiographies; but not all autobiographies are memoirs.

A Biography is…

Consider it same as an autobiography but in some ways vastly different (yeah I know, doesn’t make sense). A biography is a description or account of someone’s life and the times, usually published in a book or essay form, sometimes as a documentary using the new media (usually TV).

How to tell if a work is biographical or not? There’s one simple question to ask. It is: Does it cover all of a person’s life? If yes, then it is a biography. If not, then it does not deserve that title.

The Two Types of Biographies

There are authorized biographies and unauthorized biographies. You may have never heard the term before. That’s okay; even I didn’t know of it until a week ago. Authorized biographies tend to portray the positive sides of a person in their work (that makes human nature sense). Whereas unauthorized biographies tend to do the opposite. To be honest, I’ve never read a biography and wouldn’t really want to read an unauthorized one. It can be viewed as an intrusion of privacy in the subject’s life, or so some people say. Click here to know more about biographies.

A Memoir is…

I just saw the Wikipedia entry on memoir. Sounds interesting. I may try to write one when I grow up; my experiences have been pretty interesting…

Jokes aside, here is the Wikipedia definition (modified a bit):

As a literary genre, a memoir (from the French: mémoire from the Latin memoria, meaning “memory”, or a reminiscence), forms a subclass of autobiography – although the terms ‘memoir’ and ‘autobiography’ are almost interchangeable in modern parlance. Memoir is autobiographical writing, but not all autobiographical writing follows the criteria for memoir. It only covers a select period of the subject’s life or a single experience. The author of a memoir may be referred to as a memoirist

Have you ever tried writing a memoir? I used to think that they could only be written by politicians, famous personalities to write about their career, businessmen, military men and generally those that are, well, known. What an understatement. The vast of us don’t get the title famous. But recently…

Recently I discovered that absolutely anyone can write a memoir and if well written, can give pleasure to the reader because of its literary style. To be honest, I don’t really like the word ‘literary’, the words ‘stilted’ and ‘formal’ come to mind. But memoirs are bestsellers. In his memoir Palimpsest (heard of it? I definitely hadn’t), Gore Vidal defines a memoir as “how one remembers one’s own life, while an autobiography is history, requiring research, dates, facts double-checked.”

Have Your Say

Yes, there is no mention of essays and food and travel writing in this post because it’s already gigantic enough. Perhaps some of you could fill it in the comments section.

Writing Forward’s Creative Nonfiction Category
Wikipedia – Autobiography

This post is the sixth instalment in the Creative Writing 101 series.

20 thoughts on “Creative Non-Fiction: What is it?”

    1. *laughs* Well thanks for subscribing, and I’ll do my best to impress you with great content!

      Don’t forget to check out the archives, there are some real gems there which should be enough to make you wildly impressed. 😉

  1. Wow! You totally got me hooked on your blog. I’m a bit surprised that your just 15 year old. I thought I was reading an old English professor’s blog. 🙂 Anyway, I really enjoy reading every bit of information here. Keep it up! 🙂

    1. That’s such a nice comment! I’m now 16 years old, actually. Glad to hear that you liked the blog. Stay tuned for more great content.

      Best regards

  2. Wow… I have been reading through this for the past hour and then suddenly realised your age. I think you might be going places, keep up the good work!

    Kind Regards

    1. Glad to hear that, thanks! By the way, you say “I have been reading through this for the past hour”… do you mean one particular article or the whole website?

      Best regards

    1. Biographical fiction, to the best of my knowledge, is a part of creative nonfiction (as mentioned in the article). Creative nonfiction also includes memoirs, food writing, travel writing, etc.

  3. Wow….the best blog for creative writing!

    I have a question if you kindly answer it: what is the difference between creative writing and descriptive writing?

    1. Creative writing doesn’t really have any definition as such. You can refer to Creative Writing 101 for more details. As far as descriptive writing is concerned, its primary purpose is to describe a person, place or thing in such a way that a picture is formed in the reader’s mind.

  4. I had researching my passion for more than a year . I find out that I enjoy writing. And its been more than a week that I am reading stuff on wrting. Finding the way out to master my writing before i begin with . I come across your article. I had read most of your article. And just in the mid of reading your article I just thought of writing something, just to begin my writing. And I see that when I start writing , I did not know when did I finish writing 9 complete page. The story just keep on popping up one after another. I connect all the story. The plot, the subplot, the sets, the theme and so on. I use to write and tell story of my own imagination back than when I was in high school. I think I had found one more passion. Thank you buddy. Your article just boost me to do something new which ws my passion which i had not known for so long. Thank you once again. Keep the good work up.

    best regards
    Krishna chhetry.

  5. You write with clarity,simplicity and social intelligence not forgetting passion. Your responses are formal and very inoffensive. Keep the good work.

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