Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Fiction, Nonfiction, and More: You Decide

Nonfiction is a strange catch-all term. In a library visit, looking at the section of new books, you might notice that fiction is alphabetized by last name, nonfiction is numbered. Poetry, art books, self-help, military history—all are classified as nonfiction, but obviously there are differences.

Writing fiction can be grand. The author assumes the role of an old style deity; s/he creates a world, puts people in the world, and manipulates them by telling them what to say and do. The characters can be based on people the author knows, but they often become composites: a little of this person, a little of that one, and a good dose of the author. Rules can be different in a work of fiction. If you know that in the real world the sun rises, the fiction writer may say, "that's not the sun," and in this imagined world, perhaps it isn't. So if it is entertaining, or if there seems to be a reason, you may accept it: you may "suspend disbelief."

A literary nonfiction (also called "creative nonfiction") writer takes real people and situations and adds a little poetry and mood and style to show the perceived truth. Gravity is still gravity. The sun still rises and sets. It takes a skilled writer to find the story in the situation, know when to reveal key bits of information to create drama, humor, and enlightenment. The literary nonfiction writer
frames each incident in such a way so the reader will be continually interested and attentive. 

In pure journalistic style, an author attempts to present all facts, all sides, without judging, without moralizing, and leave the judgments up to the reader. 

These styles are often mixed, and to good effect. I love imaginative and creative writing, fiction and nonfiction. But in my preferred world, and the one in which I publish, in the content of the work I prefer less ignorance, less judgment, less hate, and more wisdom, compassion, and empathy. What do you choose?




 

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