Attempt at defining Literary Categories
Most writers can understand the meaning of “Fiction” as a story which is a complete work of fabrication. However there are often a small number of correct facts sprinkled into the story gleaned from tabulated data of time and place or reports of actual events. Since these are “true facts” usually the phrase used is “based on a facts taken from…”
Literary pieces which attempt as truthfully as possible to relate the events with dates that people in the family experienced are often called Memoirs. Memoirs by definition should be called “True Stories”. As we live we create or are privy to more events that become current memoirs. These are all true stories.
Now here’s the rub. There is no absolute truth.
As soon as we put pen to paper, voice to words, or fingers to keyboard some changes appear in the event we describe. No one can relate absolutely what they saw or heard or experienced. The language used, the skill employed or the facial features displayed all play a role in making the story available to the reader or observer. This is a feature of the Heisenberg Principle: As soon as you touch the event even by observation, the event changes; or, as soon as you attempt to tell the story, by that very attempt you change the story. Proof of this principle is that the second person who experienced exactly the same event will tell it differently. The event is different for the second person.
However take heart. We all accept True Stories as true stories. How true the true stories are is thus left to the eye of the beholder.
The term “Creative Non-Fiction” was thought up for literary work which falls between Fiction and True Story. This category is confusing to many writers since as a true story is written when does it become creative non-fiction if the writer adds more and more fabricated material just to make the story flow better or read more smoothly? Is it allowed to change the date sequence in a true story just to help the reader make it through the narrative? Is changing the names of the people involved permitted while still calling the piece a true story? How much fabrication is allowed before it is called creative non-fiction?
These and many more questions of this type have been posed when faced with this problem. If a writer has tried his best to write a true story, he should have the right to call it a true story.
If I may use my story: “The Bench” as an example, the entire long story is true, except for one thing. I created the item I call “The Bench”. It just seemed so natural to try and tie my grandfather’s life together using the bench as a symbol of his first love his mother refused to acknowledge. I was never told that there was a bench. Never-the-less I refuse to call the story Creative Non-fiction. Rather I want to call it a true story with the exception of one point, the bench.
Finally, it is counter-productive to worry about categorization too much. Writers should write. Readers should read. Forget about worrying about categories. Let librarians worry about that.
In Story-Quilt we have purposely asked one associate editor to read all non-fiction submitted: Anna Rumin. We hope you will find this acceptable.