Resource – Creative Non-Fiction – an introduction

Some people aren’t sure what is meant by creative non-fiction, or CNF, but it’s really simple! It’s anything that is NOT made-up! If it’s real-life, and you write about it creatively, then it’s CNF. This includes personal essays and memoirs, biographies, blogs, reviews, magazine or newspaper articles. Topics are as broad as life itself. Think travel, music, lifestyle, gaming, cooking… Or in the remit of Lockdown Babybabble – babies or care-giving!

What puts the ‘C’ in CNF is the attention to creative elements, and here’s where it crosses over with fiction. CNF still has characters, except they’re REAL PEOPLE, including yourself or those you write about, so you can describe your characters and engage with them emotionally. CNF still uses imagery, sensory detail, similes and metaphors, and it can include dialogue, action or mystery. The only proviso is that is really happened.

The best site is a one-stop shop – creativenonfiction.org. Here you’ll find background, tips and plenty of reading for inspiration.

One technique that avoids straight reportage and elevates any CNF piece is the ‘imaginative departure‘. This is where you divert momentarily from your real-life story to speculate on something. For example: “As I sit typing right now, with my baby sleeping in the sling, I imagine the places I’ll take her when lockdown is lifted. How she beams like a cheeky cherub as the sea breeze tickles her face. How she giggles at the waves, wrapping my heart in a hug.”

Ideas if you are a new parent:

  1. Your Story – pregnancy, labour, newborns in lockdown
  2. Shocking – what has been the biggest shock about becoming a parent in lockdown?
  3. Hope and Loss – what did you hope for about becoming a Mumma and what have you lost due to lockdown?
  4. Thank You – who has lifted your journey?
  5. Love and Joy – Describe your favourite moments so far
  6. Sensory World – what colours, sounds and smells represent your experience so far?

To be included on our Lockdown Baby Board, you can also just email your details and a photo to lockdownbabybabble@gmail.com

Some ideas for writing CNF about care-giving:

  1. What type of care-giving have you been doing throughout lockdown? Write a list of all the specific details and responsibilities you can think of.
  2. Think about the places, people and activities that are involved – make some notes.
  3. Bring a scene to mind that encapsulates your experience – it might be on a hospital ward, in a care home, an office or supermarket. Write a description about the sights, colours, sounds and smells connected to this scene.
  4. Are there any conversations you have had that illustrate something about your experience? Can you remember anything specific that was said?
  5. Now that you have collected some thoughts, this forms the material of your piece. Next, decide on one or two specific things you would like readers to take away from your piece. This might be how hard it was caring for the elderly without PPE. Or the simple kindness of someone bringing you tea and cake one time.
  6. Start writing! You can include a little of everything you’ve thought of so far or your piece can be primarily one aspect eg. a description or remembered conversation. Whatever you decide, be sure to include colours, sights and sounds, as this enables the reader to share your experience most effectively.

GOOD LUCK! And remember, we are happy to assist with editing and developing your work, so if you haven’t written much before, just have a go and get in touch with any questions.

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