Narrative Non-Fiction

village
My mother’s mekeo village – a photograph given to me by an anthropologist who studied her village.

If you love blogging creative non-fiction may be the publishing genre for you. It is also known as literary non-fiction or narrative non-fiction. Recently I discovered how interesting this genre is and how it could be an ideal way for me to approach some of the topics I love to blog on. I realised that many pieces I’ve blogged could be written in this style, and in some cases already have been.

Creative non fiction embraces memoir, journal article, research paper and poem. It embraces travel, nature, and sports writing. It uses literary techniques to achieve its goal. The key to it is that in addition to this it is well researched and back grounded and the narrative is engagingly written using recognised literary techniques. Many of the skills of a seasoned journalist come in handy in the array of skills a fine creative nonfiction writer can develop.

Creative non-fiction as a genre challenges bloggers who often are on the verge of being fine creative non-fiction writers to work even more on their facts and their craft and not just give into their desire to share writing. At it’s best, it is purposeful, mindful and engaging without being judgmental or lecturing. There may be many challenges in the journey of the creative non-fiction writer because they are drawing upon real life, issues such as the reliability of memory and interview subjects.

In many cases it draws on the skills of ethnographic researchers, as writers immerse themselves in a world and then write it.

What I love about this genre is its belief in the power of narrative to make real and engaging so many different worlds that the reader may not have direct access to.

For now I am reading several examples of this genre and considering sending out work to publications.  Topics are brewing and being brainstormed and researched.

I reflect on social issues that have naturally been a cause of reflection because they are in part derived from personal experience. These all seem to circle around issues of being a second generation migrant of Papua New Guinean and English background; a Baha’i,  growing up in Tasmania – a place of high unemployment, a questionable history it hasn’t come to terms with fully and incredible physical beauty; spending  a decade living in cyclone country in a place, again, of great physical beauty but with immensely challenging undercurrents for people living in the country with fewer opportunities for work and little access to mental health services.

Like a documentary maker, the creative non-fiction writer can pick any world beyond their experience and through a process of immersion and research write about it, and depending on their inclination also include their interaction with that world.  This reminds me a lot of ethnographic work undertaken by anthropologists and sociologists.  Reading about this genre I realise my academic experience is  handy and applicable, but my yearning to write in an engaging and imaginative manner is equally applicable.  It may be the perfect genre to pursue because it allows me to bring so many skills together.

Lee Gutkind founded a journal of Creative Non-Fiction which you can find online CREATIVE NON FICTION to gain an appreciation of this genre. The latest issue, Spring 2015, focused on memoir – hows, whys and examples of it.

Here is an example of a piece of mine that could be developed further and moulded to fit  the creative non-fiction genre  Meeting An AnthropologistHave you ever wondered what it would be like to meet an anthropologist who studied your mother’s village and gave your photographs of it and relatives you have never met?  This article is about that experience. Read it and let me know what you think!  I am thinking of reworking this article and adding some more depth to it, but am thankful to have the memory captured from years ago.

This article then is a resource for a more developed piece.  I am so thankful for my many journals and notebooks.  I am thinking perhaps I could interview the anthropologist and my Mum and Dad about this, because later he went on to interview my parents for a project he was doing.

(c) June Perkins

3 thoughts on “Narrative Non-Fiction

  1. Pearl, I wholeheartedly agree with you. This is one of my favorite genres to read. I’m also dipping my toe in the waters. For the last year I’ve been writing articles for a magazine profiling local artisans–their work and lifestyle, and what spurs their creativity. I get such a kick out of interviewing these people and delving into their stories. And then creating a narrative out of it that captures the essence of what these talented folks do. I’m going to go read your piece on the anthropologist. As always–happy writing, and may inspiration always find you.

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