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Non-Fiction

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Non-Fiction

Under the literary genre of non-fiction, you will find all types of writing. This could be as mundane as a grocery shopping list, or as extensive as an academic article. Non-fiction is an essential literary genre as we are able to share all sorts of reliable, factual information in this genre. It is essential in the field of research as well as in personal development (i.e. self-help books).

Non-fiction: meaning

Non-fiction is a literary genre in which the information given is factual. It is a recount of real-life events. An example of non-fiction is a list of data or a collection of facts. Examples of non-fiction texts are textbooks for school, an author’s biography, and a non-fiction historical novel.

The difference between fiction and non-fiction

Non-fiction consists of only factual information and it chronicles real-life events. On the other hand, fiction consists of information that the writer has made up. Fiction may be based on real-life events or inspired by them, but it does not state precisely factual information. Instead, it incorporates a writer’s imagination and storytelling. This separates it from non-fiction.

Features of non-fiction texts

A non-fiction text may contain some, but not all, of the following features. The features of the non-fiction text depend on the type of non-fiction text. For example, a blog post review about a concert will not need to cite sources for where the writer got their ideas or statistics from, whilst an academic paper about mortality rates in Egypt will need to do so.

Factual information

These are facts which are often supported by evidence such as statistics, secondary sources and external research.

Technical vocabulary

This is vocabulary specific to the subject that the writer is discussing. For example, an English literature text on how to analyse poetry will contain technical terms and vocabulary like ‘caesura’ and ‘enjambment’.

Caesura: a pause in a sentence or line. This can sometimes be indicated by a full stop or a dash.

Enjambment: when a line in poetry is continued on to the next line.

Table of contents

A table of contents is usually used in research papers or in magazines. It provides readers with a structured list of the contents of the text they are reading. In some non-fiction texts like magazines, readers can skip to any page using the table of contents and start reading - they do not have to read the text chronologically. With other non-fiction texts like a research paper, readers may have to read the text chronologically to be able to follow the writer’s findings.

Headings and subheadings

Headings help separate the contents of a non-fiction text. Subheadings are a deep dive into the main heading.

The heading could be '21st Century Young Adult Literature', and the subheadings could be Stephanie Meyer's Twilight (2005)' and 'Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games (2008)'.

Labelled diagrams

This can be used to show data in a non-fiction text. This is especially useful in academic texts.

Glossary

A glossary is a list that contains the definition of terms, usually technical terms, mentioned in a non-fiction text.

Pictures with captions

Pictures are a means to support the factual information a writer shares. An example of a non-fiction text where this is common is a travel writing article.

Types of non-fiction texts

There are various types of non-fiction texts which you can encounter on a daily basis or in your studies. A few of the most common types of non-fiction texts will be listed here.

Literary non-fiction

Literary non-fiction texts recount factual events, but do so in a creative and imaginative way. Techniques that you would see in fiction texts are used in literary non-fiction. For example, vivid description, a focus on setting the scene, and suspense (a sequence of events where the writer has a problem to overcome a conflict). An example of this is a blog review about a social or cultural event like an art exhibition or a music event, where the blogger gives a vivid description of the event and evokes a certain emotion or response from the reader.

Other types of non-fiction

Here are some other types of non-fiction texts, most of which you might already be familiar with:

  • Newspaper articles
  • Magazine articles
  • Letters
  • Diaries
  • Textbooks
  • Research articles
  • Historical novels

Examples of non-fiction texts

Here are some examples of non-fiction texts. Perhaps you have already come across some of these!

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome (2015) - Mary Beard

This non-fiction text is a history of the ancient Roman empire. The style of the text has literary elements as Beard creates a vivid picture of real-life events that occurred in the past. The novel also contains a series of pictures which show various artefacts that support Beard's writing. It has maps of Rome and the Roman Empire. A table of contents at the start of the novel allows readers to skip to the section they want to read about. The information in the novel can be read and understood fairly well without having read all the previous chapters in chronological order. Here is an excerpt of the table of contents:

Maps

Prologue: The History of Rome

  1. Cicero’s Finest Hour

  2. In the Beginning

  3. The Kings of Rome

  4. Rome’s Great Leap Forward

  5. A Wider World

  6. New Politics

  7. From Empire to Emperors

‘How an age of anxiety became an age of depression’ (2010) - A.V. Horowitz

This academic research article focuses on the ‘Age of Anxiety’, which saw its peak in the 1950s and 1960s in the United States. It uses secondary literature from other researchers in the field of psychology to help explain the change in the practice of diagnostic psychology. The article also uses technical terminology such as ‘vegetative symptoms’ and ‘psychotic symptoms’. It has headings such as ‘How Depression Captured the Stress Marketplace’ and ‘The Rise of Biological Psychiatry’. At the end of the academic article, there is a bibliography that lists all the sources used to support the writer’s claims in the essay.

Vegetative symptoms: a person’s inability to carry out vital functions of living by themselves, like eating and sleeping.

Psychotic symptoms: experiencing hallucinations and delusions.

Lonely Planet Italy (2021) - Cristian Bonetto, Brett Atkinson, et al.

