Non-fiction

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Non-fiction or nonfiction is an account, narrative, or representation of a subject which an author presents as fact. This presentation may be accurate or not; that is, it can give either a true or a false account of the subject in question. However, it is generally assumed that the authors of such accounts believe them to be truthful at the time of their composition. Note that reporting the beliefs of others in a non-fiction format is not necessarily an endorsement of the ultimate veracity of those beliefs, it is simply saying that it is true that people believe that (for such topics as mythology, religion). Non-fiction can also be written about fiction, giving information about these other works.

Non-fiction is one of the two main divisions in writing, particularly used in libraries, the other being fiction. However, non-fiction need not be written text necessarily, since pictures and film can also purport to present a factual account of a subject.

Contents

Major types of non-fiction

Essays, journals, documentaries, histories, scientific papers, photographs, biographies, textbooks, travel books, blueprints, technical documentation, user manuals, diagrams and some journalism are all common examples of non-fiction works, and including information that the author knows to be untrue within any of these works is usually regarded as dishonest. Other works can legitimately be either fiction or non-fiction, such as journals of self-expression, letters, magazine articles, and other expressions of imagination. Although they are mostly either one or the other it is possible for there to be a blend of both. Some fiction may include non-fictional elements. Some non-fiction may include elements of unverified supposition, deduction, or imagination for the purpose of smoothing out a narrative, but the inclusion of open falsehoods would discredit it as a work of non-fiction.

Distinctions

The numerous literary and creative devices used within fiction are generally thought inappropriate for use in non-fiction. They are still present particularly in older works but they are often muted so as not to overshadow the information within the work. Simplicity, clarity and directness are some of the most important considerations when producing non-fiction. Audience is important in any artistic or descriptive endeavour but it is perhaps most important in non-fiction. In fiction, the writer believes that readers will make an effort to follow and interpret an indirectly or abstractly presented progression of theme, whereas the production of non-fiction has more to do with the direct provision of information. Understanding of the potential readers' use for the work and their existing knowledge of a subject are both fundamental for effective non-fiction. Despite the truth of non-fiction it is often necessary to persuade the reader to agree with the ideas and so a balanced, coherent and informed argument is also vital. Mark Twain said, paraphrased: "The difference between fiction and nonfiction is that fiction must be absolutely believable."

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