Putting the Nonfiction in Creative Nonficiton

Creative nonfiction is the hybrid of writing genres. It wants voice and the “I” on the page but it is not just thought up stories. The stories are grounded in some truth. These works all include an element of research. It’s easy to think that a personal story about a past experience does not require research but it can. Research is the practice of investigation and study of material to establish facts and reach new conclusions. Most recently writing in the style of immersion journalism and immersion memoir I thought that those were the most logical areas of creative nonfiction to use research but it is in all creative nonfiction. The creative approach in this genre and the various structures displays research in a nontraditional way. I often think of it as quotes and statistics that support the personal thought on the page. In this genre there are no rules for research it is up to the writer to decide what and how they use the truth.

Research is truth, and whether it is directly present on the page or included in the way a memory of the past is shaped for an essay it is providing the truth necessary for creative nonfiction. This truth can emerge from a variety of areas. There are several specific types of research most frequently used. First, the investigation for further understanding of a topic on the Internet or in a database. Second there is the informational interview, where you ask questions to establish facts and gather details. The third place where research can be conducted is in your own life. By looking back at photographs, visiting forgotten places, or recalling major events are providing information that can be used to create new conclusions about what you are writing.

This genre is not rigid like that of typical journalism or even academic writing. It welcomes anyone to the genre and I would know, as this is my first experience writing creative nonfiction. The way it uses a journalistic and poetic approach together can mask the incorporation of research but nonfiction needs this element. Lee Gutkind founder of literary magazine Creative Nonfiction discusses the role of research in the overall process of writing within this genre and it can be a helpful point of research before writing.

I found an interesting piece on Brevity that I thought showed an interesting slant to including research check it out here!


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