This travel guide features recommendations for activities to do and places to visit in Italy. It has maps and pictures with captions as evidence of what is detailed in the travel guide. It contains reviews by those who have previously visited eating establishments, stayed at mentioned hotels, and participated in cultural experiences.

‘Viola Davis says ‘‘critics absolutely serve no purpose’’' (2022) - Benjamin Lee for The Guardian Newspaper

This article is about American actress Viola Davis’ response to critiques about her performance in the film The First Lady (2022). Davis’ response is commented upon by Lee, a journalist for The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom. It is a recount of Davis’ comments and expresses her real-life considerations about feedback from critics.

Non-Fiction - Key takeaways

  • Non-fiction is a literary genre in which the information that is given is factual. It is a recount of real-life events.
  • Fiction consists of information that the writer has made up. Fiction is not based on real-life events. Instead, it incorporates a writer’s imagination and storytelling. Non-fiction consists of real-life events only.
  • The features of a non-fiction text include factual information and technical vocabulary.
  • One of the most popular types of non-fiction is literary non-fiction.
  • An example of a non-fiction book is Lonely Planet Italy (2021) - Cristian Bonetto, Brett Atkinson, et al.

Frequently Asked Questions about Non-Fiction

Some types of historical non-fiction texts are newspaper and magazine articles, letters, and historical novels. Historical novels can be considered an example of literary non-fiction.

Fiction consists of information that the writer has made up. Fiction is not based on real-life events. Non-fiction consists of only factual information and contains real-life events.   

  • Be precise in your research.
  • Pick a narrative voice. The third-person narrative is the most common. 
  • Make your recount of events engaging and exciting.
  • Think about the modern perspective on historical events versus the perspective of those who lived through those events. 
  • Include pictures where relevant to show important artefacts. 

Non-fiction does not mean fake because it consists of real-life events and factual information. 

An example of a non-fiction book is Lonely Planet Italy (2021) - Cristian Bonetto, Brett Atkinson, et al. 

Final Non-Fiction Quiz

Question

What is a blog?

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Answer

  • A blog is an online record of an individual's personal experiences, thoughts, and opinions.
  • A blog consists of dated posts with the most recent posts displayed at the top.
  • A blog can be considered a modern literary form.

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What genre does the blog belong to?

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Answer

Non-fiction, more specifically creative non-fiction.

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What are the functions of the blog?

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Answer

  • To share personal experiences.
  • To share commentary.
  • To offer insight.

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What are the characteristics of blogs?

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Answer

  • Personality
  • Regularity
  • Interactivity
  • Intertextuality.

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What is the writing style of the blog?

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Answer

  • Conversational
  • Informal
  • Colloquial
  • Intimate.

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What are the common structures of the blog?

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Answer

  • Traditional structure
  • List structure.

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What are the popular types of blogs?

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Answer

  • Journal
    • Educational diary
  • Commentary
  • Advice and instruction.

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What is the main disadvantage of the blog form?

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Answer

Blogs lack the journalistic integrity that fact-checked and rigorously researched journalistic articles have.

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What are the advantages of the blog form?

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Answer

  • Easy to access and use
  • Free to create and free to read
  • Blogging helps writers build an audience
  • The blog is a versatile form.

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Why are blogs important?

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Answer

  • Blogs have democratised writing.
  • Blogging keeps writing alive.

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Question

What is creative non-fiction?

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Answer

Creative non-fiction is the imaginative representation of reality through the use of literary devices, styles and techniques.

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What is the purpose of creative non-fiction?

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Answer

Creative non-fiction seeks to entertain as well as to inform. A deeper purpose of creative non-fiction is to convey a more profound layer of truth about real events and people by using literary techniques and styles.

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What are the main principles of creative non-fiction?

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Answer

  1. A writer of creative non-fiction must write about a subject and events that have either taken place in, or refer to, the real world, and not an imagined subject and event.
  2. The writing should make thoughtful observations on its subject, life and the world.

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What are the key elements of creative non-fiction to consider in your analysis?

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Answer

  • Descriptive and figurative language
  • Point of view
  • Voice
  • Tone
  • Style
  • Character
  • Setting
  • Structure.

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What are the key techniques of creative non-fiction?

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Answer

Figurative language and narrative and character arcs.

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What are the key types of creative non-fiction?

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Answer

  • Life writing
    • Biography and autobiography
    • Memoir
    • Personal essay
    • Travel writing
  • Non-fiction novel or 'faction'.

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Question

How does Virginia Woolf use creative and literary elements in her essay A Room of One's Own (1929)?

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Answer

Woolf describes a thought that feels insignificant to her as a 'fish', and invites the reader to catch it. She is referring to her thesis that for a woman to be successful, she needs money and a room of her own. She also compares wasted potential in woman writers to a 'rust eating away the bloom of the spring'. Woolf's use of vivid imagery drives home her feminist message.

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How does Maya Angelou use creative and literary elements in her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969)?

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Answer

Maya Angelou uses the metaphor of a rusty razor to describe how the alienating effects of racism feel like a hurtful insult. Angelou communicates the psychological and emotional impact through creative elements.

