Thursday, January 18, 2007

Fiction Vs. Non-fiction

When I ask a group of professional writers to state the essential difference between nonfiction and fiction, most are unable to do so . . . Let us state the difference in the simplest way.

Nonfiction conveys information.
Fiction evokes emotion.

Because the intended results are so different, the mind-sets required for writing fiction and nonfiction are different. In fiction, when information obtrudes the experience of the story pauses. Raw information comes across as an interruption, the author filling in. The fiction writer must avoid anything that distracts from the experience even momentarily. A failure to understand this difference between nonfiction and fiction is a major reason for the rejection of novels.
--Sol Stein, On Writing, p. 7

Tricia’s Thoughts:
This is one of the clearest explanations of the difference between fiction and non-fiction and I couldn’t wait to share it! Fiction evokes emotion. Fear. Excitement. Joy. Sorrow. Success! Thinking of this, how does that change your ideas about your story?


Blogger Jim Thompson said...

Oversimplification is the false economy of writing. Stein's simple distinction between nonfiction and fiction doesn't account for the "Aha Factor" of well-written nonfiction, or the emotion elicited by a difficult truth. And it neglects the skillful fiction writer's ability to vividly set the story's scene without overloading the reader with information. No, the distinction between the two is far more fundamental than that. It's the forest you can't see for the trees, the information you can't see for the story, and the story that's hidden in the information.

6:01 PM  

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