Non-fiction writing includes any genre that strives to present accurate facts. This information could be presented objectively, or without the author passing judgment or making their own conclusions, or it could be presented subjectively, which is the opposite. This means that the author might skew facts slightly to present a version of events that they believe is the truth or that they want to promote.
It is important to remember that just because an author classifies the writing as non-fiction doesn’t mean that everything they’ve written is entirely true. But, authors should genuinely believe in the truth of their claims at the time of publication. In a scholarly context, if the information proves to be false, it is not uncommon to see an author make revisions to a published article or book in the future.
Non-fiction is a broad genre of literature (or any created content) that seeks to convey the truth. It is possible to write non-fiction content about any subject.
For example, a biography that seeks to reveal the truth of an important person’s life, a non-fiction account of an important world event, such as a war, a retelling of a politician’s career, a description of the history of an art movement, or the history perhaps that of an ancient civilization.
The term non-fiction is also applied to video media, such as documentary film.
Forms of Non-Fiction
There are a wide variety of forms that non-fiction can take. These include:
- Letter collection
- Natural history
- Book report
- Academic paper
Examples of Non-Fiction
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank is a Dutch-language non-fiction diary written by Anne Frank during World War II. The private diary was published after Frank passed away from typhus at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945. It was published in June of 1947 and has since come to be regarded as one of the most important documents of the period. It is studied in classrooms around the world. Here is a quote:
It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
A Brief History of Time is regarded as one of the most important pieces of science writing. It was published in 1988 and conveyed Hawking’s understanding of theoretical cosmology. The book was written for readers who have no scientific training in the specific subject matter. He skillfully writes in a way that a variety of readers could understand, exploring space and time in the most basic ways before getting into discussing black holes and his search for a theory of everything. Here is a quote:
Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?
This book has sold more than 25 million copies since it was published.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote is one of the most important non-fiction crime novels ever written. The book was first published in 1966. It describes the murders of the four members of the Clutter family. Capote studied the killings and reconstructed events, assessing possible suspects and more. Here is a quote:
Her bedroom window overlooked the garden, and now and then, usually when she was “having a bad spell,” Mr. Helm had seen her stand long hours gazing into the garden, as though what she saw bewitched her. (“When I was a girl,” she had once told a friend, “I was terribly sure trees and flowers were the same as birds or people. That they thought things, and talked among themselves. And we could hear them if we really tried […]
A piece of writing is considered non-fiction if it tries to convey the truth. It should be concerned with facts to the best of the author’s knowledge. It could detail historic events, religion, a single person’s memoirs, travel, information about languages, art, music, and more.
Written works that are considered non-fiction include book reports, academic papers, handbooks, letter collections, encyclopedias, almanacs, journals, and more. These written works include real-life events or factual information that readers can learn from.
Poetry is fiction. Although, it is possible to imagine a situation in which a writer chooses to convey fact in a verse-like form. For example, a prose poem in which someone details events that happened in their life without being overly subjective in their interpretation of the subject matter.
Related Literary Terms
- Science Fiction: a literary genre that focuses on imaginative content based in science.
- Pulp Fiction: a type of short, cheap storytelling that was popular from the late 1800s to the mid 1900s.
- Historical Fiction: a genre that fictionalizes real places, people, and events. It takes place in the past with accurate historical details in regard to customs, technologies, people, and events.
- Paraliterature: written work that is not defined as “literature.” It is dismissed as lesser for one reason or another.
- Chronicle: an account of events that occurs in the order that they happened in. The term is usually associated with historical events.
- Biography: an account or description of a person’s life, literary, fictional, historical, or popular in nature, written by a biographer.