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Question

How does Claudia Rankine use creative and literary elements in Citizen (2014)?

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Answer

Rankine describes the bodies of African Americans as 'cupboards' of the past of slavery. This provides an insight into how black Americans like Rankine and those whose perspectives informed her book experience racism in their day to day life.

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Question

What is the history and context of creative non-fiction?

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Answer

  • A new style of journalism became popular in the 70s that promoted the use of literary devices and styles
  • The influence of the postmodernist movement also led to an increase in authors blending different genres and creative elements.

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Question

What is true crime?

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Answer

A nonfiction literary, film, and podcast genre where the author examines an actual crime and details the actions of real individuals.  

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What century can the true crime genre be traced back to?

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Answer

16th century

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What two countries were producing true crime literature in the 16th century?

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Answer

The U.K.

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While Jack the Ripper was active in London, how newspapers were sold per day in the city?

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Answer

30,000

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Question

What is a detective novel?

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Answer

A story where the plot revolves around the investigation of a crime. 

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Thomas de Quincey cited which philosopher in his essays on true crime?

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Answer

Immanuel Kant

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Which novel is seen as the first modern true crime book?

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Answer

In Cold Blood (1966) by Truman Capote is seen as the first modern true crime novel. 

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What new media has led to an increase in the production of true crime content in the 21st century?

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Answer

Podcasts

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True or False: True crime can not advocate for the innocence of an incarcerated individual. 

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Answer

False! True crime can advocate for the innocence of an incarcerated individual. 

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What is a documentary?

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Answer

A film or television programme that uses pictures or interviews with people involved, to provide a factual report on a particular subject. 

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Did  Errol Morris' 1988 piece The Thin Blue Line use reenactments? 

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Answer

Yes! Errol Morris' 1988 piece The Thin Blue Line did use reenactments.

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Have streaming services altered the true crime genre?

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Answer

Yes! True crime documentaries are now constructed to encourage 'binge watching'.

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Has the true crime genre been criticised? 

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Answer

Yes! The true-crime genre has been criticised. 

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What are two critiques of the genre?

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Answer

That it re-traumatises victims of crime. 

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What was the first modern iteration of the true-crime documentary?

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Answer

The first modern iteration of the true-crime documentary was The Staircase (2004) by  Jean-Xavier de Lestrade.

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Question

What types of non-fiction texts are there?

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Answer

Some types of historical non-fiction texts are newspaper and magazine articles, letters, and historical novels. Historical novels can be considered an example of literary non-fiction.

Show question

Question

What are fiction and non-fiction?


Show answer

Answer

Fiction consists of information that the writer has made up. Fiction is not based on real-life events. Non-fiction consists of only factual information and contains real-life events.   

Show question

Question

How do you write a historical non-fiction book?

Show answer

Answer

  • Be precise in your research.

  • Pick a narrative voice. The third-person narrative is the most common. 

  • Make your recount of events engaging and exciting.

  • Think about the modern perspective on historical events versus the perspective of those who lived through those events. 

  • Include pictures where relevant to show important artefacts. 

Show question

Question

Does non-fiction mean fake?


Show answer

Answer

Non-fiction does not mean fake because it consists of real-life events and factual information. Fiction means fake. 

Show question

Question

What is an example of a non-fiction book?


Show answer

Answer

An example of a non-fiction book is Lonely Planet Italy (2021) - Cristian Bonetto, Brett Atkinson, et al. 

Show question

Question

What are some features of non-fiction texts?

Show answer

Answer

  • Factual information
  • Technical vocabulary
  • Table of contents
  • Headings/Subheadings
  • Labelled diagrams
  • Glossary
  • Pictures with captions

Show question

Question

What is an example of a non-fiction newspaper article?

Show answer

Answer

An article in The Guardian Newspaper by Benjamin Lee titled 'Viola Davis says 'critics absolutely serve no purpose'' (2022). 

Show question

Question

What is literary non-fiction?

Show answer

Answer

Literary non-fiction texts retell a set of factual events, but do so in a creative and imaginative way. Techniques that you would see in fiction texts are used in literary non-fiction. 

Show question

Question

What is an example of a literary non-fiction text?

Show answer

Answer

A great example of a literary non-fiction text is a blog review about a social or cultural event like an art exhibition or a music event.  

Show question

Question

What is the purpose of a table of contents in non-fiction texts?

Show answer

Answer

A table of contents at the start of the novel allows readers to skip to the section they want to read about. The information in the novel can be read and understood fairly well without having read all the previous chapters in chronological order.  

Show question

Question

What is a travelogue? 

Show answer

Answer

A travelogue is a truthful account given by a traveller of their experiences on a journey. 

Show question

Question

True or False: A travelogue is a type of fiction novel.

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Answer

False! A travelogue is a type of non-fiction novel. 

Show question

Question

In which country was the first travelogue written?

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Answer

Ancient Greece

Show question

Question

Are there set rules for writing a travelogue?

Show answer

Answer

No! There are no set rules for writing a travelogue. 

Show question

Question

What perspective are many travelogues written in?

Show answer

Answer

First-person

Show question

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