Put simply, non-fiction is the opposite of fiction. It addresses the people, things, places, and events in the real world as opposed to the imaginary world of fiction. Non-fiction is based on fact and serves to provide information about a subject. However, it is not completely factual and should not be taken as absolute truth.
The interpretation and analysis of facts is determined by the author and as a result is not completely devoid of the author’s bias and opinions. Therefore, it is important to remember to keep a critical mind when reading non-fiction.
Non-fiction is varied and wide in scope. Sub genres include autobiography, biography, diaries, journals, essays, memoirs, articles, letters, interviews, books, encyclopedias, reference books, and documentaries. Because it is based on reality it must have facts, data, and research to prove its validity. There are generally two basic approaches to writing non-fiction. The first is to report facts with little or no personal opinions and the second is to mix personal opinion with fact. Although it is about reality, writers of the genre borrow literary techniques used in fiction in order to make their stories more interesting.
These literary techniques include tone, characterization, descriptive language, pace, and scene setting. This type of colorful sub genre is referred to as creative or literary non-fiction.
The non-fiction arena is growing due to the popularity of recent trends. Popular genres include political, disaster, and current events themed books and memoirs. Recent events such as the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, and the World Trade Center attacks have resulted in the popularity of factual books written by political experts and investigative journalists such as An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore, Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq by Thomas E. Ricks, and Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission by Thomas H. Kean. Recent controversies over the degree of veracity and artistic license in memoirs such as James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces have only increased popularity of the genre.
Non-fiction will always be popular because people will always seek answers to questions. It exists to answers those questions or at least to provide information so people are able to formulate their own answers. The popularity of the Internet has made it possible for people to publish their own non-fiction in the form of blogs, online journals, and informational websites. In a world filled with so many portals and links to information, it is important to keep an open and critical mind before accepting any factual claims as truth.