Saturday, June 23, 2018

Creative Non-Fiction = Readable Research

Creative non-fiction is a blend of genres that takes the best of both and combines them into something great.
  1. It’s non-fiction, because it involves real-world research and aims to educate/illuminate people on a topic that the author is passionate about.
  2. It’s also creative, because the style of writing is story-telling in order to communicate the research topic in an entertaining and engaging manner.
I’d done it here before; ie. Wormwood’s Apprentices and assorted posts featuring the Younger & Elder.
I’ve often pictured it, in my mind’s eye, as a disheveled group of academics sitting around a roaring campfire, toasting marshmallows while sharing their latest research under the guise of ‘ghost stories’.
I joined the circle around the campfire — figuratively speaking — for the writing of The Genesis Café: Conversations on the Kingdom.

After the release of Post-Charismatic, I was determined to follow up with a book on the Kingdom of God. I had read and researched a wide variety of authors on the topic, and was eager to put my thoughts into writing, but kept hitting a brick wall. I don’t mean writer’s block; this was more of a ‘what can I add to the topic that hasn’t already been said — and said well — by others?’
The net result was the same: I was stalled.
And so several thick binders of quotes, ideas, and research were shelved in my basement. That’s what writers do when stumped — move on for a season and come back to it with fresh eyes at a later time. As much as I wanted to put pen to digital paper, I was also loathe to write something that lacked originality and was simply a re-hash of what others had already said.

Four years later, I had an epiphany of sorts: rather than deal with a broad range of scholars, I would zero in on just one. George Eldon Ladd had written one of the go-to treatises on the subject, and most of the other writers on the topic of the Kingdom made reference to Ladd’s ground-breaking work. He was the common denominator.

But Ladd, while unquestionably brilliant, was heavy reading, to put it mildly. And that’s when the epiphany hit me:
I could take the creative non-fiction approach, delving into a layperson-friendly discussion on Ladd’s theology via two popular characters from my blog: the Younger & the Elder, and their supporting cast of the Crusty Irish Barkeep, the Barista, and a new character, the Proprietress.
What followed was an intriguing and challenging adventure in research and creative writing. The demands of being conversant with Ladd’s work, in order to write authentically about it through fictionalized characters, was one of the most rewarding roller-coasters experiences for an author to enjoy.

It was also fun to include myself, as the author, into the chapters at the beginning and end of the book. I’d emerge from our basement to share breathlessly with my wife about the great conversations I was having with the Younger and the Elder, and Wendy would look at me with real concern and cautiously inquire:
“You do realize all of the voices are yours, right?”
Creative non-fiction is a blast to write: researching and knowing your material inside and out, coupled with creating believable conversations between interesting characters, and not to overlook the challenge of writing good discussion questions for the end of each chapter — as a writer, it’s challenging, exhilarating, thought-provoking, muse-worthy, and exciting to see it all come together.

Yes, it’s also time-consuming, brain-bending, and good ole-fashioned work, but the end result of The Genesis Café was so rewarding that all the required effort just faded into the distance.

Creative non-fiction: where research becomes readable.

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