Call/WhatsApp: +1 914 416 5343

True stories and memories

Creative nonfiction writers focus on true stories and memories, but that doesn’t mean they lack imagination. In
order to craft the raw stuff of memory into a creative nonfiction story that has beauty, relevance to others, and
literary value takes creativity, skill, and practice.
Partly this is because raw memory isn’t already shaped and crafted. If you think about it, most memory is
nonsense, and would be inscrutable to others without a storytelling effort. And partly it’s because our memories
are imperfect and don’t “record” our experiences–they are themselves selective. Memory itself is creative.
To delve into what that means for the creative nonfiction writer, I’d like you to bring to life a memory from more
than ten years ago. By “bring to life,” I mean put your reader in the scene using concrete, sensory details,
dialogue (conversation), and at least two characters (including yourself). The memory should be precise–try to
recall a specific moment, such as the time you were accused of eating the cake that you know your sister ate,
or one afternoon when you had a conversation with your BFF about living together in a purple house one day.
This doesn’t need to be long–just a few paragraphs, a single scene or conversation will do. The important thing
is to include dialogue and sensory details–what people looked like, what the day smelled like, what you wore,
how the light slanted through the trees–that kind of thing.
When you’re done, consider: although true, didn’t you have to use your imagination to include sensory details
and dialogue? Of course you did! No one remembers everything in perfect, photographic detail. Our memories
are not film reels. In order to bring them to life, we have to use all the available techniques of the fiction writer
and poet.