How Nonfiction and Fiction Writing Intersect

A family member gave me a book titled, “How to Write Historical Fiction.” I haven’t written historical fiction and I don’t suppose I will, but that doesn’t mean the book is useless. Historical fiction is the genre that is the most explicit with mixing nonfiction and fiction. Nonfiction and fiction each use each other.

When I tell someone my focus is creative writing, they act like the field of nonfiction is closed to me, as though all I can write is made up stories. I find the two genres to be inseparable. My creative writing is inspired by my nonfiction life.

Even in nonfiction, there is creativity in how it is formatted, what is told, and how much is told. This is why you can have dozens of books on the same person and each book will be different even though that person’s actions and events in his/her life are the same. A nonfiction book is still told through a frame. The frame or the point of view is something that we can never escape from in storytelling, even if the story is true, because the storyteller has to make decisions of how the story is told. The most nonfiction a story can be is real life, but we still run into differences from points of view. Witnesses of a crime scene give different statements because they saw the same event from different observation points and have different interests.

Even in the wildest fiction, there are elements of real life, whether it be inanimate matter, language, or living beings. How the real life elements are changed or what is added is what makes these stories refreshing. Yet the same can be true for nonfiction with how we are surprised and fascinated by the bizarre things that are true of reality.

But for nonfiction you have to do research and fiction can be anything you come up with. Well, good creative writing also requires research in order to make the elements that are nonfiction or to make something unreal believable and place us concretely within the new world.

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