“There are two basic approaches to creative nonfiction,” according to Lee Gutkind, author of You Can’t Make this Stuff Up, – memoir/personal essay and immersion nonfiction. I get how immersion is creative nonfiction but the memoir/personal essay part still remains unclear as to how that genre could be under the creative nonfiction umbrella.
Gutkind writes that creative nonfiction, referred to as the fourth genre, has become the most popular genre in the literary and publishing worlds. I understand it gives the writer a flexibility and a freedom yet still sticking with reporting.
Reporting. Ugh. I remember vividly a reporting and writing class I had to take in J school as required. My writing output was nothing but facts – no descriptions, dialogue, character development, story, nothing imaginative. I am not a reporter.
Gutkind explains further about immersion writing. He uses his own experiences to illustrate just what that genre is about. He put himself in environments and worked with people, studied them, really, the “immersion,” and then wrote about it. I hadn’t done anything like that before and I didn’t I plan on it in the future, writing about people. I write about me. Until it occurred to me that I was immersing myself in an environment working with people from administration, medical staff to patients. I was volunteering at a skilled nursing/rehab facility. I was working closely with the Director of Nursing and visiting patients and residents in the meantime. I was asking lots of questions as curiosity and need for more information and understanding drove me. I got to know the patients and residents well. Soon I realized I could report on this experience with facts yet still have the flexibility and freedom to infuse my creative spin on the writing.
So just how can memoir/personal essay can be considered creative nonfiction? I refer to my own memoir in production, Under the Birch Tree as an example of creative prose without reportage.Does making reference to facts about birch trees count?
I highly reccommend reading Gutkind’s book. He is compelling in his writing. ” . . . turning your life or the lives of the people about whom you are writing into hard-hitting, compelling, informative, truthful, and accurate drama with vivid scenes, electrifying characters, and unforgettable messages.”
But I refer to one strong, common element found in immersion and memoir/personal essay. It is the power of story and the stories can grow and become more vivid. Perhaps this is the driving force for memoirists?