Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Guest Post: Creative Nonfiction Writing and You, The Writer‏

Sometimes classified as a genre of its own, creative nonfiction writing is actually an umbrella term that includes a variety of writing types. The unifying characteristic of the styles of writing that make up creative nonfiction is that while the writer deals with actual events rather than invented events, the writer uses techniques of fiction and poetry writers.

Some of the types of written works that fall under the category of creative nonfiction are personal essays, memoirs, meditations, cultural commentary, nature journaling, and travel writing. Often nonfiction writing becomes dry as it deals with facts, or boring as it explains processes. By injecting a little creative life into these nonfiction written works, the writer can hold the interest of the reader and offer them a little entertainment along with information.

To capture the essence of creative nonfiction, it is important to write with a sense of "I." Even if the article is told in third person, think in the first person. Or, you can write the article in first person, and then go back and change the viewpoint, retaining the personal voice.

In some ways, creative nonfiction is a relatively new style of writing. In other ways, it is as old as mankind. For example, nonfiction writing up until the last half century tended to ignore the writer. It was the information being expressed that was important. The writer didn't really matter. Even so, there have been personal writings down through the years that give us a glimpse into the soul of the writer. An example of this is St. Augustine's Confessions, which date back to the 3rd century A.D.

Nonfiction writing from the genteel 18th or 19th century was sometimes more creatively done than in the past century. Peruse the pages of a cookbook from the early 1800's, for instance, and you're likely to find all sorts of creative use of language as well as a strong sense of the personality of the writer.

The growth of creative nonfiction as an artistic entity has been in part fueled by the widespread ideas of psychoanalysis. In bygone days, personal thoughts were considered too private for the public eye. Now, everyone wants to know everything about everyone else. This is not necessarily just being nosy, however. It could indicate a more authentic view of ourselves as thinking, feeling people. Our feelings matter.

Whether you intend to pursue creative nonfiction writing for publication or not, it is an obvious fit as a journaling style. When writing those ruminations, look for ways to use language creatively, just like writers of fiction. Do you use alliteration? This term refers to the repetition of a consonant sound several times in a short space. (Notice the "s" words in the preceding sentence for an example.) Assonance is a term that refers to the repetition of a vowel sound several times in a short space.

Another aspect of creative writing is to carefully choose the exact word you want. Synonyms may mean the same thing, but there are subtle nuances of difference. Consulting a basic thesaurus can make the difference between an OK word and the perfect word for a specific thought.

Always proofread your writing, even in your personal journal. When possible, read it aloud. Good writing doesn't just express your thoughts accurately and effectively; it also sounds beautiful. Listen to the rhythm and flow of your words. Do you "hang" somewhere, searching for the train of thought? So will your readers.

Let poetic language seep into your nonfiction writing. Describe the actual happenings and the dry facts with strong verbs and specific nouns. The whole point of creative writing is assembling the words on paper in such a way that the total work is uniquely your own. Let the finished product be an expression of you, the writer.

Copyright © Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ

Shery is the creator of WriteSparks!™- a software that generates over 10 *million* Story Sparkers for Writers. Download WriteSparks!™ Lite for free at She is also the author of 2 books. Visit her official site at

Download an excerpt of The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between below: OR authenticself-sampler.pdf

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Thank you for reading. Keep writing!

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