1. Anthony Martin
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    Anthony Martin Active Member

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    One-way ticket on the Creative Non-Fiction train

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Anthony Martin, May 14, 2013.

    I've read a handful of contemporary short stories (published in some notable literary magazines) that have left me wondering if it would be better if some short story authors booked their work for the Creative Non-Fiction train, one-way. The stories in mind all have, more or less, the following characteristics:

    • First-person narrative
    • Diary-like prose ("I got divorced and divorce is like this and then I flipped my wig")
    • Shades of American realism

    I understand, of course, that the above characteristics neither comprise some concrete list of criteria for short stories that should be classified (or submitted as) creative non-fiction, nor represents all that creative non-fiction is and can be. The lines delineating a creative non-fiction piece are ambiguous at best, so there is always dispute. Yet certain stories occur to me as very specific narratives closely inspired by personal events, as indicated by a high level of specific detail (like the inside of a private high school in northeast Virginia, for example), that strike me more as dressed up non-fiction than fiction.
     
  2. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure what your beef is with this. There's a LOT of fiction out there that is thinly disguised truth. There's actually more trouble that occurs when someone attempts to write a memoir or non-fictional narrative of an event but the details get blurry or are misremembered or are not as dramatic or compelling as the story warrants, and the author is then accused of making up facts or exaggerating, and all sorts of bad things flow from there.

    A few years ago, I read two different stories of boys who were child soldiers in Africa. I was surprised to see that one was categorized as Non Fiction, yet the other was categorized as Fiction. The book indicated that the boy who was the subject and co-author was not confident enough in his recollections of what had happened (as it had happened over a number of years and involved a number of traumatic events), so they decided to say the book was fiction.

    They say there's often more truth in fiction than there is in memoir.
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Creative nonfiction tends to have a more essayistic quality than short stories and may have a harder time getting published for this reason. When I think of creative nonfiction, I think of Camus' essays on his travels or Montaigne's essays.
     
  4. Anthony Martin
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    Anthony Martin Active Member

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    True statements, everyone.

    I suppose it's just a gut feeling that I sometimes get when I'm reading certain short stories, that they might be better classified as creative non-fiction. I certainly don't have beef with either genre, nor any doubts about the ability of either to be vehicles for truth; rather as a reader I notice moments where the "thin veil" that chicagoliz alluded to above is too thin.
     
  5. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    BUT, how do you know that the underlying scene or sentiment or occurrence that you're reading wasn't completely fictional, and the author simply did a very good job?
     
  6. Anthony Martin
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    Anthony Martin Active Member

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    touché -- I suppose you can never truly know. Maybe I've deluded myself into thinking my reader's compass is trustworthy and true. I'd like to think that it is at least some of the time.
     

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