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