Keep It Real: Everything You Need to Know About Researching and Writing Creative Nonfiction Paperback – Jan 27 2009
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About the Author
Lee Gutkind is the founder and editor of the literary journal Creative Nonfiction and a pioneer in the field of narrative nonfiction. Gutkind is also the editor of In Fact and Becoming a Doctor, the author of Almost Human, and has written books about baseball, health care, travel, and technology. A Distinguished Writer in Residence at Arizona State University, he lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Tempe, Arizona.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
That's why I liked "Keep it Real." Mr. Gutkind and his team of contributors have assembled several constructive articles regarding necessities for "Creative Nonfiction." Much of what they share moves beyond the Creative Nonfiction genre and can inform the work of the fiction writer.
While the order of the brief articles seemed random (they're alphabetical, dummy!) I frequently found myself underlining passages to which I would want to refer as I worked through future projects. Within a couple of days, I was back in the book, rereading an underscored passage or two.
As I rewrite something that was "perfect" before, as I mold a journal entry into a memoir piece, heck, even as I take notes for a possible idea, many of the tenets of "Keep it Real" guide my efforts and help make my efforts more succinct and efficient. I have license now to be more critical of my work:
"Take a highlighter and yellow in the scenes. If half your essay, more or less, is not glaring and blaring back at you in yellow (I use green), that's a red flag, a warning that your essay may not be infused with enough narrative to compel a reader onward." (page 141) That one piece of advice is more than worth the price of admission for me.
Perhaps this is not the volume for a student in an MFA program or for someone who is studying writing in a formal program. But for someone with a story to tell who is looking for tips and coaching about how to tell it, this book deserves an easily accessible place on the shelf. You'll be referring to it often.
Originally, I adjudged Creative Nonfiction as an embellishment--inserting fictional facts with flamboyant color into an otherwise true story to round out its rough edges and instill it with vivid life. I viewed this strange new genre as a stretching of truth into virtual fiction.
"Keep It Real" set me straight. Its integrity as nonfiction remains intact. This new genre awakens the dry experience of Journalism, as depicted by publications like the "The New York Times", by inserting emotion and color into lifeless facts. It maintains accurate prose about real people and events, while painting dry facts with drama and imagination. The nonfiction writer, as a factual reporter, enters inside the mind of the protagonist, not through fictional embellishment or psychic guesswork, but through true depictions of that person's actions, expressions, and words. Likewise, the writer can be an interactive character in the story with the license to express his own personal thoughts, feelings, and perceptions through a depiction of his own behavior and reactions. The story reads like lively fiction, but tells the truth.
My memoir-in-progress, which I had initially labeled Nonfiction Narrative, is really Creative Nonfiction.
A potpourri of essayists, each allocated their own chapter in "Keep It Real", covers the elements of composite characters, quote compression and restatement, frames, characterization, immersion into another's point of view, fact-checking, libelous issues, and etc., including etc. about etc.
"Keep It Real", though not creative nonfiction itself, reads quickly, colorfully, and entertainingly, while remaining highly educational. Only 160 pages, the soft paper and font size are an easy read for the impatient author, like me, eager to learn the genre's craft quickly.
Read it, and get published someday.