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You Can't Make This Stuff Up

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You Can't Make This Stuff Up

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You Can't Make This Stuff Up
The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction - from Memoir to Literary Journalism and Everything in Between
By Lee Gutkind
Da Capo Press, 2012
ISBN: 978-0738215549

Reviewed by Simone Bonim - December 10, 2012

Creative nonfiction, also called narrative nonfiction, is all the rage. To get your nonfiction fix, you no longer are required to read boring academic tomes that put you to sleep. Rather, with creative nonfiction you are presented with nonfiction books that read like fiction. Unfortunately, sometimes they are. In most cases the authors stick to the truth while weaving compelling stories that provide you with an insider's glimpse into the hearts and minds of the book's characters. Creative nonfiction has found its way into journalism, history, biography, and memoir, it is also making an appearance in the realm of science writing, politics, and just about every field of writing that you can imagine.

In You Can't Make This Stuff Up, Lee Gutkind takes the reader on a journey through the sometimes murky realm of creative nonfiction. He provides a selection of instructive readings and examples of creative nonfiction. Along the way Gutkind not only explains how creative nonfiction is created, but also the various forms that it can take and how it is received and perceived by readers. He also examines the very thin line that sometimes separates the fact from the fiction in the realm of creative nonfiction.

While this book will enlighten and entertain readers of creative nonfiction, it is primarily a book for writers. This book is a virtual how-to guide on writing creative nonfiction. Gutkind explores the techniques associated with creative nonfiction, and explains the various elements that go into a creative piece of nonfiction. He also offers exercises, he asks and answers questions that are likely to be asked by readers of the book, and he explores what it means to be a truthful storyteller. Along the way, if you do all the exercises, practice all the techniques, and learn not to fear revision, by the time you work your way through this book you will discover that you have written a memoir - yours. You'll also have written an immersion piece, this is a type of creative nonfiction where you personally get so involved with the story that you are able to tell from the inside out.

Gutkind is one of the founders of the modern creative nonfiction movement, and he brings years of experience to the writing of this book. The writing is lucid, and the techniques and skill sets taught in this book are easily understood - although they might take you years to master. You Can't Make This Stuff Up is an excellent book not only for those desirous of learning the ins-and-outs of creative writing, but also for writers of every stripe. From crafting compelling scenes to developing three-dimension characters that your readers will really care about, this book has information that you will find helpful. In addition, this is also a book for readers interested in getting a behind the scene look at how creative nonfiction is created. You Can't Make This Stuff Up is an informative book that should be on the bookshelf of every writer.


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