What is nonfiction?

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ophelious's profile pic

ophelious | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

Pieces of writing that are considered "non-fiction" are ones where the writer is trying to convince you that what they are writing about is a fact.  That's not always true, of course, because someone might have their facts wrong, but I think you get the idea.

In general, non-fiction writing is the type found in textbooks, newspapers, encyclopedias, "how to" books, instruction manuals, recipes, and scholarly essays.  Contrast that with a work of "fiction," which is based out of the writer's imagination.  These would be most screenplays, novels, poems, and comics.

When trying to decide between the two, a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, "is this piece of writing true, based on some fact?"  If it is, you are probably dealing with nonfiction I say probably because sometimes fiction writers can be pretty sneaky and make you think that what they are writing is fact, when it is really made up.  What if your teacher asked you to write an essay about what you did last summer vacation.  That would qualify as non-fiction, usually, and would be if you wrote about what actually happened last summer.  But suppose you just made up a bunch of realistic sounding stuff...your teacher would think it was non-fiction, but you would know it was fiction.  So you see how it can be a bit confusing?

Another way you can look at it is that non-fiction works are trying to convey some true information to you, even if they do it creatively.  Fiction writers create stories that are meant to entertain and not convey factual information.


  • Poem
  • Adventure story
  • Science Fiction
  • Thriller
  • short story
  • mythology
  • folk story
  • fairy tale
  • Parody
  • most movies
  • romance novel
  • western

Nonfiction stories include:

  • Biography
  • Autobiography
  • Forms and documents
  • Legal documents
  • Brochures
  • Newspapers
  • Interviews
  • Historical speeches
  • Textbooks


scarletpimpernel's profile pic

scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Nonfiction writing or filming is factual and true.  Examples of nonfiction writing genres are essays, speeches, autobiographies and biographies, letters, articles, reports, etc.  Filmic nonfiction has become extremely popular in the past two decades; it is usually labeled as a documentary.

Nonfiction was popular during the American Civil War, and has since then realized revived success during the Contemporary/Postmodernism era, especially since much good, interesting nonfiction contains literary devices, plot, and many of the other interesting elements that one normally finds in fictional writing.

lizzyliz56's profile pic

lizzyliz56 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 3) eNoter

Posted on

Nonfiction is writing dealing with facts and events rather than imaginative narration or it could also be: relating to or denoting nonfiction

caseymmcdaniel's profile pic

caseymmcdaniel | Elementary School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

I always found fiction and nonfiction tricky to tell apart.

Nonfiction is a writing based on fact (or what the author believes is fact).

Fiction is something written that is untrue or has been stretched.

Here is how I tell them apart.  Remember the saying Fact or Fiction?  Fiction is the opposite of fact.  Nonfiction is usually true and factual.

Good luck!

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