In this article, I will list my five rules for using creative techniques in historical non-fiction.
The golden rule is that a fictional element is always understudy to truth, used only when there are gaps in the historical record and a particular fact is unknown or open to interpretation.
The purpose of the reconstructed conversation is to add more detail and provide insight.
For example, the conversation occurred when the suspect returned to the police station to collect his personal effects.
Creative non-fiction always hugs facts and never lets go.
The task of the writer is to join the factual dots with plausible lines of narrative or dialogue, but always leaving the dots where they are. There are three ways to ensure you do not break the golden rule: research, research, research. A writer can only decide to employ creative non-fiction techniques from a position of thorough knowledge, never before.
Whether you’re writing a short story, long-fiction, poetry, or non-fiction, at some point in your education, you will likely be faced with the challenge of creative writing.
You may do it because it’s required in your English or literature classes, or you may do it simply because you enjoy it.
Only where there are gaps in the historical record should a writer consider using imagined constructs, such as dialogue between the real characters.
For my Cold Case Jury books, I take a historical true crime mystery – typically an unsolved murder from many decades ago – and reconstruct how the crime might have unfolded according to the different theories that have been advanced over the years to solve the case.