Nonfiction, or non-fiction, is any document or media content that attempts, in good faith, to convey information about the real world, rather than being grounded in imagination.[1] Nonfiction typically aims to present topics objectively based on historical, scientific, and empirical information. However, some nonfiction ranges into more subjective territory, including sincerely held opinions on real-world topics.[2]

Common examples of nonfiction genres include diaries, biographies, news stories, documentary films, textbooks, travel books, recipes, and scientific journals. Nonfiction is a fundamental approach to narrative (storytelling), and often refers specifically to prose writing[3]—in contrast to narrative fiction, which is largely populated by imaginary characters and events (although some remain ambiguous regarding their basis in reality).[1][4]

While specific claims in a nonfiction work may prove inaccurate, the sincere author aims to be truthful at the time of composition. A nonfiction account is an exercise in accurately representing a topic, and remains distinct from any implied endorsement.


The numerous literary and creative devices used within fiction are generally thought inappropriate for use in nonfiction. They are still present particularly in older works but they are often muted so as not to overshadow the information within the work. Simplicity, clarity and directness are some of the most important considerations when producing nonfiction. Audience is important in any artistic or descriptive endeavor, but it is perhaps most important in nonfiction. In fiction, the writer believes that readers will make an effort to follow and interpret an indirectly or abstractly presented progression of theme, whereas the production of nonfiction has more to do with the direct provision of information. Understanding of the potential readers' use for the work and their existing knowledge of a subject are both fundamental for effective nonfiction. Despite the claim to truth of nonfiction, it is often necessary to persuade the reader to agree with the ideas and so a balanced, coherent and informed argument is vital. However, the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction are continually blurred and argued upon, especially in the field of biography;[5] as Virginia Woolf said: "if we think of truth as something of granite-like solidity and of personality as something of rainbow-like intangibility and reflect that the aim of biography is to weld these two into one seamless whole, we shall admit that the problem is a stiff one and that we need not wonder if biographers, for the most part failed to solve it."[6]

Semi-fiction is fiction implementing a great deal of nonfiction,[7] e.g., a fictional description based on a true story.

Major typesEdit

Common literary examples of nonfiction include expository, argumentative, functional, and opinion pieces; essays on art or literature; biographies; memoirs; journalism; and historical, scientific, technical, or economic writings (including electronic ones).[8]

Including information that the author knows to be untrue within any of these works is usually regarded as dishonest. Other works can legitimately be either fiction or nonfiction, such as journals of self-expression, letters, magazine articles, and other expressions of imagination. Though such works are mostly either one or the other, a blend of both is also possible. Some fiction may include nonfictional elements. Some nonfiction may include elements of unverified supposition, deduction, or imagination for the purpose of smoothing out a narrative, but the inclusion of open falsehoods would discredit it as a work of nonfiction. The publishing and the bookselling businesses sometimes use the phrase "literary nonfiction" to distinguish works with a more literary or intellectual bent, as opposed to the bulk of nonfiction subjects.[9]

Specific typesEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Farner, Geir (2014). "Chapter 2: What is Literary Fiction?". Literary Fiction: The Ways We Read Narrative Literature. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. ISBN 9781623564261.
  2. ^ "nonfiction". Unabridged (Online). n.d.
  3. ^ ""nonfiction" definition via Lexico". Archived from the original on August 25, 2019.
  4. ^ Culler, Jonathan (2000). Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. p. 31. Non-fictional discourse is usually embedded in a context that tells you how to take it: an instruction manual, a newspaper report, a letter from a charity. The context of fiction, though, explicitly leaves open the question of what the fiction is really about. Reference to the world is not so much a property of literary [i.e., fictional] works as a function they are given by interpretation.
  5. ^ The Institute of Art and Ideas. "The Art of Life". IAI. Retrieved 14 January 2014.
  6. ^ Woolf, Virginia (2010). Orlando. Aziloth Books. p. 134. ISBN 978-1907523687.
  7. ^ The Role of Narrative Fiction and Semi-Fiction in Organizational Studies G. Whiteman. N. Phillips. 13 2006, 12
  8. ^ Susan B. Neuman; Linda B. Gambrell, eds. (2013). Quality Reading Instruction in the Age of Common Core Standards. International Reading Association. p. 46. ISBN 9780872074965.
  9. ^ Archived 2014-02-13 at the Wayback Machine

External linksEdit