What Exactly is CNF? – One Dragonlady’s Plea for Answers

Anybody who knows me knows that I do often have a beef with CNF (otherwise known as “creative” non-fiction). Now, of course, I’ve read plenty of CNF that I’ve enjoyed. My problem isn’t the genre or the writing – it’s the name.

Essentially, my experience with CNF has been this: I was taught in grad school that, in writing CNF, you take real experience (hence the “NF”) and then twist it or change it to make it more of a story (hence the “C”). However, if you’re changing facts or filling in suppositions, then all you really have is “F”. Fiction. Maybe realistic fiction. Maybe historical fiction. But still fiction.

I like the idea of CNF, of trying to tell non-fiction in an engaging way that makes it more like reading a story. However, too often it does slip down the slope into something that’s at least partly fictionalized. At which point, it’s just not non-fiction anymore. (To my mind, anyway)

All this being said, and I know it’s quite the rant, I would love to hear from a defender of the CNF banner. Maybe my understanding of what is acceptable in CNF is wrong. Maybe you have a great argument as to why even some of the extreme alterations can still be considered non-fiction.

If you do, post a comment! Debate me! I really would love to hear not only a concise definition of CNF but also an actual CNF writer’s commentary on how they make calls on what to change. And, if you’re not a writer (of CNF or otherwise), throw in your two cents anyway!

After all, it could be fun!

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