Difference Between Fiction and Nonfiction

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023


Difference Between Fiction and Nonfiction

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Any form of writing falls under the category of either fiction or non-fiction. While most of the time, the works can lie on the absolute ends of the scale, many modern works include elements of fiction and non-fiction together. But how exactly do the narrative and the writing styles differ between both these concepts?

Fiction vs Non-Fiction

The main difference between fiction and non-fiction lies in the content written and the origin of inspiration. Written works based on fiction are those that depict plots, characters, and events created from one’s imagination i.e., they are not real. On the other hand, non-fiction writings are those that are based on characters, plots, or events that occurred in real life and thus are true. Fictional stories are inspired by imagination whereas non-fictional stories are inspired by real events.

Difference Between Fiction and Non-Fiction in Tabular Form

Parameters of Comparison Fiction Non-Fiction
Definition Fictional works are non-real stories. Non-fictional works are real stories.
Inspiration Fictional stories are usually inspired through the fantasies and the creativity of the author. Non-fiction stories are usually inspired by true events or famous personalities that made history.
Narrative The narrative is usually written from the perspective of a narrator or a character, sometimes switching. The narrative is usually written from the perspective of the author himself.
Interpretation Fictional works can be interpreted in more than one way based on the reader since there is a lot of space for imagination. Non-fictional works are very straightforward and thus do not leave much space for different interpretations or imagination.
Purpose Fictional works are usually written to serve as entertainment for the audience. Non-fictional works are usually written to help convey a message or raise awareness in the world.
Accountability The author does not have the extra responsibility to make his information accurate since it's mostly based on his imagination. The author holds the responsibility to make his factual information as accurate as possible and must hold accountability for the same.
Style Fictional writings usually follow a subjective form of writing. Non-fictional writings usually follow an objective form of writing since they are written based on facts.
Examples Fantasy, romance, fairy tales, etc. Self-help books, biographies & autobiographies, articles & journals, etc.

What is Fiction?

Fictional works are those that are based on imaginative elements that do not exist in real life. They completely rely on the author’s creativity and imaginative skills. There is a larger audience that follows the fictional universe and the written works that reside under this umbrella when compared to those who read non-fiction. Owing to this fact, the typical script and format of a fictional book would be designed in such a way that will maximize the audience’s entertainment.

This means the author must be able to capture the reader’s attention and keep him glued and motivated to read more. There are usually five elements in a fictional work that any author usually includes in his book and builds variations of the same:


The plot is where the author usually gains his inspiration to create a story out of nothing. The storyline defines what the crux of the story is and how we proceed towards it, which means the author must have a clear idea of what the beginning, plot, and ending of the story are.


Here is where the protagonists and the antagonists of the story are decided. Since fictional stories are weaved out of one’s imagination, they are much more elaborate than non-fictional stories. Thus, a simple character cast along with their names is not enough. Instead, the author must have a detailed view of what defines the characters, their personality, physical features, mindset, background story, and other important details that will help the readers truly step into the character, sometimes to the point of predicting their next move perfectly. However simple it may seem, character establishment might just be the most tedious task while developing a story, maybe more than the script.


Here, the author must create dialogues between the characters i.e., protagonists, antagonists, and side characters. Even the tiniest of a dialogue between a non-essential character can prove critical to the plot development. The script must reflect the character’s personality as the author pictured them to be and are the most crucial for character development. Only through the script and conversations, the author expresses his characters and progresses through his plot.


Similar to real life, the author introduces a lot of surprise elements in the story, typically one major obstacle that is usually overcome by the end of the story. It is this twist or suspense that builds up to the crux of the writing, especially those novels that belong to the genre of suspense. Most old works that have come out as classic suspense novels and stood out from the rest are those that also provide a twist at the end of the plot, keeping the readers on their heels.


Along with the characters, the author must also figure out when and where the story takes place. While these elements may or may not add much to the plot of the story, the author must establish the setting and other inclusive elements to help the reader with his imagination.

Now that we have looked at what essentially defines a typical written work of fiction, let us look at some of the common genres that exist in the universe of fiction:

Young Adult

These are typical teen novels that are usually appropriate for adolescents and ages above.

  • Most teen novels involve obstacles that a normal teenager would face so that teens could relate to easily.
  • However, several novels also include the element of fantasy, turning the notch up a bit to create more interest.
  • Eg:- Coming-of-age elements, love triangles, protagonist’s choice, etc.


Romance novels can include any other listed elements here but will always keep the base element constant: Love.

  • While the plot may or may not be realistic i.e., practical or fantasy included, the primary goal of the novel is to describe the love story or multiple love stories of the decided characters.
  • However, it absolutely depends upon the author whether he/she decides to carve the path of the plot to a teary ending or a wholesome ending so heads up!
  • Eg:- Star-crossed lovers, enemies-to-lovers, multiple obstacles that the protagonists overcome, etc.


While the universe of fiction itself is a massive exercise to the author's mind, it is the genre of fantasy that truly tests his/hers imaginative strength and creativity.

