This week I’d like to take a look at the craft of creative nonfiction. Sebastian Junger’s acclaimed book, The Perfect Storm, is an example of creative nonfiction at its best. It’s journalism with a soul – both heartbreaking and hopeful. It’s one of my all-time favorite books.
Of course, the scope of creative nonfiction is not limited to literary journalism, as is the case with, The Perfect Storm. Personal essays would certainly qualify for this category. So would memoirs. As long as facts are presented in a personalized way, you’ve got yourself some creative nonfiction.
Admittedly, I don’t write much of it. There’s a knack to making a completely factual narrative sound interesting to an audience, and I certainly could use a lot of practice. So, that’s the challenge I’ve issued to myself this week – to write a compelling piece of creative nonfiction.
As always, constructive criticism is encouraged. I’d love to hear from you. And, by all means, let me know if you have a piece of creative nonfiction you’d like to share.
Keep writing, keep revising, and be kind.
A Sort of Biblical Swarm
Being from Northeast Ohio, I had plenty of experience driving in bad weather. So, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why my car was hydroplaning on a dry, sunny summer day in Louisiana. I fought the impulse to stomp on the brake, and I steered into the skid, regaining control. I realized there was some kind of substance on the road, but I wasn’t sure what it was so I cautiously turned into a gas station.
The parking lot appeared to be wiggling, and I turned the radio off, as if the sound was somehow interfering with my vision. Nope – the parking lot was still wiggling. Then my brain finally accepted what my eyes had been seeing the whole time – grasshoppers. There were grasshoppers everywhere. Truckloads of them. I could hear them crunching beneath my tires.
I parked, and tried to tiptoe inside the gas station to minimize the amount of casualties I was inflicting, but there was no helping it. I could feel them squishing under my shoes, and they were slippery as hell. When I got inside I announced to the girl behind the cash register, “There’s grasshoppers all over the place.”
“Crickets,” she said quite matter-of-factly.
“Okay, crickets” I conceded. “They’re everywhere.”
Another employee chimed in from the snack food isle, “I reckon they’re a might worse than I’ve seen in a while.” He had a broom, and he was busy trying to corral some rogue crickets into a mop bucket.
“How bad are they, typically?” I asked.
“Sometimes bad. Sometimes not so bad,” the guy informed me.
“Where ya from?” the girl behind the register asked. “You sure do have an accent.”
“Ohio,” I said.
“What’s a Yankee boy doin’ way down here in Shreveport, Louisiana?” she said. The word came out like, Lose-y-anna. It sounded very exotic to me, and I suddenly realized how attractive she was. I guessed she was around my age – early twenties, tall and tan with long dark hair and blue eyes like glacial ice.
“I thought I’d brave the biblical swarm of locusts so I could ask you out for a drink,” I said with as much confidence as I could muster.
“It ain’t no biblical swarm neither. It’s just a might worse than usual. And I done told you it’s crickets.”
“Oh,” I said, dejected. “Well, I’ll see ya,” I said as I turned to leave.
“My shift’s up in about forty-five minutes,” she said. “There’s a little bar up the road. If you want, I’ll meet you there for a drink. It’s called, Scuddy’s.”
“Yeah, I know where that is. I’d love to meet you for a drink.”
“It’s just one drink now, and it’s just us talkin’. Don’t get no ideas.”
“Scout’s honor,” I said, and I raised my right hand to show how virtuous I was.
“And I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts you was never no damned boy scout.”
She was right about that, too.