Truth of the Matter, The: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction, 1st edition

  • Dinty W. Moore


This introduction to creative nonfiction examines the building blocks of nonfiction prose one by one, illustrating how individual voice and narrative strategies delineate this literary form from conventional nonfiction. Individual chapters are devoted to detail and description, characterization and scene, distinctive voice, intimate point-of-view, and the various ways in which writers discover the significance or universality of their work.  Essays from contemporary nonfiction writers such as Henry Louis Gates, Norma Elia Cantú, Pico Iyer, Joan Didion, and others are integrated directly into the text to illustrate concepts.

Table of contents




1. True Stories, Innovative Forms

Basic Forms of Creative Nonfiction

The Art of Narrative

The Narrative Craft

The Truth of the Matter

Curiosity and Passion: The Indispensable Tools

2. What Makes Nonfiction Creative?

A Way of Seeing

More than “Just the Facts”

Creative Nonfiction vs. Standard Journalism: An Illustration

Honesty, Memory, and the Stranger in the Room

Writing Prompts: What Is Creative Nonfiction?   


3. Building Blocks of Creative Nonfiction: Detail and Description

Detail and Description

Specific and Particular

            “Injection,” Jane Armstrong

Revising for Detail and Description

Writing Prompts: Detail and Description

4. Building Blocks of Creative Nonfiction: Characterization and Scene

Characterization through Dialogue 

            “A Dramatic Dogalog,” Art Homer

Characterization through Action

            “Drink It,” Patricia Ann McNair

Scene: Letting the Facts Speak for Themselves

Revising for Scene

Writing Prompts: Characterization through Dialogue, Characterization through Action

5. Building Blocks of Creative Nonfiction: Distinctive Voice and Intimate Point-of-View

Distinctive Voice

            “Pop Art,” Brian Doyle

Intimate Point-of-View

            “Sunday,” Henry Louis Gates

Revising for Voice and Point-of-View

Writing Prompts: Distinctive Voice and Intimate Point-of-View

6. Building Blocks of Creative Nonfiction: Discovery

What You “Make of It”

            “Solstice,” Richard Terrill

            “Tino and Papi,” Norma Elia Cantu

Discovery and Details

Revising for Discovery

Writing Prompts: Discovery


7. The Memoir Essay

Examining the Memoir Essay

            “Genesis,” Bret Lott

            “Thumb-Sucking Girl,” Sonja Livingston

Writing Your Own Memoir Essay

But “Who Cares?”

Writing Prompts for Memoir

8. The Literary Journalism Essay   

Examining the Literary Journalism Essay

            “Hope,” Brian Doyle

            Excerpt from“Where Worlds Collide,” Pico Iyer

Writing Your Own Literary Journalism Essay

Writing Prompts for Literary Journalism

9. The Personal Essay

Examining the Personal Essay

            “The Meadow,” James Galvin

            “In Bed,” Joan Didion

Writing Your Own Personal Essay

Writing Prompts for the Personal Essay

10. Revision and Narrative Structure

On Serious Revision

Revision and Narrative Structure




Other Strategies

Writing Prompts for Narrative Structure

IV. The Anthology

The Brief Essay

Laurie Drummond,  “Alive”

Lori Jakiela, “You’ll Love the Way We Fly

Lee Martin, “Dumber Than” 

Deborah Tall, “The Stories Tell the Land”

The Conventional Length Essay

James Baldwin, “Notes of a Native Son”  

Jo Ann Beard, “Out There”  

Judith Ortiz Cofer, “Silent Dancing”

Annie Dillard, “Living Like Weasels”  

Tony Earley, “Somehow Form a Family”

Philip Gerard, “What They Don’t Tell You About Hurricanes”

Lucy Grealy, “Mirrorings”

Lee Gutkind, “Difficult Decisions”

Robin Hemley, “Reading History to My Mother”

Edward Hoagland, “The Courage of Turtles”

Pico Iyer, “Where Worlds Collide”

Jamaica Kincaid, “Biography of a Dress”

Bret Lott, “Brothers”

John McPhee, “The Search for Marvin Gardens”

Naomi Shihab Nye, “Three Pokes of a Thistle”

Scott Russell Sanders, “Buckeye”

David Sedaris, “The Drama Bug”

Richard Selzer,  “The Knife”

David Shields, “42 Tattoos”

Amy Tan, “Mother Tongue”

Terry Tempest Williams, “The Clan of the One-Breasted Women”

Essays on the Craft of Creative Nonfiction

Annie Dillard, “Seeing”

Tracy Kidder, “Making the Truth Believable”

Bret Lott, “Toward a Definition of Creative Nonfiction”

Mimi Schwartz, “Memoir? Fiction? Where’s the Line?”

Published by Pearson (March 3rd 2006) - Copyright © 2007