Fiction vs Nonfiction

Very simply put, the difference between fiction and nonfiction is that the former is created through imagination and the latter draws from real-life facts and events. However, it goes deeper than that when it comes to how each of them is written, and how they can sometimes overlap. Although I don’t lean towards nonfiction writing myself (as about five minutes on this blog will inform you), I can give a fairly good overview of my experiences with my own creative writing versus nonfiction assignments, and I’ll discuss some of the common elements found among other authors.

To get personal biases out of the way: I love fiction. Whether reading it or writing it, it is much more interesting for me, and I don’t get the same excitement out of nonfiction writing. Perhaps this is because it has always been with school assignments that I ever do anything remotely nonfiction, and I assume it would be more enjoyable if it were about a subject that I am genuinely invested in. Still, I can’t get away with ridiculous fantasy and sci-fi themes in nonfiction, so I have never really considered writing it.*

On the flip side, nonfiction writing has always been a very academic pursual. History, Geography, French, even Math occasionally; each required you to lay out facts in your writing at some point, and English, while often focused on literary works, asks for formal and impersonal language. This has made it feel like nonfiction comes off as very stiff, and certain textbooks or articles don’t help, but this isn’t necessarily always the case. David Foster Wallace, while an author of literary fiction, was also known for his humorous essays: “Consider the Lobster” and “A Supposedly Funny Thing I’ll Never Do Again” being a couple. Celebrities such as Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have written their own books (Bossypants and Yes Please respectively) based on their own life experiences, which are complimented on their comedic value. ‘Stiff’ doesn’t exactly come to mind.

Which brings me to the fact that both fiction and nonfiction actually cast a very wide net. Fiction presents itself in short stories, novels of all genres, poetry, film, and TV. Nonfiction presents itself in articles, essays, biographies and autobiographies, books, and poetry, film, and TV as well. Here there is already a bit of intersection.

Writing nonfiction is more like sculpture, a matter of shaping the research into the finished thing.

Joan Didion

Writing fiction is the act of weaving a series of lies to arrive at a greater truth.

Khaled Hosseini

Basically, it is facts versus made up information. Yet most fiction applies facts from real life, and nonfiction isn’t always as truthful as it seems-particularly among autobiographies where the author twists events to fit their narrative, as seen occasionally by those trying to ensure they are seen a certain way in history. As for writing each type, the above quotations show the idea that nonfiction funnels its research, or experienced facts, into a narrative, and that fiction funnels mainly imagination into a narrative.

The writing process is going to be different depending on the author and the subject, and again, I mostly only have experience with fiction writing. The writing process in fiction usually requires development of plot, setting, characters, and the like. It also tends to be important to craft a likeable and relatable protagonist, although some authors make the choice not to for one reason or another (I’m sure there are protagonists that are unlikeable by accident, though).

Then there is a matter of the outline. It acts as the structure to the story. Admittedly, this is something that is extremely lacking in my own writing process, but it is assumedly just as crucial to the nonfiction process. You can gather all your plot points, or information, and place them in the order you roughly want them to go in. However, there is a good chance the initial outline will change by the finished product in either case.

Fiction tends to be more fantastical, or revolves around events that didn’t happen, and its writing is going to reflect that. Nonfiction revolves around facts, and real world events, and likewise its writing reflects that.

Where there is overlap are in genres like historical fiction (taking real life events put usually making up characters or some other element), reality TV shows (which may add some sort of scripted drama), fictional media that presents situations closer to our own reality and ones that interpret real information (anything plausible in science fiction), and possibly when nonfiction uses any metaphors or stories to explain a concept, although that could easily be argued against. The line between fiction and nonfiction, however clear it may be, begins to blur here.

I don’t know that in either case one can be called superior over the other. Nonfiction has its importance in helping us learn factually and creating historiography, and fiction acts as a part of culture and can be crucial on an individual scale. In the end that preference comes down to you, but this was still an interesting post to write.

*Maybe I should try to write nonfiction some time while I’m making all these blog posts. It could be a good learning experience. Be warned, then, that I might post a mini-essay on the behaviour of owls.

The Never Ending List

Everyone has different favourites when it comes to genres, be it in a book or a movie or a game. Obviously this will focus on the book aspect of things, but it’s true. There’s so many genres out there. A lot of times it truly feels like a never ending list.

The type of genre a piece of writing is really depends on the author, and it should be known that several genres overlap with each other. I’ll make it pretty basic, though. I’ll try and keep it simple by listing some of the largest genres I know and my opinions/experiences on them.

…Okay, so this might not end up being as simple as I would hope.

Action/Adventure

Oh, boy, these ones can be real page turners. Anything that’s in the action/adventure genre is quick paced and drags you into the story whether you’re willing or taken kicking and screaming. Which, when I think about it is quite coincidental, because these stories do have a lot of kicking and screaming.

