Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Writing Creative Nonfiction


Well, big news is that I've actually started writing, which is none-too-soon as the manuscript is due at the end of June.
This whole book project came about because of a course I took with the simply wonderful Jan Cornall on Creative Nonfiction. I wrote a long piece on my history with Buddhist monks, and a publishing friend read it and the rest is history.....
The genre of Creative Nonfiction has always been a favourite of mine - indeed, among my favourite books are In Cold Blood and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, both accepted classics of the genre. People don't normally associate travel writing with Creative Nonfiction, but of course it belongs firmly within the confines of the genre.
I have been enjoying and finding very helpful Theodore A. Rees Cheney's Writing Creative Nonfiction - surely the bible for those in the field? He has lots of interesting and helpful things to say, and at the moment I am struggling with his chapter on character. There are one or two key characters in my book (apart from myself) who are, naturally, real people to whom I am quite close. I have been finding it difficult to write about them - am I saying too much about them, or am I assuming the reader knows too much? And how do I avoid making myself sound very clever and those characters appear very simple and often silly. This is a real concern for me, because personally I hate reading authors who I perceive as arrogant or unaware of their own sublime stupidity. I always like grumpy old curmudgeons like Theroux who aren't scared of making themselves appear thoroughly stupid, or someone like Bryson who casts himself as the bumbling fool, and thereby avoids charges of arrogance.
I am also aware that I am a Western man writing about Vietnamese people, and with a head full of Edward Said I am terrified of coming across as a post-colonial dilettante and cultural plunderer oozing with condescension. I don't want to make the Vietnamese people, especially my dear friends, appear quaint.
But maybe that's a lost cause?

2 comments:

Emily said...

Dear A Book About Vietnam,

I have visited your site and I think that your content could be of interest to our web site visitors.

I have already placed a link to your site along with a description at "http://michaelemily1.wordpress.com/". If you want the description of your site modified or if you have any other cross-promotion ideas, let me know.

I would appreciate if you placed a link back to my site:

Travel vietnamBest regards,

Emily

Vietsmile Travel Company
83 Curzon St North Melbourne, Victoria, North Melbourne, VIC 3051
Phone: +61 7 5577 6674 Fax: +61 7 5577 6674

fotolit said...

Walter!!!
I finally found you
Whats the latest news on yr book
Am dying to get a hold of it
I've been traveling in Asia a lot this year with a book in mind also
all best J