Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi, authors of The Sugar Girls, a novelistic story based on interviews with former sugar-factory workers, make a similar point: "Although we have tried to remain faithful to what our interviewees have told us, at a distance of over half a century many memories are understandably incomplete, and where necessary we have used our own research, and our imaginations, to fill in the gaps. However, the essence of the stories related here is true, as they were told to us by those who experienced them at first hand." Although there have been instances of traditional and literary journalists falsifying their stories, the ethics applied to creative nonfiction are the same as those that apply to journalism.
The truth is meant to be upheld, just told in a literary fashion.
Essayist John D'Agata explores the issue in his 2012 book The Lifespan of a Fact.
It examines the relationship between truth and accuracy, and whether it is appropriate for a writer to substitute one for the other.
Literary critic Barbara Lounsberry—in her book, The Art of Fact—suggests four constitutive characteristics of the genre, the first of which is "Documentable subject matter chosen from the real world as opposed to 'invented' from the writer's mind".
The third characteristic that Lounsberry claims is crucial in defining the genre is "The scene".Melanie Mc Grath, whose book Silvertown, an account of her grandmother’s life, is "written in a novelist's idiom", writes in the follow-up, Hopping, that the known facts of her stories are "the canvas on to which I have embroidered.Some of the facts have slipped through the holes—we no longer know them nor have any means of verifying them—and in these cases I have reimagined scenes or reconstructed events in a way I believe reflects the essence of the scene or the event in the minds and hearts of the people who lived through it. To my mind this literary tinkering does not alter the more profound truth of the story." This concept of fact vs.He and fact-checker Jim Fingal have an intense debate about the boundaries of creative nonfiction, or "literary nonfiction".There is very little published literary criticism of creative nonfiction works, despite the fact that the genre is often published in respected publications such as The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Harper's, and Esquire.) is a genre of writing that uses literary styles and techniques to create factually accurate narratives.Creative nonfiction contrasts with other nonfiction, such as academic or technical writing or journalism, which is also rooted in accurate fact but is not written to entertain based on prose style.A lot of war journalism would fall under this category—this would be a piece from someone who likely has personal experience with the issue but also has anecdotes, statistics, or even photos to back up their claims. If your initial purpose in writing the piece was to give wider relevance to something that happened to you, then you’re in the creative nonfiction camp.This means you’re safe to rely upon your experiences, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods yet.So you’ve made the commitment to write a creative nonfiction essay.Maybe it’s for your blog or, if you’re lucky, someone is paying you to write about your experiences. Where do you draw the line between yourself and the research that you owe to your readers?