Creative Nonfiction (Philip Gerard)

Creative Nonfiction (Philip Gerard)

A Lesson by Alex Villasana

My notes and comments on this book.


This has been the first book I read about nonfiction, and I like it very much. Since the main goal for me has been to improve in my preaching, this book really provided me with a good set of tools that have already had a positive impact in me.

People need something concrete that they could use to measure what was going on the world.

The nonfiction writer must always rein in that impulse to lie, in all the subtle ways we can shade the truth into something else less than - or more than - the truth.

We conveniently leave out details... And what is left out can change the story of what happened - a lot.

... our first obligation is to tell the truth.

... truth is infinitely elusive.

FIVE HALLMARKS [of creative nonfiction]
First, it has an apparent subject and a deeper subject.
  The best nonfiction always teaches the reader something.
Second, nonfiction is released from the usual journalistic requirement of timeliness.
  We... have some hard choices to make, and it is the nonfiction writer's job to make us face our choices. And, to be practical, that is the moment when editors and readers are most likely to care about the subject... To read it with at least a shadow of the writer's urgency.
Third, creative nonfiction is narrative, it always tells a good story.
  There is always a magic moment. Your readers are waiting for that magic moment to occur, waiting for a change to occur, a lightbulb to flash, something to happen.
Fourth, creative nonfiction contains a sense of reflection on the part of the author.
Fifth, such nonfiction shows serious attention to the craft of writing.

Pay enough attention to the craft of learning the story and telling it clearly, accurately and economically, and the art will happen when you are not looking.

1. Who is writing this?
2. Why am I telling this story?
3. Who will be reading this?

The opening and closing are probably the most important passages in the whole piece. The opening breaks the silence and captures the reader's attention, and the ending leaves a lasting impression.

The ending... pays the promise made in the opening.

All good nonfiction contains conflict.
What usually keep the reader from being bored is suspense.

Suspense... is the combination of two elements: conflict and delay.
The art of suspense lies in making your reader wait just long enough for the answers. You rise a question, and you answer it - but not before raising another, even more intriguing question.

Structure is the arrangement of parts and all the techniques you use to hold the parts together and make it do what it is intended to do.

The form, like an announced subject or a title or an engaging first line, makes a promise.
The structure is always moving the reader toward something.

Personal essay... using the typical dramatic structure of suspense-climax-resolution


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Posted 7 Years Ago

This is a highly efficacious piece of instruction for someone like me who has just started writing.

Thank you for keeping it simple
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Added on November 22, 2010
Last Updated on November 22, 2010

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Alex Villasana
Alex Villasana

Norcross, GA

A Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, quien desea aprender a comunicarse mejor por escrito.