Of Blurring the Line of Creative Non-Fiction

Harry Potter - I must not tell lies

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In the creative writing world the term creative non-fiction always starts an intense conversation.

There’s two sides:

  1. The side that insists that nothing can ever be fabricated, if there are people involved you need to get their permission and/or have them confirm the story as the way it happened, and there are very few liberties regarding details.
  2. The other side is a bit more lenient. They are in favor of the use of the creative license, they care more about the emotional truth than the factual truth, and in regards to details, if wall was yellow but it’s a more powerful scene if it’s black – let it be black.

Personally I fall into the second group.

Here’s how I see it. Unless you walk around with a video camera or notepad recording EVERYTHING that happened in your life EVER right down to the um’s, ah’s, and like’s used in daily conversation, then everything may as well be fiction. For no one wants to read a list of facts, it’s boring. That’s what textbooks are for. There’s a reason that very few people read textbooks for leisure purposes.

I just can’t grasp why people care so much, it’s not like creative non-fiction writers are writing the news. They are writing their story, most likely with the only source being their memory and maybe a friend or two.

The truth is about as stable as a ribbon hanging from a beam. Non-fiction on one side and fiction on the other. Sometimes it goes crazy, spinning and jumping all over the place. Other times it’s flipped up, stuck to the top of the roof – the line vanishes. And occasionally it hangs straight down – forming a clear definitive line of what’s the truth and what’s a lie.

The point is when I’m writing non-fiction I’m not lying, but that doesn’t mean I’m telling the truth. If I were to include a disclaimer this would mostly be what I put:

The following is true, it happened, this is how my brain remembers the event, story, people, weather, and so forth. I’m not lying to you, not that it matters. It really doesn’t matter, the events truth doesn’t matter, what matters is how I remembered it, how it influenced me, and how you as a reader connect to the story. Hopefully you’ll be entertained or possibly moved by the next few pages. This may as well be fiction because I didn’t bother to double-check the exact time or temperature ever when writing this. I repeat, the truth doesn’t matter …. but this is a true story, so you may as well believe me.

From that I’m guaranteed to have people freak out that I’m a liar, and others praise me for my honesty. Even though I hopefully clearly stated where I stand on the issue in a simple little paragraph. The point is there’s no winning these conversations, it’s a dead conversation that loops on repeat over and over. It never goes anywhere, no one ever sees the other’s point of view, no one suddenly jumps from team 1 to team 2 or vice-versa.

What we need is more terms to use for the genre. Like in the way that there’s 50 types of love in the world but the English language only has one word to use, so it’s all in how you say it. There’s 50 – and growing – types of creative non-fiction. But there’s only three terms you can use: creative non-fiction, memoir, and (auto)biography. They all basically mean the same thing and have the same debate regarding truth and lies.

I think people need to calm down and realize that no one is ever going to agree.

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Of Professional High 5’s and Family Bonding

High 5

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Tonight I can’t sleep. I tossed about until my sheets were so disorderly that they wrapped around my feet in obnoxious ways furthering my inability to fall into a pleasant slumber. It’s stuffy and hot so I finally got up, filled up my sippy cup (yes, I have a sippy cup, it is adorable and purple with two handles, cause one obviously just wouldn’t suffice), and opened my window. Still no dreams. I figured my brain is busy, so rather than lie there annoyed and alert I decided to write something on this blog that I’ve neglected over the past month.

Oh, and I have to work in seven hours. Awesome.

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Over this summer I’ve been surrounded by my happy Christian family. There’s been moments when I wanted to shout curses at them, make them stop hovering, and ultimately start a scene. I don’t. I sit back and deal. It’s very similar to high school, except, in my personal life I’m no longer trying to live up to their expectations. I try not to lie to them but it’s a difficult habit to break. I’ve gotten so used to protecting them. Living in a don’t ask don’t tell fashion rather than a live and let be way of life.

I know they are concerned about me, worried that I’m lost, am heading towards a sad unfulfilled life, becoming impure. And I can’t change that. From my mother especially, there are moments when I can feel her unspoken words shout at me, but because she’s a cliché Norwegian (as are all of us) she’ll keep her mouth shut until she explodes like a volcano. Unless I end up pregnant or tell them I’m dating and/or are attracted to both men and women, she most likely won’t say anything for years.

There are other moments like today when I love my family to bits. My brothers and I are all so awkward, it’s pathetic really, but enthusiastically we embrace our quirks and make it a lovable part of our personality. Well, we think of us as lovable anyway.

For instance we just perfected the high 5 and we couldn’t be more proud. The more we high 5, the more we are filled with glee.

We no longer say “high 5” then sloppily slap wrists. We now say “elbows” and the rest is magic.

Chris: We’re basically professional high fivers now.

Me: Yeah, we’re pretty awesome at it. Elbows!

*high 5 ensues*

Chris: It makes me wonder if there’s a similar secret to ball sports.

Me: Probably.

Chris: There must be.

Me: If there is I don’t have enough of a sports drive to experiment and find out.

Chris: Yeah, me neither, ha, we’ll never make Grandma’s fridge with all the other athletic Luna’s.

Me: Aw, if either of us have athletic kids.

Chris: That’ll suck, I don’t want to sit through their boring games. Your dance recitals were torture enough. Elbows.

*high 5 ensues*

I love my family. We have the strangest yet enjoyable conversations. We brag about our misfortunes and embarrassing stories. And we are the only non-athletic grandchildren on my dad’s side of the family, thanks to my mother’s genes. But, I’m perfectly okay with that, we have other talents.

Today I chased Chris around the church then wimpily whipped him with a curtain rod for wrapping velvet (a gross material) around me. We thought it was hilarious. Andrew was hitting himself in the head with a plastic cone, slowly shrinking each time. Chris gave Andrew burping and armpit fart lessons. And we all did super pathetic push ups just to see how many we could do.

I promise we’re not crazy. But we are lovable and quirky. And we are great story tellers/conversationalists. Sit with us at dinner just once and you’ll be hooked.