Writing Creative Non-Fiction

If the same author wrote a biography about her great-grandfather, she has some license to fill in the blanks, as long as it doesn’t affect the outcome of the story.She most likely doesn’t know what her great-grandfather’s farmhouse looked like on the inside or what he liked in his coffee—ethically, the author has the right to create dialogue and other “facts” that make up the creative element of creative nonfiction.Other ways to stay out of trouble: Stick to the truth.

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Ethically, this author must redefine her piece as fiction.

The basic facts must be true in creative nonfiction.

Linda can still sue you for defamation if she is obviously defamed, regardless of the name you give her in the book.

Changing a person’s name is not a guarantee of protection, but it might help.

It involves the use of factual events or characters to create dramatic nonfiction using techniques such as dialogue, scenery, and point of view.

It combines the fact-finding of journalism with the literary techniques of the fiction writer to create a dramatic story that just happens to be true.

Want to know about the legal ramifications of pen names? At Writer’s Relief, we work with writers of personal essays and memoirs.

If you’ve got a true story but don’t know where to submit it, Writer’s Relief can help.

As long as it doesn’t impact the story, changing Linda, the waitress at the Burger Barn, to Cynthia from the Hamburger Hut might save Linda some awkwardness.

And if you’ve fudged the facts about her, changing Linda’s name just might save you from a lawsuit, but there is no guarantee.


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