Use of self in fiction & nonfiction

The reblogged post above is by Cristian Mihai, a young Romanian fiction writer, a self-publisher with a big following, and a talented blogger with many fans. After my last post, which mused about differences between the practice of fiction and nonfiction, I was struck by Chuck Palahniuk’s quote regarding the use of self in fiction—it applies as well to nonfiction. Especially to personal and dramatized nonfiction, to memoir essays and books.

Writing about the broken or pained self without the mask of fiction, however, takes an honesty and a tolerance for nakedness that not everyone possesses or desires to experience. Maybe some would say an egotism. Each writer draws upon experience and the self’s responses to life, but memoirists do so more directly, while many fiction writers learn to draw from themselves indirectly and by inference. Memoirists use the self much as poets do, it seems to me, but without the scrim of possibly fictional artifice provided by a poetic structure . . . Richard Gilbert


Filed under emotion, fiction, honesty, memoir, NOTED, subjectivity

4 responses to “Use of self in fiction & nonfiction

  1. leslie

    So–you’re saying I love beer and birds above all else. 🙂

  2. Yes, Richard, I think “Invisible Monsters” do haunt us all (and I suspect that whether we write fiction or non-fiction or poetry or short stories or essays, the invisible monsters are part of all of us. People who don’t write probably just have other ways of “laying” the ghosts).

  3. The comment about “nakedness” rings true. I’m reviewing my copyedited manuscript now, and it’s surprising to me how much I exposed about myself because ironically, I consider myself a fairly private person. I guess I chose to write this memoir because I think some readers will respond to it and maybe think differently about life and grief and death and loss. Those subjects are important to me–I want to make sure conversations about them continue, and that desire outweighs the fear of nakedness.

    I suppose I could have chosen a fictional route, but I have zero aptitude for fiction so that wasn’t really an option for me.