Nonfiction Elements in “Love Innings” by Devin Kelly

“Love Innings” is a nonfiction story written by Devin Kelly. It uses the idea of a baseball game as an objective correlative to talk about different aspects of life, including growing up and romantic relationships. The narrator sits through the innings of the game, which are used to section the piece, and grapples with inner struggles as he comes to term with his recently ended relationship. One of the strongest analogies to baseball to life, in my opinion, comes in the section “3rd Inning” when Kelly writes, “It is a game laced with imperfection, one you can only master when you realize that certain things are not in your control” and goes on to show how a well-hit ball can still be caught and a weak grounder can somehow manage to evade the fielder for a bloop single. I think that is a very important point in the piece because it connects baseball to something larger.

When talking about fact vs. nonfiction, there are certain craft elements that lend itself to a nonfiction reading. First, there are clearly given names of places, such as “Hagerstown, Maryland” in the beginning, which are characteristic of personal essays. The content of the story reads like a true narrative. The reader is supposed to, and does, believe that this narrator is sitting at this minor league baseball game with his father and his brother, and that he recently got out of a pretty serious relationship. The observing nature of the narrator also contributes to the sense of nonfiction that pervades the piece. He watches the Little League kids, the boy with his mother in front of him, and the trucker who by the end of the game has consumed six beers (we know that because the narrator has counted).

On some Facebook photo that was shared by a friend who is an English teacher, there was a mug with the saying “Creative Nonfiction: True Stories, Well Told.” At first I laughed, thinking that was such a short, concise definition that must be too easy for all the discussion we’ve spent analyzing the differences between fact, nonfiction, and fiction. However, the more I thought about this saying, the more I saw it as being a pretty decent definition. When I think of straight facts, newspaper articles come to mind, and this essay is not written like a newspaper article. If it was, it would read something like “On a June day in Maryland, the named narrator attended a local baseball game, where the home team lost (insert score) but his mind was distracted with thoughts of his ex-girlfriend…” “Love Innings isn’t written that way, even though all those events I mentioned before do take place. Creative nonfiction enters a realm where the aesthetics of the story are just as important, if not a little more so than the true facts. Sometimes facts need to be sacrificed for the sake of the piece. For example, the narrator’s mother might not have run away on the family the way she did, but including it in the story like that shows character while also establishing the importance of baseball in the narrator’s life. This example of nonfiction really is a “true story, well told” even if that is a simple definition.

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