Difference Between Fiction and Nonfiction

Fiction vs Nonfiction

The difference between fiction and nonfiction is something that is very clearly defined beyond any doubt. So, there shouldn’t be any confusion about this. However, when reading some books you get the doubt whether they are actually fiction or nonfiction. Understanding the difference between fiction and nonfiction can help you decide what type of reading experience you will have when you buy a book next time. We go to a book store and find books classified as fiction and nonfiction. Every year we see Nobel Prize being awarded in fiction as well as nonfiction categories. Sometimes, it becomes confusing but if you pay attention, the differentiation of literary works into fiction and nonfiction would easily become crystal clear. Have you heard of the word Sci-Fi? Did you watch Avatar, the latest blockbuster from James Cameron? If yes, then you know what fiction is. Sci-Fi means science fiction. A book that talks of creatures or characters that are not real but fictitious, made up through imagination of the author is a work of fiction. On the other hand, a book that contains all real events, or talks about real people is a work that is known as non-fiction.

What is Fiction?

Ever got a chance to read Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll? Even though it is a fiction book written nearly 150 years ago, you would feel that you are reading about a real world and the characters that the author talks about look life like. This is the beauty of fiction. Writers make use of their fertile imagination to arouse curiosity that is not possible in nonfiction and create characters that look real and one gets immersed in a fiction book. The stupendous success of Harry Potter books is a testimony to the ability of the writer to make fiction look more real than reality.

It is easy to say that fiction is a creation of author’s fertile mind. But, if one looks around all the fiction written over the last hundred years, one would feel that apart from stories with outlandish characters, nearly all are full of human emotions like romance, hatred, revenge, and endeavors that we get to see in real life. In fact, it becomes hard sometimes to decide if fiction is a reflection of what is happening in our society or life gets inspired by fiction.

Difference Between Fiction and Nonfiction

Harry Potter books

What is Nonfiction?

Nonfiction is, on the other hand, works that contain facts and figures from the real world. They also contain images of real people who are either alive or lived sometime ago. All autobiographies, journals, history books, textbooks, user manuals, etc. are examples of nonfiction. It is clear then that writers of nonfiction cannot use their imagination and merely use their ability to present information in an interesting manner to make nonfiction good enough to make people read them. Nonfiction writers usually focus their piece to discussing current social problems or research a topic of their choice. For example, the book ‘The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined’ by Steven Pinker proves the point by now violence has actually declined in the world.

Fiction vs Nonfiction

What is the difference between Fiction and Nonfiction?

• All texts are classified into fiction and nonfiction. Anything that is not real comes within the category of fiction whereas nonfiction contains facts and information about real world and its people.

• In literature, poems, novels, short stories and dramas fall under the category of fiction. Nonfictions are biographies, memoirs, journalism, different essays, etc.

• Fiction is all about author’s flight of imagination whereas a nonfiction author can at best present facts in an interesting manner.

• Some of the most popular literary works belong to fiction category.

• While one can use his imagination to come to any conclusion in the case of fiction, nonfiction has nothing left for imagination as it presents facts and information that is already known to many.


Images Courtesy:

  1. Harry Potter Books by B.Davis2003 (CC BY-SA 4.0)
  2. The better angels of our nature by Steve Rainwater (CC BY-SA 2.0)