Friday, September 29, 2017

Founded in Fact, Colored with Creativity

We’re down to the last few days before the WOK’s 2017 Fall Writing Contest deadline. Your hands are cramped from countless edits, your neck is tight and your eyes are bloodshot. But now is the time to remember that you, my friend, are not here to tell us about a subject, place or personality.

Your job in Creative Nonfiction is to show us, invite us to the world of your research. Creative Nonfiction reads like fiction. It’s based on fact, on true events or an actual person, idea or problem.

But how it’s presented is the difference between the uninspired and the creative.

Too many authors hold back, rein in their talent because of the intimidating word, nonfiction. But just like fiction, we need scenes. We need stories. They’re just as much the building blocks of a novel as they are of a biography. Or documentary.

It’s the foundation of writing. We’re storytellers first, writers second. Anybody can tie words together. But only an author can pierce us to the very core.

Don’t forget your place in the world, and don’t forget to take us.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Creative Nonfiction Part Two: Memoir vs Literary Journalism

In Part One, we highlighted the basics of this growing genre—true stories well told. In Part Two we’ll dissect the two main categories of Creative Nonfiction.
Literary Journalism and Memoir
Or in layman terms, public versus private.

Memoir is the writer’s personal story. It’s her story. She alone owns it.

Literary Journalism is someone else’s story. Anybody (technically) could own it—whoever is willing to weave facts into an appetizing story.

Memoir is more of a reality show, think Kim Kardashian. She “bares it all” in her confession videos (splicing the most entertaining parts of her life for entertaining stories/episodes). Politicians, athletes and others grasping for their fifteen minutes of fame are making their private lives public.

And we are obsessed.
From tweets, blogs and books, we want the raw humanity. The literature of reality, with all of the intimate pain and secrets that authors willingly confess. It gives us a sense of connection, a united front in this thing called life.

In contrast, literary fiction centers on an idea or concept. Authors write about something other than themselves. It can be a big idea, or a moment in time or a social problem. It isn’t one person or one family. It’s about humanity on a larger scale, and can be about any subject—from gas prices to immortality. There are no limits to the subject matter as long as it is expressed in a story-oriented, narrative way—in short, as long as it’s well told.

Because they’re so personal, Memoirs can have a limited audience, unlike Literary Journalism where “big idea/factual essays” are more sought after by editors and agents (and will more likely lead to publication).

Memoir tends to be a niche genre while Literary Journalism is for mass consumption. For example, I have no interest in celebrities and their lavish lifestyles. Nor do I have an interest in fast food. But I’d devour a book about the impact McDonald’s has on our nation.
Both pivot on facts, some colored through emotional memories while others through a historical looking glass.

Next up…Creative Nonfiction Part Three: Built on Fact, Colored with Creativity

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Creative Nonfiction Part One: The Myth, The Legend...The Genre

Writers of Kern strives for one thing above all else, helping writers—no matter their skill level—achieve their literary goals. In that vein, we’ve selected Creative Nonfiction as the official genre of the 2017 Fall Writing Contest.

Creative Nonfiction is the sugar in our diet, springing up in our newsfeed, movies and coffee tables. It touches everything. We don’t realize how much we’re consuming. Even after a professional highlights our addiction, we toss caution to the wind, devouring more.

Quite simply Creative Nonfiction are true stories well told. It can be an essay, journal article, research paper, memoir, poem or dare I say, tweet? We crave humanity, the villain and the champion. We want truth—but we want it with a pretty bow. Preferably gray instead of black and white.

Creative doesn’t mean fiction, it means literary. Think Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken or Jeannette Walls’s The Glass Castle. Both true stories. Both filled to the brim with facts. And both brought us to tears.

The goal is to make nonfiction stories read like fiction so that your readers are as enthralled by facts as they are by fantasy.

Join me for Creative Nonfiction Part Two, Memoir vs Literary Journalism