Monday, March 24, 2014

A Sound Argument on Fiction, Non-fiction, and Memoirs

Fiction, like memoirs, share one great inherent feature. There’s no arguing with a creative-based story. Not that readers won’t try, or haven’t tried, but once ‘a story’ is told, it’s rock solid indisputable.

Of course too, like this article in the Sunday Book Review points out, we can be all over a page arguing about what represents fiction, a memoir, and non-fiction. For this post I’m simplifying the arguable facts.

Fiction is untrue, not true, made up idealistic material.

Memoirs are an extension of fiction in that they are informal opinions and observations of accounts solely told from an individual, or personal perspective or vantage point.

And then, perhaps the basis of so much confusion among the genres, there is Non-fiction; practical, planned and studied serious topics presented as fact, yet containing that arguable quality which happens to support the basis of this post.

This is the interesting beauty between the genres. Take the actress who rode a horse through New York City, or the teacher who swallowed the bee, or the man who quit his job to take care of his children, or that other guy who dropped from heaven to take care of his child, memoirs and fiction stories we might dislike for its unfamiliar qualities, wishing certain events had been told differently, or altogether not told, or perhaps we’ll disagree with the writing semantics or techniques, but there’s no winning an argument borne in an account steeped in ideals and/or personal perception.

Non-Fiction, on the other hand, is different. Fact based stories can be argued. Remember when once upon a time it was a fact that the world was flat? Or, how about more recent polemics, like the numerous opposing book reviews on non-fiction work like Freakonomics by Edge, or Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, and Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, or like a recent read of mines, Who Owns America’s Past by Post?

On a less arguable contention I invite readers to read this ‘factual’ write-up: The Seven Qualities I Look for in a Novel. I agree! (Compelling prose... Interesting characters... Insight into human behaviour and the human condition... Emotional connection... An interesting story... Depth: Weight, substance, heft... The “Wow” Factor!) --- I Love it!

And quick question: Do you believe those who read for enjoyment are better readers than those who read for information? Blog your best argument.


  1. Thanks for this interesting post. I think reading for enjoyment or for information stimulates different parts of the brain, so it's hard to say which is better. They're just different. Although, I do think fiction can be educational and non-fiction enjoyable if it's well-written and the reader is very interested in the topic.

    1. Thanks for leaving a comment Natylie. I agree. Some love reading so much, they'll even read dictionaries... for pleasure!