Writing creative nonfiction poses many conflicts when trying to write from memory. I find one of the most troubling aspects to be writing dialogue. If I can’t remember what I had for breakfast a week ago, how do I know the exact words that my mom spoke to me as I walked down the stairs that morning? There is much controversy that nonfiction must be completely factual. If this is the case, then unless you write down every single conversation that you have throughout the day, dialogue cannot be included in creative nonfiction. Who wants that?! If you click here, you can discover three different schools of thought about writing dialogue in memoirs or nonfiction writing.
I would argue that writing dialogue in nonfiction does not have to be completely verbatim. While there is no way for a reader to research if the stories that you tell through dialogue are accurate or truthful, it still adds to the essay in an enjoyable way for the readers. Think of how lacking some of our favorite memoirs and essays would be if it weren’t for the dialogue. Even though it isn’t completely factual, should dialogue be omitted from nonfictional writing?
I think that dialogue works nicely in creative nonfiction. This after all is a creative platform and the total accuracy of what was said does not seem that necessary. Memoirs, personal essays, immersion journalism and all the other forms of CNF have larger themes and I think that the inclusion of dialogue acts as a support for those points. Dialogue provides a level of texture that reminds the reader this experience is real with real people. I agree with the third school of thought and say that a little gray is okay.