7.25.2006

The Odd Couple

I think it's necessary to have a sort of introduction to my blog. I've said the "how do you do's" and introduced myself (and still have yet to lay out my soul for the world to see) but there's more to it than me. I am looking forward to a long, mutual conversation, because hearing myself talk is not one of my favorite activities (but hopefully other people find it enjoyable.) I'd like to hear what you have to say about the two quirky topics of my blog because, well, let's be honest. The subjects are oddly paired. Creative nonfiction and worship? Some of you may be saying to yourself, "what is this creative non-fiction anyway?" And some of you may very well be saying, "This blog sounds deathly boring and I'd rather be sitting in a broken down elevator with a yapping dog and a headache."

So let's move onto a good question. What is Creative Nonfiction? Despite the genre's seeming elusiveness, it's very accesible and, you've probably already been exposed to it. I'm still learning about it, but I think I've developed some definitions I'm happy with. Cheaply put, it's an excuse for us indecisive writers who are stuck in the median of the road with fiction and non-fiction passing by at record speed in opposite directions. But of course, if I really felt this way I wouldn't choose it for myself (although indecisiveness is a rather boulder sized problem for me. . .) Liberally put, it's a natural literary form to arise out of the postmodern era, proving that stories do not have one final say, or one sure reality. In more literary terms, it's an opportunity to craft true stories into literary art. Notice that I use the words "true stories" rather than truth, for as we all know, truth exists more heavily in literature than in real life. Some people call creative nonfiction, "literary factual prose," "literary journalism", and "narrative nonfiction". It can include memoirs, personal essays, meditations, and plotted narrative (Taken from WRITING CREATIVE NONFICTION, ed. Carolyn Forche and Philip Gerard, 2001). Annie Dillard, Madeleine L'Engle and Anne Lamont are all considered writers of creative nonfiction.

So aside from all that, what's it for? In my opinion, one of the most appealing aspects of the genre is its freedom. If you haven't seen the movie, "Everything is Illuminated" with Elijah Wood, I HIGHLY recommend it. And besides being perfectly descriptive of the movie, the title helps me explain what creative nonfiction does. Somehow, putting real life into the language of literature, using plot elements like setting, dialogue, conflict, suspense, character development, etc., enlightens experiences. Somehow all of the nuances and crannies and nooks that once were invisible to the naked eye are visible to the literary eye. In a very similar way, creative nonfiction takes us back to the ancient's history preserving method: orally passing down histories from generation to generation. How did people remember an old story told by a campfire or a candle? Because it wasn't just a history textbook they heard. They weren't stone cold facts ignorant of anything but themselves. They were beautiful words that told the truth about the human condition.

There's a certain amount of creative license issued to former journalists and reporters who have been stuck in a rut most of their life, unable to express their art. When someone grabs hold of creative nonfiction for the first time, the story ideas are endless. You can draw from your own life, or someone you know, or a historical figure, or your apartment neighbor. But one thing I have to make clear: show the big picture, not your own narrow perspective.

I went to a writer's conference a few months ago where I heard editors lament over the number of memoir proposals they receive. Memoirs, or life stories, are the big "to do" these days. I'm sure there are quite a few people out there who believe their stories are interesting to the world. . . they may even think they have something just because they tell the truth in one big piece, rather than a million. In any case, as interesting as my day at work was I have one rule: I don't write for the world unless the world has something to gain from it. In other words, make it universal. Don't make it specific to your life so that no one gets it, or people drool from boredom.

As you can see, I didn't get the topic of worship and what it has to do with creative nonfiction. Maybe you can do your own detective correlation work until I write a new post. . .

4 comments:

brooke said...

ok, so here are two quotes from your blog that caught me-

"...somehow all the nuances and crannies and nooks that once were invisible to the naked eye are visible to the literary eye."

right on. i'm not a writer or literary-lady by any means, but there is something totally refreshing to me about journaling. it's like taking a microscope to the crannies and nooks of my life, and sometimes i don't like what i observe. journaling is truly a gut-check for me. my crannies, stuffed with secrets, seem overbearing and my nooks are full of stuff like bellybutton lint- the crap of life i knew was there but chose not to pay attention to- that's starting to stink and get sticky, you know? that's when the "truth" comes out- the truth you say we find more in writing than in real life. good call, amy.

the other quote: "I'm sure there are quite a few people out there who believe their stories are interesting to the world...they may even think they have something just because they tell the truth in one big piece, rather than a million."

just for the record, as long as we continue to make seeking & telling the truth a priority, truth is so much better when it comes out in pieces- it seems so REAL and makes life a heck of a lot more livable. sometimes, when we wait too long and announce the truth or acknowledge it all at once, it becomes a giant cyclops instead of the star-wars' Yoda. it seems ominous instead of intelligent. i'd rather run away from it than shake its hand, you know what i mean? for me, truth all packed tight into one potato sack pummels me with unexpected and unwelcome emotions. indeed...i prefer truth, whether it's a warm-fuzzy truth or cold-prickly truth, to be packaged in bite-sized foil papers like hershey kisses... another good obeservation, mrs. kopecky.

Ronan Jimson said...

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my blog is Arts Collections .
pls feedback to me.
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Ryan said...

Hey Amy,

Brooke told me to check out your blog. Thanks for sharing your thoughts...I've already enjoyed your writing (and philosophy - I read French Women Don't Get Fat as well).

Here's to writing and sharing your gift with the world...

Dutch Not German said...

I love the description you give of Creative Non-Fiction. There is something about having a person narrate their own story, rather than just hearing the plot, that connects the reader to universal ideas. The story may be about crazy people in my apartment complex, but my voice gives it something others can relate to. LOVE IT!

I never knew my crazy story blog had a literary name. Good to know.