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Fiction Vs. Nonfiction Writing Styles


Many writers have a preference for writing either fiction or nonfiction. Technically, there is a clear distinction between the two styles of writing. Fiction is generally fabricated entirely by the author, while nonfiction is a factual account. When writers use their imagination to describe historical events or incorporate real scenarios or characters into fictional stories, the lines between fiction and nonfiction become blurred. A careful eye can usually discern the differences between fiction and nonfiction.

Author's Purpose

Authors write for a variety of purposes: to entertain, to persuade or to inform readers about a specific topic. Typically, authors write fiction to entertain readers or to take them into a fictional world where strange or uncommon things happen. Fiction is often meant to spur readers to think outside of the box or to imagine what they would do in the shoes of the fictional characters. The purpose of most nonfiction pieces is to inform readers about a person, place or event. Although nonfiction writers must stick to the facts, they often use writing to try to persuade readers on a particular issue.

Text Structure

Text structure refers to the way a piece of writing is organized. Although an author can take many liberties when it comes to structure, common patterns arise in both fiction and nonfiction writing. Fiction writing typically includes character development, a problem for characters to overcome, rising and falling of plot action, a climax and a resolution. Nonfiction writing commonly follows a structure that helps accommodate understanding. Writers often present information in a cause/effect or problem/solution format. They describe the event in details or write them in a specific sequence -- or they compare and contrast information to make a clear point.

Author's Point of View

An author's point of view plays an important role in both fiction and nonfiction writing. Fictional pieces could be written in first, second or third person. The point of view of the piece sets the tone for the piece of writing, giving readers a unique perspective of the novel's characters, setting and events. In nonfiction, the author's point of view lets readers know how he feels about a particular subject, based on the details included, or not included, in the piece. An author who clearly states his point of view makes it easy for readers to understand the message he is trying to convey through his writing. A nonfiction author who clearly defines all sides of an issue shows a less definitive point of view, letting readers make up their own minds.

Types of Fiction and Nonfiction

There are a variety of genres within each category of fiction and nonfiction. Fiction writing includes short stories, novels, plays, poetry, fairy tales, fables, fantasy and historical fiction. The common thread within fictional genres is the fact that the pieces are contrived largely from the author's mind and not based on actual facts. A narrative account of a real event or person's life falls under the category of nonfiction. Authors use expository writing to inform readers on a specific subject. Nonfiction persuasive essays are designed to present opposing viewpoints while swaying the reader one way or the other. Authors use descriptive writing to employ readers' senses by describing a particular person, place or event. Descriptive writing can be fiction or nonfiction, depending on the subject.

About the Author

Dana Tuffelmire has been writing for DMS for three years. She taught elementary school for seven years and earned a master’s of education degree with a specialization in literacy. She is currently a stay-at-home mom to two sons. Her dream is to one day write a children's book.

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