Fiction and Nonfiction

The Writer’s Journey is a column dedicated to different styles of writing and the exploration of one writer’s path to publication.

Written by Samantha House

Hello to all of you embarking on writing adventures new and old, and welcome to the beginning of a new series in The Writer’s Journey. For the next seven articles, we are going to explore different forms of writing in the hope that you’ll find the style which best fits your voice. We’re even going to host our first-ever competition wherein the winner will receive a copy of the recently released, You/Poet, a book written by Her Heart Poetry’s founder, Rayna Hutchison (@herheartshapedbox), and Editor in Chief, Samuel Blake (@palemanpoetry)! More about that in the coming weeks. For now you’ll find a list below of what each article covers. As the weeks go on, we’ll add in links to each article for quick reference.

  1. Fiction and Nonfiction [current]
  2. Literature vs. Commercial Fiction
  3. Novels and Novellas – Why Word Count Matters
  4. Short Stories and Flash Fiction – The Art of Telling Stories Quickly
  5. 6/8/9 Word Stories – The One-Liner Impact
  6. Memoirs and Creative Non-Fiction – Mixing Fantasy with Fact
  7. Journalism, Essays, and ‘Official’ Reports

This list is not, by any means, an exhaustive representation of the different styles of writing in the world, but hopefully by taking a look at some of the more popular forms, you’ll begin to feel one calling out to you more than the others – even if it’s just to get you started!

Since this is our first week, “Fiction and Nonfiction” it is. Let’s dive in!

Fiction: The Tip of the Iceberg?

Fiction is a type of narrative writing wherein the plot, characters, and settings are imagined. Found in books, TV shows, films, plays, and oral forms of storytelling, fiction is one of the most common forms of writing, but it’s also one of the broadest terms you could use to “define” your work.

”What if a story takes place in a real setting?” you ask. “Is it still fiction?”

Good question! It certainly can be if everything else is from the author’s imagination, but questions like that are where the lines between fiction and non-fiction begin to blur.

Some of the more popular fiction genres include:

  1. Romance – focuses on romantic relationships between two or more characters
  2. Crime/Mystery – focuses on solving a crime or mystery by the main character
  3. Religious/Inspirational – focus on faith-based storylines and subjects of self-improvement
  4. Science Fiction/Fantasy – the story is set far into the future or located in an imagined world
  5. Horror – written with the intent to frighten, startle, or disgust the reader

Genres often cross over with one another, so it can be difficult to tell which genre a story could be categorized by. A good example of this is the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. The first book is an obvious romance, but after that the story could be described as historical fiction, fantasy, or timeslip, all sub-genres which make hazy the boundaries between one type of fiction and the next but can also connect your writing to that of thousands of other imaginative writers.

Nonfiction: Writing’s Honest Brother

If fiction is a story more-or-less based on imagination, then nonfiction is, inevitably and In the strictest interpretation of the word, the faithful retelling of a true story. In other words, nothing is made up, and every facet of it is historically accurate. Examples of this include journalism, biographies, textbooks, dictionaries, academic papers, book reports, memoirs and the list goes on.  

Doesn’t sound like there’s all that much room for blurred lines here – not like in the world of fiction, right? Never underestimate the versatility of a writer, though!

When you combine elements of fiction – say an imagined plot – with elements of nonfiction – an historical character and setting –  those lines start looking a little fuzzy again like in memoirs and biographies which, you may notice, can also be included in the “nonfiction list” above. Writers often take creative licence to smooth out their narrative using supposition, deduction, or imagination, so when you think about it, not much stands in the way of your writing the best story you can!

Now that you have a better understanding of the differences between fiction and nonfiction (and how the lines between them can get a little fuzzy), hopefully you’ve got a better idea of which direction you tend to lean where your writing is concerned. Next week we’ll compare literature and commercial fiction so that you can better tune your ink-stained voice, and it should be interesting! That subject has triggered more than a few discussions within our writing community!  

Hope you all have a fun and creative day! x

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