In the creative writing world the term creative non-fiction always starts an intense conversation.
There’s two sides:
- 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.
- 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.