When I think of non-fiction writing, I have always thought of personal stories. Writing that the author needs to get out and into the world. But it had never occurred to me until recently that this type of writing doesn’t necessarily have to be done by the perspective of the writer. There are many sides to non-fictional writing, and ways to show them. For example, if I want to tell a story about my alcoholic father, I can chose to write it from my first person perspective; “I could smell the fresh shot of Jack Daniels on his breath the second he walked in the door”, or second person perspective; “you hear the stumbling of your father walking in at 2:00am”, or even third person; “The smell of alcohol was tormenting. The anticipation grew immensely waiting for the tormentor to arrive”. Each perspective provides it’s own insight for the reader. Many more examples of perspective are given here showing how nonfiction can be just as creative in providing different perspectives into the stories we tell. Our stories through nonfiction writing do not have to be, and are not meant to be our own once they are told. Different perspectives and points of view can help share the stories with the readers in more inclusive ways.
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?