Recently, I’ve noticed a development in creative nonfiction to use structural modes appropriated from music. Or maybe a musical analogy can capture these under-recognized structural modes by way of shorthand. Here’s a smattering of such musical structures with an example or two to help define them:
Non-writer friends often ask me what creative nonfiction means. If it’s all true, where is there room for creativity? rs tend to understand, the choices we make as storytellers breathe creative life into our truth. In choosing particular details or focal points, we command the reader’s attention and help shape how they will comprehend our experience.
Ever since Alexander Chee shared his thoughts on Point of Telling during a GrubStreet conference session, I keep thinking about it. Essentially, Point of Telling refers to the narrator’s temporal relationship to the events in the story—the answer to the question “From where and when is the story being told?” there was no escaping the rabbit hole of related questions: What do the events of the story mean now, as the narrator is relating them?
Although I primarily write poems, my natural inclination is to understand the world through narratives. What narrative offers is a consistent structure that “makes sense” to me and that I return to often while generating material prior to writing. Stories possess a familiar structure: a beginning, a middle, and an end, regardless of how we enter or exit, this seems to be true.
My primary emotion as a writer is guilt. I am guilty when I don’t write and when I have written, but not enough. When I have written, but written badly. When I meant to write but got caught up doing something else. I am guilty when I have no ideas and when I have so many ideas I can’t write them all and also when I have one idea, but can’t figure out how to write it.
My prose poem “Food Chain,” published in Typehouse Issue 15, begins with a line guaranteed to put a reader to sleep: “I was out walking my dog.” What was I thinking? Blame it on James Tate.
me I read Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, I was too young to really understand its commentary on war, trauma, and violence. Rather than analyzing the work’s thematic ambitions, as my English assignment required, I could not stop thinking about what the book did in terms of craft.
There’s an iconic moment in every apocalypse film you’ve ever seen wherein a character tiptoes through a grocery or pharmacy, navigating the mostly empty shelves and sweating through the quiet. Sometimes the character is Our Hero, bravely risking their own life in service of others.
If a straight line is the shortest way to join two points, an arabesque is certainly the most imaginative. This example could perhaps explain the blurred logic of my artistic experience, a journey studded with changes of direction that took me far from the typical path and led me to discover fascinating destinations and new creative skills.
The first time I saw Louis Wain’s painting was in a newspaper. The tabby cat in the picture has big eyes and looks left. The picture is so unusual and the cat seems to have a human expression. It looks cunning, curious, a little shy. The paintings I have seen about cats can be roughly divided into two types: realistic and cartoon. Both record the joy of life.
I took karate for a year or so in college, and one of the things we learned early on was to be in complete control of our punches and kicks. The goal is to throw a full-power, full-speed punch that stops just short – within millimeters – of that vulnerable point on the body you’ve targeted.
My cousins and I gathered around my stretched-out brother. We would laboriously lift him and feign stupefaction as he “floated” in the very air, unaided. “Light as a feather, stiff as a board, RISE! Light as a feather stiff as a board, RISE!” we would chant, over and over until we dropped him