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Fiction Vs Nonfiction: What's the Difference?

The main difference between fiction and non-fiction is the basis of their content. Fiction is subject to the author’s imagination and artistic freedom while nonfiction is based on pure facts and accurate information. Fiction appeals to human emotion; it aims to entertain. On the other hand, nonfiction appeals to the human intellect; it aims to educate.

What is Fiction?

All the Harry Potter books, one of the most read Fiction in the world

Fiction is a creative story out of an author’s imagination to entertain and send a compelling message. Fiction appeals to emotion as it stimulates the human senses through vivid descriptions of the characters, setting, and plot.

Myths, Legends, Short Stories, Science Fiction (sci-fi), and Fairy Tales, are some popular examples of Fiction Stories. Some popular works of fiction are Harry Potter, Avengers, and Shrek. These highly creative, visually compelling, and action-packed stories kept their viewers or readers hooked while teaching something along the way.

Fiction is bound by the author's creativity. Knights slaying dragons for a noble cause, a 35-year-old man living in outer space to escape humanity’s cruelty, a girl who can control weather through her emotions, those kinds of stories can fall under fiction. They may promote real-life conflict, but it is undeniable that slaying dragons, living in outer space, and controlling weather can’t be true. Hence, they are all fiction.

What is Non-Fiction?

A dictionary, the Non-Fiction book that everyone has at home

In a simple explanation, nonfiction is a form of writing based on facts, information, or true events. Nonfiction authors give us credible, valid, and researched-based information. Nonfiction compositions often appeal to the intellect as they aim to instruct, inform or give factual reports.

Biography, Dictionary, Encyclopedia, Journalism, and Scientific Papers are some examples of nonfiction. Instructional books are also one of them. Non-Fiction readers would be able to learn something just by reading parts of the composition. They are full of useful data and reliable sources of information.

Nonfiction is bound by available, truth-based data and actuality.

Non-fiction writers should be well-versed in whatever subject matter they are working on. Because just one obsolete, incorrect, piece of data would affect the credibility of their work as a whole. So, non-fiction works are also helpful for research as they can be citations that are reliable, valid, true, and data-driven.

Some notable examples of non-fiction books are A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. The book talks about the conception and evolution of the Universe. Another popular example would be The Diary of Anne Frank.

Differences Between Fiction and Nonfiction

There are a lot of notable and obvious differences between fiction and nonfiction. Some can be noticed at a quick glance, while some need more time to realize. But there are 2 most common points of comparison to easily distinguish which is which.

Plot or Content

In fiction, a reader might find one, if not all, of the elements fabricated by the author. For example, some futuristic civilization goes back in time to change the course of history. That “impossibility'' is an indicator of a fictional work.

While on the other hand, nonfiction stories are based on factual events that actually happened in real life. All of the story elements are verifiable, valid, and true. For example, the life and presidency of Barack Obama.

Objective and Presentation

Fiction aims to entertain the readers by enticing human emotion through a perfectly-weaving series of events or unexpected but satisfying plot twists. Works of fiction appeal to emotion.

On the other hand, non-fiction appeals to the intellect. Non-fiction books or stories are made to educate, inform, and teach people. Nonfiction writers can also be creative as long as it doesn’t compromise the accuracy and truthfulness of information being presented.

Structure and Elements

Fiction, being always a story, has elements like characters, settings, plot, point of view, and theme. While on the other hand, nonfiction has many different structures. It could vary from one type to the other. For example, a dictionary and a scientific paper don't follow the same structure but they are both classified as nonfiction. Nonfiction compositions could have tables, graphs, charts, indexes and other possible visual representations of data and interpretation.

Limitations

The parameters for writing fiction are only measured by the author’s capacity to imagine the flow of events. The flow or the outcome of the story is subject to the author's decision and judgment. However, in nonfiction, data is in the driver’s seat. The information present dictates the outcome of the study or process.

Takeaways

Morals and ideals would always be the consolation of reading a whole fiction story. As for nonfiction, factual data and comprehension are what the readers would get from reading it. Reading fiction may become a source of inspiration or induce strong human emotion. While nonfiction can pique interest for knowledge.

Comparison Chart: Fiction Vs Nonfiction

CharacteristicsFictionNon-Fiction
Basis of ContentFabricated, Imagined, Product of CreativityFacts, Actual Events, Data or Information
Purpose or ObjectiveEntertainEducate
StructureStory Elements (Such as Character, Setting, Plot, Point of View and Theme).Table of Contents, Glossary, Index, Charts, and Graphs
ExamplesMyths, Legends, Fantasy, Science-Fiction, FairytaleDictionary, Encyclopedia, Journalism, Scientific Papers
Takeaways from ReadingTheme, Message, LessonDirections, Information, Facts
LimitationCreativity and ImaginationFactual Information

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Creative Nonfiction (CNF)?

It is a form of non-fiction that is focused on the story with a narrative plot, inciting incident, rising action, climax, and falling action that is based on truth and historical accuracy. This means the author can use techniques in writing fiction while not compromising truth. Creative nonfiction is also known as literary journalism.

What About Historical Fiction?

Although the setting or characters are historically accurate, the writers of Historical Fiction tweaked some events along the way to satisfy their desired outcome. So, the credibility of the information is already in question. Therefore, any “tweaking” of historical facts would be considered historical inaccuracy.

One good example of Historical Fiction would be the musical “Hamilton” Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda in 2015. In one of his interviews, he said that he tried to be “as historically correct as possible.”

In the song number “Satisfied”, sung by Renee Elise Goldsberry who played Angelica Schuyler, Lin wrote, “My father has no sons. So, I’m the one who has to social climb for one.” Lin exercised his creative liberty here because in reality, Angelica Schuyler had 7 brothers.

Can Nonfiction be made up?

While people are born curious and want to explore different avenues to discover something new and interesting, facts are facts. And any form of writing that is imagined, fabricated, and untrue will be considered fiction. But nonfiction can also be engaging and entertaining as long as the validity of information isn’t compromised.

Conclusion

Although there are a lot of efforts to distinguish the differences between the two, they still have something in common. Fiction and nonfiction allow the readers to experience and learn something of value conveniently.

References

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About the Author: Nicolas Seignette

Nicolas Seignette, who holds a scientific baccalaureate, began his studies in mathematics and computer science applied to human and social sciences (MIASHS). He then continued his university studies with a DEUST WMI (Webmaster and Internet professions) at the University of Limoges before finishing his course with a professional license specialized in the IT professions. On 10Differences, he is in charge of the research and the writing of the articles concerning technology, sciences and mathematics.
All Posts Written By Nicolas Seignette

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