It’s also a really broad genre in itself. A lot of books I’ve read or written include some sort of action or adventure in it. Especially adventure. A lot of my works include traveling all over the place, encountering several foreign dangers, and just adventurous themes in general.

That being said, it’s hard to pin point anything that’s action/adventure and action/adventure alone. It’s just one of those things that mixes in well with just about everything. Like the next item on the list, for instance.

Sci-Fi

Star Wars, anyone? Science fiction is precisely that. Just science. Fiction.

Like the last genre, sci-fi can span over a wide amount of stories. It doesn’t just include aliens and laser guns and giant space adventures. Sci-fi deals with science and technology, often larger than life technology. Sometimes this even means time travel; which are fun types of stories yet often can be very annoying.

Actually, a lot of (unfinished and finished alike) sci-fi books that I have are about time travel. I like toying with the idea of a character going backwards and forwards in time because there’s so many possibilities with it. The way that a character can end up in another time period is always different.

Of course, when people say sci-fi I must admit that the first thing that comes to mind is aliens and laser guns and giant space adventures. I can’t help it.

Horror

So, this is a genre I usually stay away from. I scared myself just looking at the covers of R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps when I was little. Always the fun of having an overactive imagination; it doesn’t need a lot of inspiration to keep me awake at night.

Actually reading a horror book probably wouldn’t sit well with me, but many people enjoy it. It’s most likely the adrenaline rush or something. I don’t actually know. If being scared makes you happy, that’s great. I’ll just sit in the corner, reading about unicorns or something like that.

In all seriousness experience wise, if I tried to write a horror book, it would either not be very good or I would give myself nightmares. Most likely not the best idea.

Romance

Ha. Yeah, no. This is another genre I steer clear of. Sorry, I’m just not a romance fan. I’ll literally look away from the screen when people start kissing in a movie.

I’m well aware, though, that there’s many people who like romance novels. And a positive thing about these types of books is-it can be anywhere. The setting, the characters, the themes are limitless. Like time travel, there’s thousands of possibilities.

I’ve co-written a book with a friend that has a lot of romance, but besides that, I don’t write that kind of thing. If there is romance, there’s not a lot of it. Maybe a page or less touching down on the subject. I don’t really believe that a story requires romance to be good, so as long as I don’t enjoy writing it on a regular basis, it’s not going to happen.

Also, this is one of the reasons I don’t actually read a lot of books in the YA/Teen section. So. Many. Romance. Novels.

Historical Fiction

Usually all books need some level of research beforehand, but historical fiction? They have so much research shoved into them it’s insane. When I read a historical fiction, I’m amazed at all the information that would have been gathered. Some writers have people that do research for them, but still.

In short, historical fiction is a story that takes place in the past, generally at a significant point in time. Often the characters are the author’s own, and they choose the setting and what (or should I say when) it’s going on.

Personally, I don’t write historical fiction. I mentioned the level of research that needs to go into it, and that’s such a daunting task in my mind that it’s not usually a thought to attempt it. I’ve definitely read historical fiction, though. The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands? Masterpiece.

Mystery

The Thea Stilton series were my first chapter books. I adored them and all of their mysteries so much. What was going to happen? Who was the criminal? Would they catch them in time?

Mysteries can really keep the readers engaged. They’re the kind of books that make you think, and make you get involved with the story. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to fit the pieces of a mystery novel’s puzzle together.

Just as much as the reader has to think, I expect the writer has to think too. They need to know every inch of the mystery, and they have to know the clues that will lead to the outcome. Think of a mystery book you’ve read, or a mystery film you’ve watched recently, and just think of the planning that would have to go into it. Amazing, isn’t it?

Fantasy

I’m sure I have mentioned several times already how fantasy is my all time favourite genre. I love to read it, and I love to write it. Fantasy is wonderful for escaping the ordinary, and is quite a fun genre overall.

Fantasy is known for its world building (interesting settings and communities within their respective universes), magic, and generally something along the lines of wizards and dragons and fairies and whatnot, but not limited to that.

If you’re ever bored, fantasy spices things up. There’s so many things that can happen in a fantasy novel; the sky’s the limit. Well, you know, the limit is actusally much further as far as I’m aware.

 

There are definitely more genres than the ones I have listed above and, like I said, many of them overlap. It is extremely rare that a story has one genre alone. It could be fantasy/sci-fi, historical fiction/mystery, romance/horror (there’s a murderer chasing you, why are you kissing?!)… etc.

The never ending list, ladies and gentlemen. There are many many genres, and many many combinations. All a story takes is a little imagination.

Along with plot, conflict, character development, grammar, and lots of other things, but let’s just leave it at imagination.