  • It is this genre that gives the author the complete freedom and absolute power to control his characters and script.
  • To give an idea as to how creative one can get, the characters in the story can be anything supernatural or magical.
  • These characters do not need to exist in real life or even be referred to in any previous works i.eThe author can create these elements right from scratch.
  • One brilliant example of a fantasy novel that got famous was ‘Alice in Wonderland’.
  • Eg:- vampires & werewolves, dwarfs & fairies, goblins, dragons, the list has no limits!


The genre of thriller is very intricate and detailed when describing the storyline.

  • While movies have visual and audio effects to have an actual impact on the audience, the author must solely rely on the script and its pace to properly carry the element of suspense through the novel.
  • The story might include a generous amount of the conflicts and surprise elements mentioned earlier to keep the readers on their heels.
  • Eg:- Psychological thrillers, spy movies, and trap games


As the name mentions, every horror novel exists to create terror and fear in the reader’s mind, if not until he reads the book then maybe later too!

  • While most horror novels describe ghosts, poltergeists, and other such paranormal elements, horror novels can also include gore and other graphic elements that one must be vary of.
  • Eg:- Dark content, paranormal forces, possession, hauntings that can be literal or emotional

Suspense and Mystery

As expected, mystery novels commonly include detective or criminal cases that need to be solved.

  • Thus, these novels can cater to a wide range of age groups as many child-appropriate novels or storybooks also narrate detective stories that solve cases of acute intensity.
  • A very famous example of a mystery novel is Sherlock Holmes.
  • Eg:- mysterious deaths, missing cases with clues, cold cases, serial killer crimes.


Science fiction can be described as something close to the genre of fantasy but with the element of science and technology in the storyline.

  • Science fiction stories usually include superhero movies or time-travel technology where the aspects of the plot might hold a bit of truth.
  • Similar to fantasy, science fiction movies and books also have a massive fan base since there are a lot of superhero universes.
  • Eg:- time travel, space & technology, post-apocalypse, future technology, extraterrestrial, etc.


Also referred to as historical fiction, period films are those set in a date that does not belong to the present day, typically 50 years to the past or the future.

  • Most period films, however, are those that take place in the 16th-18th century or even earlier.
  • While the settings and the personalities of characters might resemble the people who lived at the time being described, it does not necessarily mean that the story is true.
  • Eg:- Pride and prejudice, social issues, a combination of real elements along with fictional elements.

What is Non-Fiction?

Non-fiction consists of all the genres that describe stories with real elements. This means that all the elements, characters, and the setting of the story were all true. There are a lot of factual elements included in the story and the author must take accountability for his writings.


Explanatory nonfiction writings are those that require a lot of research to form the script on the whole topic.

  • The work must be framed in a way such that any individual who is studying the topic for the first time will easily comprehend everything that is being conveyed.
  • Some example genres for explanatory non-fictional works are history, philosophy, science, textbooks, etc.


Descriptive nonfiction writings are those that use expressive language along with figures and a generous amount of details in the story to convey the steps and directions properly to the readers.

  • These are usually guides that provide people with instructions or directions to obtain a certain outcome.
  • Some examples of genres that come under descriptive non-fictional writings are Self-help, How-tos, Health & wellness, Travel guides, Educational guides, Language translations, Business and finance management, Crafts and hobbies, etc.


Narrative nonfiction writings are those that discuss facts as they progress along with their story.

  • Narrative works might also include chapters just like the explanatory non-fictional stories that help structure their writing.
  • Few examples of such narrative nonfiction stories are academic papers, biographies and autobiographies, memoirs, etc.


Here, the author usually has a fixed stance on a certain topic or discussion and then builds on it.

  • He uses different facts to persuade the readers into agreeing with his views and convincing them why he or she is right.
  • Examples of persuasive nonfiction writings are journalism, editorials, etc.

Main Differences Between Fiction and Non-Fiction In Points

  • Fictional works are based on and inspired by non-real elements that are created out of fantasies whereas non-fictional works are based on and inspired by real-life elements such as characters and events that actually occurred.
  • Fictional stories are usually described from the narrative of a character whereas non-fictional stories are described from the narrative of the author.
  • Fictional works serve to entertain the readers whereas non-fictional works serve to convey a message or raise awareness amongst the readers.
  • There is a higher space and freedom for imagination in fictional works when compared to non-fictional works.
  • Fictional works are written in a subjective form of writing whereas non-fictional works are written in an objective form of writing.


To summarize our discussions in the most simple manner, fictional works are based on imagination and creativity, providing a lot of freedom for the readers to interpret the story in their own way. On the other hand, non-fictional works are based on events and characters that exist in real life and thus are mostly based on factual information. Thus, there is minimal to no freedom for interpretation.



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"Difference Between Fiction and Nonfiction." Diffzy.com, 2023. Tue. 06 Jun. 2023. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-fiction-and-nonfiction-321>.

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