Custer, Dementia and Creative Non-Fiction

custerWe mentioned in an earlier post the phrase “creative non-fiction,” which was new to us. We also quoted an excerpt from The Elements of Style about the creative process in writing. Strunk and White did not differentiate between fiction and non-fiction let alone creative non-fiction.

However, in reading some non-fiction, the phrase again reared its head and so we thought we would ruminate again about it.

We recently read a book about George Armstrong Custer, that same Custer who came to an inglorious end at Little Big Horn. It was non-fiction. And, since there were no tape recorders back then, the author had to rely on historical records, personal letters, official transcripts, and the like upon which to build his non-fiction story. In fact, details about the Battle of Little Big Horn are sparse for two reasons. Every one of the 700 men in Custer’s cavalry regiment was slaughtered and the Indians’s versions tended to be self-serving, unsubstantiated, and thus unreliable.

But that didn’t stop Hollywood. They took the original historical story, added dialogue, created heroic scenes, and immortalized the man and the battle as fiction. It can’t be creative non-fiction because no one was there to record what was said.

On the other hand, we have read a couple of other books we can classify as creative non-fiction. One is Dancing on Quicksand by Marilyn Mitchell and the other is Welcome to the Departure Lounge by Meg Federico. Both books are creative, non-fiction accounts of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease.

We can say that for these reasons. The stories are told in first person by the caregivers. Therefore, they have credibility. In each of the books, the authors create scenes into which they place real people whose actual statements are included. What makes it creative is the skill with which each author draws the reader into what could be depressing stories in the hands of someone less skilled.

Now, most of the time this blog tries to discuss posts and content and teams, but we also realize that for a blog to attract and keep followers it has to have content worth reading, and we think that creative non-fiction in posts can help do that. Set a scene, create a picture for the reader, people the scene, create some action, resolve a problem and so on. Make the content move because readers want to know WIIFM.

What’s In It For Me?

That’s it for the penultimate day in January 2014.

Approximately 380 words. Comments welcomed!

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About Bob McCarthy

Originally from the Northeast, I now call Southwest Florida home. I have been a professional copywriter and editor since 1979, both freelance and in house. I have had article published in regional, national and international magazines. Plus, a video for which I wrote the script won an industry award as Best Training Video.
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