description and detail

There are facts in all stories that cannot be blurred or changed by perception. Description and detail—like how many floors are in the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh—can be confirmed. The date of the Vanity Fair article, the words I attribute to both Wolcott and Wilde—all of that can be confirmed and much more, usually with research.

Is that really the Coffee Tree around the corner from Starbucks in my neighborhood? Does it have a front window that can be raised like a garage door? It’s the responsibility of the creative nonfiction writer to confirm every fact that can be confirmed. Is the English Department at the University of Pittsburgh on the fifth floor? And was it located there at the time this incident occurred? If not, and a reader is aware of this inaccuracy, then how can be the reader be sure of my credibility.

–          You Can’t Make This Stuff Up by Lee Gutkind

Lee Gutkind


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