It used to be so simple. Fiction was made up and non fiction was fact. Then along came this crazy thing called creative non fiction. Now there’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one. How can something be made up or embellished and factual at the same time? It’s not easy; just ask James Frey who got crucified for his embellished memoir. Okay, maybe that isn’t a strong enough word, because it turned out to be more fiction than non fiction.
What brought about creative non fiction anyway? I have my own theory about this. We have become ADD in this world of instant gratification and techno fast food delivery of information world. Part of this has made us very impatient with the written word. We want more for less, and we want to be entertained even while educated. Thus, when we open a newspaper – standard non fiction fare – we want to see more white space than text and LOTS of pictures, please. In fact, make that newspaper look like a web page, and we’ll be much happier. Forget the inverted pyramid, give me bullets.
Whatever you do, don’t hand me a text-book with the standard non fiction snooze fest of prose. I’m a student of a new millennia, and I want those words to leap off the page and excite me. I don’t care if the topic is as boring as dishwater, make me think it’s the latest edition of Harry Potter.
No pressure at all for writers. Especially students writers thrown into an academic world where they must learn, think, write, and now entertain. What’s a student to do? Pray for the next JK Rowlings as a classmate? No, read. Read everything out there and make note of what works and what doesn’t. Adopt the best things you find and beware of the worst. Then, practice.
Did I mention, practice?