A Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction
  • 4-minute read
  • 21st August 2022

A Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction

Creative nonfiction is a genre that uses literary elements usually associated with fiction writing (e.g., narrative arc, character development) to tell true stories. Sometimes referred to as narrative nonfiction, creative nonfiction can range from tweet-sized stories to book-length memoirs.

Creative Nonfiction, a magazine dedicated to the genre, defines it succinctly as “true stories, well told.” In today’s post, we offer our advice to anyone setting out to write a piece of creative nonfiction:

  1. Tell the truth.
  2. Use literary devices.
  3. Record your sources.
  4. Include your own thoughts and opinions.
  5. Check your work for errors.

If you’re inspired to write a literary journalistic article, personal essay, biography, or any other piece of creative nonfiction, read on to learn more about these points:

1. Don’t Make Anything Up

Everything you say in creative nonfiction must be true (the clue’s in the name). You must, therefore, be diligent in recording only verifiable events that you have thoroughly researched or that you personally remember.

It can be especially hard to do this if you’re writing your own story. It’s tempting to leave out or alter details that cast you in a bad light. However, the creative nonfiction genre demands honesty and accuracy.

Sometimes, of course, information will be unavailable, or you’ll have conflicting accounts of an event or conversation. The golden rule is to never contradict what you know to be true. If there are different versions of an incident, present both (or all) of them and let the reader decide which is the most convincing.

2. Use the Tools of a Fiction Writer

Creative nonfiction is different than a textbook or news article. Rather than simply reporting a series of facts, writers of creative nonfiction present those facts in narrative form. To do this, you have all the tools of fiction writing at your disposal.

Rather than telling your story chronologically, you could employ in medias res. In other words, start things off by plunging the reader straight into the action. You can reveal the events that led up to this dramatic moment by jumping back to an earlier time, or referring to it in flashbacks and conversations.

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Draw readers into your story by using vibrant, descriptive language that brings to life the setting and characters. You can also enrich your writing by using foreshadowing, metaphors, symbolism, dramatic irony, and all manner of other literary devices.

3. Keep Track of Your Information Sources

To tell your story accurately, you’ll have to do a lot of research. Even if you’re writing about your own experience, you’ll want to draw on other people’s memories of events rather than simply rely on your own.

Additionally, you could gain relevant information from books, old newspapers, and the internet, or by visiting places that are significant to your story.

It’s vital to keep a record of where all your information comes from. Even if you don’t refer to your sources in your book or article, you might be called on to verify something you’ve written. Moreover, if you want to go back over something to check the finer details, it can be hard to remember where to look if you haven’t written it down.

4. Let Your Own Voice Be Heard

One of the things that sets creative nonfiction apart from traditional journalism is that the writer’s voice is a key element of creative nonfiction. While you must relate events truthfully, you are free to share your own opinions and feelings and allow them to influence the way you write.

5. Remember to Proofread

While it’s up to you to faithfully depict the events, characters, and setting of your creative nonfiction piece, we can help you eliminate writing errors like typos and grammatical mistakes.

Our proofreading service includes tweaking sentences that don’t flow smoothly and suggesting corrections for anything unclear. Our team is available around the clock and will return your document error-free within 24 hours. Find out more today with a free trial.

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