Having kept journals since fourth grade, non-fiction naturally tends to be my go-to writing genre. In school, my creative non-fiction workshop class was one of my favorites, as well as all of the people I met and bonded with over writing. There’s a lot to say about why people stray from non-fiction and in some cases, I think it takes a certain person to want to put their personal stories out there. In my case, I like to put it all out there because, at the end of the day, we’re all writers.
When we decided to start accepting non-fiction submissions, I was, of course, so excited. I knew that I wanted to write one of our blog posts about something non-fiction related, but it took me a bit to narrow down what I wanted to say. Overall, the objective of my post is to encourage exploration in non-fiction writing. With that said, I want to mention some of my favorite creative non-fiction books I’ve acquired and hopefully spark some writing ideas and show that not all non-fiction is about trauma or self-realization, although it still can be.
I have to start with my favorite, who first inspired me to pursue journalism: Hunter S. Thompson. I know he’s quite radical and edgy, but his style of writing, gonzo, inspired me to write a lot of my own pieces similarly. This would be, going to an event or going on some adventure with the intentions of writing about it. You have probably read these famous stories such as, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” “The Rum Diaries,” “Hells Angels,” and a short story close to the heart of Kentucky- “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.” The key in all these stories is that he was sent to report on one topic, but ended up writing about the other mishaps he encountered, or as I like to call, the behind-the-scenes, in-between-the-line stories. I could go on forever, but my point with Thompson is that you may not have a non-fiction piece in mind to write about right now, but you could decide to try something new, travel somewhere, attend a local event or group meeting- literally anything and I’m sure if you’re adventurous enough, you can make a story out of it.
A more modern Thompson is A.J. Jacobs. He has a collection of books, all similar styles of gonzo-type writing. The particular book of his that I read was, “The Year of Living Biblically,” where he set out, for a year, to follow the Bible as literally as possible. Yes- that takes a lot of dedication, but the outcome was amazing. Again, another situation where you can pick something that interests you or something you think that might interest other people, explore it and just tell us how it went. We like spooky and weird things here at The Ginger Collect. If you’re really up for a challenge, shadow a mortician for a week, work in a graveyard, sleep overnight in a haunted house, interview someone who has been abducted by aliens- you see where I’m going with this.
William S. Burroughs is also similar to Thompson, but I wanted to mention him for one specific book of his that I read, “my education.” This book is literally a memoir of dreams. Now, dreams tend to be controversial in the fiction/non-fiction realm, but in the way that he wrote his book, it’s literally his dreams, one after another, some a few sentences long, others pages, I personally consider it creative non-fiction. A way that you could make this more non-fiction is to add a narrative voice.
One author, James Bowen, wrote a whole book on a cat he met in the streets of London. “A Street Cat Named Bob,” sold millions of books because, for one, people like cats, but two, because it was a true story. So yes, you can write non-fiction and not put your life in danger, it just might not be as exciting, so you had better find a character that people can love.
Lastly, it’s okay to write personal memoirs. In Brenda Miller’s, “Season of the Body,” she weaves a braided story of current and past tense experiences through massage school, relationships and very personal overcoming. While this book is described as essays, I like to call it inspirations. Sometimes your non-fiction doesn’t have to be hell-bent and life-risking or altering. As much as you can use your words for entertaining, you can use them for helping.
I hope this brief look into non-fiction has sparked some creative ideas to explore and try. Just remember, there is always a story out there waiting to be told! I hope to see some of them in our submission inboxes soon!