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Home > BLOG
Narrative nonfiction vs Historical Fiction
by Olgy Gary, June 2, 2005
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I recently was asked the question, "Could you give us a definition of narrative non-fiction? How is it different from historical fiction?"

I'm trying to nail this down because while attending this year's Pikes Peak Writers Conference I was told the middle grade novel I'm writing is narrative or creative nonfiction and not historical fiction as I'd thought all along. When I met with the Viking Books for Children editor she kept saying, "but why are you calling this historical fiction? Why fiction? This story runs on its own. Why fiction?" And I didn't have an answer for her.

Next day I spoke with a publisher at the conference and he gave me the term "narrative nonfiction" and after listening to what my novel is about he said that's what my novel was. I've asked this question in other author lists I belong to and have receive some great URLs that talk about the difference between narrative nonfiction and historical fiction.

The best definition of Creative Nonfiction I've come across is from the book The Art of Creative Nonfiction by Lee Gutkind.

Creative Nonfiction may include dramatized biography, compilations of articles and essays and book-length memoirs. CNF must go beyond an expression of the self. The personal experiences should connect with the rest of the world and include some kind of research (i.e. secondary research of primary research where the writer interviews other people about the experience) and thus connects the personal experience to the rest of the world. CNF includes such fiction techniques as dialogue, description, point of view and character development.

Lee Gutkind's website is a veritable storehouse of information on creative nonfiction. His books are also worth looking into. I've posted links to some of them below. You probably can check them at your public library as well.

[If Gutkind's books do not show in the box, please refresh your browser.]

Besides Gutkind's website, these are other ones I've come across. Please send me other URLs you know of that explain the difference between these creative/narrative nonfiction and historical fiction. Also, check out my "Narrative Nonfiction Middle Grade Novels" blog and add your titles there. Thanks! Use the "Comments" link to add to this list other URLs that explain what narrative nonfiction is:


Email your comments to Olgy's blogs. We reserve the right to edit down your comments before posting them or not to post them. Include your name, city/state/country and website/blog if you have them. Your email address will not be posted.


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