Prose Workshop 230.00K (48776) - Fall 2014 - CCNY




Contact Info

Nonfiction Intro
Memoir Intro


CREATIVE NONFICTION Uses the literary craft to present factually accurate prose about real people and events in a compelling, vivid manner.1

According to Lee Gutkind, the founder and editor and, according to Vanity Fair, "the godfather" of Creative Nonfiction, such writers "make ideas and information that already exist more interesting and, often, more accessible."

The Vietnam War and Psychedelic Movement of the 1960s and 1970s gave rise to "New Journalism," defined by the unconventional use of literary techniques in news writing. Gay Talese's Fame and Obscurity (1970) collects the author's most popular articles for Esquire magazine, including "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold," which gives a thorough profile of Sinatra without ever interviewing him. Truman Capote's massive bestseller In Cold Blood (1965) provides a detailed account of the murder of a Kansas farm family. Capote claimed he had created a new art form, "the nonfiction novel." In 1973, the genre's white-suited flag bearer Tom Wolfe published New Journalism, which sought to codify this creative nonfiction. In the book, Wolfe claimed that this kind of writing "would wipe out the novel as literature's main event."

Several forms fall within the genre of CREATIVE NONFICITON,
Personal essays,
Travel and Food writing,
and Literary journalism, which is just an update of New Journalism, though muckraker Jack Newfield claims NJ never existed...

...but no matter your distinct approach to the style, certain characteristics constitute the writing.
(We take these from Barbara Lounsberry's book The Art of Fact).2

  1. "Documentable subject matter chosen from the real world"
    1. Subjects in the text have confirmable existence in the real world.
  2. "Exhaustive research"
    1. This allows writers "novel perspectives on their subjects" and "also permits them to establish the credibility of their narratives through verifiable references in their texts."
  3. "The Scene" a crucial if not definitive aspect of creative nonfiction
    1. To establish scene a writer must describe and revivify the context of events in contrast to the typical journalistic style of objective reportage.
    2. According to Wolfe, in nonfiction the basic unit of reporting was no longer the datum or piece of information but the scene. Scene, he said, is what underlies "the sophisticated strategies of prose."3
  4. "Fine writing: a literary prose style."
Lounsberry summarizes, "verifiable subject matter and exhaustive research guarantee the nonfiction side of literary nonfiction; the narrative form and structure disclose the writer's artistry; and finally, its polished language reveals that the goal all along has been literature."

  1. Gutkind, Lee. "What is Creative Nonfiction."
  2. Lounsberry, Barbara. The Art of Fact: Contemporary Artists of Nonfiction. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press. 1990. p. xiii-xvi.
  3. Wolfe, Tom. "Why They Aren't Writing the Great American Novel Anymore," Esquire, December, 1972. p. 278.