The difference between creative nonfiction and fiction is unassuming: fiction is derived from the fabrications of an author’s imagination, whereas creative nonfiction is contingent on facts. A novelist has the freedom to create scenes which never existed, whereas an author of creative nonfiction must convey a truthful story. However, the line between creative nonfiction and fiction, fact and falsehood, has become ever so thin as “writers of memoir [have been] revealed to be frauds and fiction writers masquerade as memoirists in order to sell books” (Bradley 203). Recent events have revealed authors such as James Frey and Tim Barrus to have combined elements of fiction and nonfiction within their creative nonfiction books (Buck 56), further blurring this line. Overlooked embellishments and whole fabrications were found to exist within their alleged creative nonfiction works – stirring angst within the nonfiction community (Bradley 208). Allegations arose and investigations ensued, all revolving around the question: who is to blame? As a result, the entire creative nonfiction genre received negative publicity and harsh criticism (Bradley 203). For creative nonfiction to restore its legitimacy and veracity as a genre, authors, and not publishers, are to be held responsible for ensuring their creative nonfiction books are truthful.
Creative nonfiction, often labeled the “fourth genre” (Bradley 203), requires the depiction of factual events and happenings through past memories, with a literary touch. Books under this genre include memoirs, biographies, and autobiographies. However, memory is malleable and fades. Hence, authors are given leeway in this respect and to be “truthful” is defined as an author recollecting and portraying p...
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...ate to. For authors to deceive readers knowingly through a creative nonfiction medium is to rob readers of the intrinsic connection and empathy felt towards the story. The story becomes significantly less powerful and not as personally important to the reader. It is then dismissed as fiction, an untrue fairy tale once lost in the nonfiction realm. Writers of creative nonfiction books must then write truthfully to ensure creative nonfiction books are truthful. This is the only practical approach for the creation of true creative nonfiction books. Fact-checking is too onerous a practice when applied to the book publishing industry and avoids the inherent issue at hand: deceitful authors. For the fiction itself created by these authors is not the issue, but the deception, the robbing of unsuspecting readers, which has created this entire mess in the first place.
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