Larry Kilham – thoughts on fiction vs. nonfiction

Choices is so excited to have Larry Kilham here today – the last day of his WOW! Women on Writing blog tour. His work with creativity, invention, and artificial intelligence is fascinating. Please check out his latest book, Free Will Odyssey. You won’t be sorry.

Larry has also written a post especially for Choices about his thoughts on writing fiction vs. non-fiction. I can relate since I’ve also written both. Here is what Larry Kilham has to say:

Fiction vs. Nonfiction

by Larry Kilham

I have written about an equal number of fiction and nonfiction books. Each time I start thinking about my next book, I confront the difficult decision about which modality to use. With fiction, you are not held to a high standard about detail and truth. Writing a nonfiction book, on the other hand, about a current topic like addiction generally requires a team of researchers and a noted research institution in order to gain gravitas and establishment acceptance.

Nonfiction is clearly the choice if you are publishing a lot of data and information such as a cookbook or scientific treatise. For scientific work, however, you must document all your sources of data and acknowledge people you worked with.

For an autobiography and for historical recollections, alleged defamation of character can be a problem. You have to check with the people you have mentioned whose place in your account was in recent years, or you can write a fiction-nonfiction hybrid, often called creative nonfiction. You change names, places, and incidents to avoid defamation, recriminations, or endangerment of people or places in your story. I used the creative nonfiction form in my recent Shades of Truth account of my adventures in rough-and-tumble Nicaragua.

Fiction is the preferred mode when more emotion should be built into the story regardless if it is, for example, a romance or a technical subject. Usually, interpersonal relationships which are evolving carry the story forward and this will appeal more to the general reading public. Within this sugarcoating, technical messages and speculations can be built in, as I have tried to do in my recent Free Will Odyssey. Its complex and engaging personal story reveals a possible new cure for drug addiction.

Gabriel García Márquez, the Nobel-winning Latin American writer, summarized fiction vs. nonfiction in an interview with the Paris Review:

In journalism (nonfiction) just one fact that is false prejudices the entire work. In contrast, in fiction one single fact that is true gives legitimacy to the entire work. That’s the only difference, and it lies in the commitment of the writer. A novelist can do anything he wants so long as he makes people believe in it.

Thanks, Larry for weighing in on fiction vs. nonfiction. I hope my Choices readers will weigh in on this interesting subject – especially Gabriel García Márquez’ words.

About Free Will Odyssey

Peter Tesla, a prodigious young inventor, develops an electronic device to enhance the user’s free will. A major application is drug detoxification. Peter’s star client is the U.S. president. Along the way, Peter is tried for the mysterious death of a girlfriend and struggles with the machinations of a secretive industrialist.

Paperback:     158 pages
Genre:   Science Fiction
Publisher: (August 27, 2017)

About the Author

Larry Kilham has traveled extensively overseas for over twenty years. He worked in several large international companies and started and sold two high-tech ventures. He received a B.S. in engineering from the University of Colorado and an M.S. in management from MIT. Larry has written books about creativity and invention, artificial intelligence and digital media, travel overseas, and three novels with an AI theme.

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