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Understanding the difference between fiction and nonfiction 

There is no frigate like a book to take us lands away. (Emily Dickinson) 

Books of any genre can transform you either to the word of fantasy or to the world of reality. All genres of literature can be broadly divided into two categories i.e fiction and nonfiction. In simpler terms, fiction belongs to the world of imagination and nonfiction to the world of facts. For instance, fantasy novels like Harry Potter belong to the fiction realm, and autobiography novels belong to the realm of nonfiction.However,the difference is not that simple.Practically, it becomes difficult to distinguish between the two, as there is a very thin line between the two. There are numerous examples of books which are amalgamations of both the author’s mind and real life events. In order to understand the contrast let’s dig deep into both the categories. Remember, fiction and nonfiction can be found in both written literature and visual media. 

What is Fiction?

Fiction is fabricated or made up. The story is an invention of the writer’s mind, a  created one. There are no facts. From character, setting, plot, everything is invented. Similarly, work of fiction is subjective, open to all interpretations. Besides, the focus of the story is on abstract themes. Though, an addition of few real facts cannot make the fictional work true, still it has the powerful influence  to change one’s perspective on life.  As the famous saying by Albert Camus goes;

“Fiction is a lie through which we tell the truth”.

Similarly, the genres encompassing the world of diction include fantasy, magic realism, and sci fiction, etc.

While writing a nonfiction work, a  writer has full freedom, can add or subtract anything, can use any kind of words or situations. Moreover, Fictional writing is a mixture of a number of techniques. From narration to use of literary devices like metaphor, imagery, soliloquy, personification, etc, a variety of devices are used which adds to the suspense and strength of plot. 


Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Three Daughters of Eve, To Kill a Mockingbird are famous fictional works of the modern era. 

Pamela, Moll Flanders, Animal Farm, 1984, Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre are the classical works of fiction. 

Sometimes fiction works are grounded in old myths, legendary tales and old  sayings. Yet, At times fictional stories can be inspired from real life events or the character can be taken  from real life. Notwithstanding, it still counts as a fictional work. 

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What is nonfiction?

Nonfiction works are based on real events and people. It is the truth, something that happened or exists in reality. Plot, setting, and  characters are all real. Characterized by objectivity, it is explanatory, descriptive, and informational. Every bit of detail is the truth. Any made-up detail can risk the authenticity of the work. For instance, Khaled Hussaiani’s The Kite Runner includes some real encounters and reality  of Afghanistan at that time but it is fictional work. The continuous references in a nonfiction work further supports  the facts. 

Biography, autobiography, memoirs, travelogs, essays, histories, and  informational books are the kind of books based on facts and reality, that’s why they are categorized as non fiction work. 

Narrative techniques are used to narrate the events in an unbiased and objective manner. The description and explanation is provided for clarity. The writer needs to be cautious to not exaggerate or oversimplify the facts. 

As mentioned earlier, any fabricated addition can put a question mark on the facts. Therefore, what you all read in non fiction is real. Though recently, a new genre is added to nonfiction work i.e creative nonfiction work. In creative non fiction work, the writer can use his creative skills while explaining the fact, but should always stick to the real event.

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A Brief History of time by Stephen Hawking

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Hiroshima by John Hersey 

No Logo by  Naomi Klein 

The Varieties of religious Experience by William James

Difference between fiction and nonfiction

Fiction refers to imagination whereas nonfiction refers to facts. On a surface level, fiction has no touch of reality but in reality it represents our real world. They are the products of minds who are part of this world. Therefore, we cannot completely regard them untrue. Similarly, nonfiction is based on real life events, people, and facts but we often see biases, subjectivity and forging of facts. Thus, non fiction work is also not completely pure truth. One should read both fiction and nonfiction to enhance our knowledge and understanding of the world.


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