Fiction is fun. Fiction is freedom.
Fiction creates new worlds and fills these worlds with heroes, villains, comics, romantics. Fills them with humans or monsters or aliens from another dimension. Fiction can be as wild and unbelievable as the author’s imagination.
Every paragraph is a roller coaster.
Everything is fair game.
Everything is up in the air.
Enjoy the ride and let your imagination soar!
Nonfiction has rules.
Creative Nonfiction takes place in a location the author can and should visit, whether it’s the graveyard down the road or a ship in the middle of the ocean. Not to say writing nonfiction can’t be fun, but the author doesn’t have the same freedom to make up worlds or characters. The people and places must be real.
Nonfiction isn’t a roller coaster.
It’s a maze and research is the author’s only map.
Newspaper articles, interviews, books, and (occasionally) Google.
This is how I contrast my experiences writing fiction versus writing nonfiction. First drafts of fiction dance off my keyboard. Ideas pop into my head. My writing group asks “why did he do that?” about a character and in fiction, I can create the motivation. In nonfiction if I can’t find his motivation in my research, I can’t answer that question. I can’t make up an actual person’s motivations for his or her actions.
I have been researching a complex, creative nonfiction project for years.
Set in the late 1960s and early 1970s, this creative nonfiction centers on the man who discovered an earthquake fault under the North Anna Nuclear Power Station in Virginia and ended up with a bullet in his head.
It’s an exciting story with a thousand twists and turns, just like an intricate maze.
Am I near the end of the maze or still in the center? Only careful research will help me find my way.
Which is more satisfying as a writer? Fiction or nonfiction?
That’s like asking what is more satisfying to eat, dinner or dessert.
Why not try both?
Carolyn O’Neal is the author of:
Carolyn O’Neal was creative consultant for: