• Why Nonfiction Matters

    Posted Posted by Guest Writer in WBN News & Events     Comments 3 comments

    Today’s guest post is from Austin writer Aundraya Ruse.


    A classmate of mine in an intermediate college fiction writing class once asked our professor a question that instantly filled me with some sort of disgust/anger combo: “Why do people even write nonfiction?” she asked. “What’s the point, if you could just write fiction instead and make up whatever you wanted?”

    Instinctively I found her tone and bluntness rude. As a student who had written some of my best work in nonfiction courses, I silently scoffed at her (what I thought to be) pretentiousness. I spent the rest of the afternoon ranting to my friends—who most likely didn’t care in the slightest—about how ignorant this girl was and how I was glad she wasn’t writing nonfiction because the fiction of hers I had read was terrible anyway and she would only do a disservice to the nonfiction community. Or something along those ridiculous lines.

    After a few days of replaying the situation in my head and remaining tastelessly bitter, I realized I had not even tried to answer her question. What was the point of nonfiction writing, if you could take true stories and embellish them to make them better or more interesting?

    I didn’t know. I re-read some of my own work. A piece about the death of my sister when I was too young to remember much about her. Depressing stuff. Real stuff. Stuff that a younger me cranked out at enormous speeds because I was a “writer” and writers are the brooding, mysterious type who write about sad things because that’s what’s real. I also thought nonfiction was designed to foster huge and traumatic events only. Naïvete at its worst.

    Personally, I prefer to write fiction. However, some of the most fascinating doors have been opened to me in one genre simply by working in another. It’s like writing in varied points of view, for example. Let’s say you write every story in the first person. You limit yourself. Even if you prefer the first person stylistically, it’s important to exercise writing in third person because you might just discover something about your characters that you wouldn’t have otherwise. Changing the point of view facilitates distance. I find that same concept in thinking about literary genres. Maybe you should explore the truth to create something that isn’t.

    Why else should someone write nonfiction? Because there is something to be said about the human experience—free of embellishment, free of the desire to focus only on a monumental event—that can only be exposed through the small details of a single day, perhaps. Like hearing a song for the first time that breaks your heart just because it’s beautiful. Or a little kid at a restaurant who keeps smiling at you, and it makes you feel special. Those moments can be fictionalized, yes. But oh the significance they hold when they’re real. When it’s just life. And sometimes life will seem boring. And that, too, should be written about. Because it’s life. And it’s phenomenal even when it’s boring. But why should anyone care about your sometimes boring life? And who cares if a kid looked at you or whatever—kids are weird and you aren’t that special. Well, I haven’t quite figured that part out yet. I don’t know why anyone should care about the truths of anyone else’s life. Except that maybe, in the “mediocrity” of one’s life, a person finds himself/herself where someone else has been. Or where they are now. And that small connection would be enough.


    Aundraya Ruse recently moved to the Austin area after graduating with a B.A. in English (creative writing focus) from Texas Tech University. Catch her on Twitter here.

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    Renee Lee

    Awesome!! Professional right out of college!!


    Great post! I don’t know if I could keep my mouth shut if I were you. I prefer fiction myself, but I appreciate well-written nonfiction.

    Christy Jahn

    Very well written Draya ! I hope you end up in this field…..would be a crime to not use your talents !

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