|In nonfiction, every fact, including
dialogue must be 100% factual. Goodall's
book is an excellent example.
The hardest part? Judging by the scenes that they wrote, and some of them were amazing, the most difficult part was using just the facts that they had been given without making any additions. When they read their work out loud, there were all kinds of new bits of information introduced into the scenes. The most frequent addition was dialogue.
Creative nonfiction may be creative in how you present the information (scenes and story rule!), but it is 100% factual in terms of actual content. This means that if you see it on the page, the author found it in doing her research.
What does this mean in terms of dialogue? It means that if you see it in quotation marks, the author found this quote recorded in some way. It could be something that the person said in an interview that the author conducted herself or one that someone else conducted. Maybe it was in a question and answer article or a profile. It could be a quote from a letter or diary.
If the writer can’t find the dialogue through her research, than she can’t include it.
Fabricated dialogue of any kind, even if the author found the information in some form other than a quote, moves the writing into fiction. It may be fiction based on true events, but it is still fiction.
If you are writing nonfiction with dialogue, tell your editor where you found it. Include this information in your author’s note. This will assure your readers, and your editor, that you are giving everyone the plain, unvarnished truth.
It is a fine line. But it is a line that can’t be crossed if you are going to call your work nonfiction, creative nonfiction or narrative nonfiction.
Sue Bradford Edwards blogs about writing and publishing at One Writer's Journey.