Monthly Archives: April 2016

Reliability of Dialogue

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?

Ambivalent Writing

What is the fun in reading something about an author that is sure about everything?

What makes creative nonfiction writing interesting is the unknown and the working through of thoughts and ideas. The author is usually situated in some type of scene, whether it is past or present, and writing about that allows the author to reflect on this scene and make a new discovery about it. If the discovery has already been made, the unknown is diminished. This (self) discovery often comes in the form of self-critique, a cultural critique or a mild epiphany. By looking at the situation from different perspectives and analyzing it, we come to a conclusion, which is usually the theme of our writing.

Writing gives us a chance to explore and reflect on our own experiences, and part of the journey is turning that experience into some type of finding. If we go into the experience with our end goal already determined, we may lose some of that curiosity that makes it exciting.

Ambivalence is uncertainty, and in writing, that is okay. It is okay to be unsure of the theme of your writing; working through these uncertainties allows the reader and writer to understand the magic of writing- discovery. As we look at our experiences we come to realize something that was not there at first glance.

As writers we need to be less focused on the cut and dry truth of the matter, but more on the reflection of what got us there.


Here David Wanczyk explores ambivalence, intensity, and nostalgia in writing