Capote on Non-Fiction Novels

I sometimes feel that when I stop writing, that is when I am most honest. Yes, I can plop down my hour’s worth of words on the page. I can doodle, stringing a bunch of words together that may have meaning, but have no feeling. Or intent.

And yes, I believe Mordecai Richler when he said that if he sat around waiting for inspiration to come, he’d never get a damn thing written.

But sometimes you have to say “enough”. You have to recognize that it just isn’t working for whatever reason, because you’re tired or uninspired or there’s just too much life going on around you.

That doesn’t mean give up, mind you. That means focus on solving the impediments to that lack of inspiration and/or motivation. Get some sleep, deal with life, find something that inspires you.

For me, that was to research more into “The New Journalism”. I haven’t talked about that lately, and frankly, I haven’t really been following those tenents lately. Not consciously or anything… I’ve just drifted.

So today, I read about Truman Capote; more precisely, I read an interview George Plimpton (heretofore known only as “the enemy” who claimed to prefer Intellivision over the clearly superior Atari) he did with Capote shortly after Capote published “In Cold Blood”. I must admit I haven’t read the book yet, but I have watched two movies about his writing of them. I think that process is just as fascinating as the story itself. Which is kind of ironic (or perhaps actually to the point) since Capote himself said that it could have been any murder really that he wrote about. For him, it was just a vehicle for him to try his new style of writing.

(I believe that changed, obviously, as he got personally involved with the “characters” of his non-fiction novel. At the beginning though, I believe that yes, he could have picked any murder that struck him.)

In any case, after reading this interview, I’m inspired to renew my writing with intent, and focus on bringing back that style to the story. (As a matter of fact, it solves a few problems I was encountering with the storyline; in particular, with the narrator…) I think that, if I can pull off what I’m envisioning, it will add one or more new layers to the narrative. That’s always interesting to me.

Several things about the interview jumped out at me. Here’s one thing in particular. Plimpton asked Capote about all the research he had over the years it took him to write the book — an amount that Captoe said could fit a small room floor to ceiling.

“I think I may burn it all. You think I’m kidding? I’m not. The book is what is important. It exists in its own right. The rest of the material is extraneous, and it’s personal. What’s more, I don’t really want people poking around in the material of six years of work and research. The book is the end result of all that, and it’s exactly what I wanted to do from it.”

As someone who is journalling his novel-writing adventure, I can’t say that I entirely agree. (Truth be told, I also keep most of my notes and research for any work I do in my day job…) But I understand what he’s saying. There’s something romantic in the thought.

I’d be interested to find out if he actually did burn everything though. I suspect maybe not.

You can read the whole interview here:

(If you get to a login page with the above link, go to the Google search page here, and click on the top link:,17291,17367,24472,27147&xhr=t&q=the+story+behind+a+nonfiction+novel&cp=1&pf=p&sclient=psy&safe=off&rlz=1G1GGLQ_ENCA341&aq=0&aqi=&aql=&oq=%22The+Story+Behind+a+Nonfiction+Novel&gs_rfai=&pbx=1&fp=825210affd154cf0)


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