What is Creative Non-Fiction Writing? An explanation for anyone starting to write, or simply curious

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For people who are starting to write, most of the writing genres and sub-genres require no explanation: novels (thrillers, romances, science fiction, children’s writing), poetry (modern, haiku, ballads, limericks), short story writing, and non-fiction (articles, essays, journalism).

What is Creative Non-Fiction Writing? An explanation for anyone starting to write, or simply curious
There are many types of writing – image by awai.com

But the off-shoot of non-fiction, known as Creative Non Fiction can be a confusing term for beginners.

What Types of Writing Does Creative Non-Fiction Encompass?

  • Literary Journalism
  • Literary Non-Fiction
  • Imaginative Non-Fiction
  • Personal Essay
personal essay
Personal Essay example – image by paperleaf.ca
  • Personal Narrative
  • Literary Memoir
  • Nature Writing
  • Travel Writing
  • Food Writing
Food Writing
Food writing – image by pepper.ph
  • Journaling
  • Letter-Writing
  • … and in the age of the internet, even Blogs!
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Even blogs! – image by dailyzen.co.uk

Simply put, it can encompass any piece of writing which takes facts (i.e. non-fiction) and presents them in a fashion which brings the subject to life for a reader (i.e. using the techniques of creative writing).

To understand better, perhaps it is useful to consider exactly what non-fiction writing is, and then consider how adding the creative part to it makes it different.

Non-Fiction Writing

Fiction vs Non-fiction wrtiting – image by elementarylibrarian.com

Non-Fiction writing includes essays, journalism, ‘how-to’ books or articles, scholarly writing, in other words, it is writing which reports, analyzes, informs or instructs. It may contain the author’s personal opinions, but its main purpose is to deliver information, and the style will lack emotion or subjectivity.

What Makes Creative Non-Fiction Writing Different from Other Non-Fiction Writing?

When a writer embarks on a piece of creative non-fiction, any subject might be tackled – even the same subjects about which essayists or journalists might write – but the approach to writing the piece will be different.

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Creative Non-fiction is different from other fictions – image by freevector.com

In creative writing, or fiction, the writer seeks to engage the reader and move the reader; creative writing conjures vivid pictures and draws the reader in, using language that is emotive and dramatic. The aims of a Creative Non-Fiction writer are the same.

In other words, Creative Non-Fiction uses the techniques of a creative writer to convey information about real subjects and bring those subjects to life.

The elements of Creative Writing that a writer employs are:

  • Dramatic Story or Plot Shape
  • Vivid Scene Setting
  • Rich Character Development
  • Descriptive and Emotive Language
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The elements of Creative Writing – image by pinterest.co.kr

First Person

The voice of the writer is an important component in Creative Non-Fiction writing. The use of the first person “I” is always either explicitly used, or implicit in the perspective. The writer uses their personal feelings and opinions, their memories and experiences, and their observations, to paint a picture which will not only inform the reader, but move the reader in some way.

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First person is used not only to inform the reader, but move the reader in some way – image by grammar-monster.com

Examples of Creative Non-Fiction Books:

Death in The Afternoon by Ernest Hemingway

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

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A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway – image by audiobookstore.com

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

Notes of a Native Son by John Baldwin


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