Writing is an art, a skill to express yourself, what you feel, think, or imagine. It is also the skill to express what is happening or happened in the past, as it is, in a factual manner as it can be.
So What is Non-Fiction Writing? A piece of non-fictional writing is meant to provide a narrative account of some incidence. One can attain factual information about the subject of the writing through a non-fictional work. Non-fiction may provide information about a range of subjects including places, personalities, societies, philosophical ideas, political accounts, scientific phenomenon and a lot more. It is not necessary that a non-fictional piece of work will always offer accurate or true information. Yet, a non-fictional work is meant to offer truthful narrative or account of the subject being discussed.
To explain why a non-fictional work cannot always be true, we can take an example of a non-fictional writing about a belief system. While offering actual information about a belief system, the writer is required to present the beliefs of that system as they are. However, all those beliefs can be far away from truth. Similarly, while writing about a mythological subject, the writer is required to offer all information and concepts of the mythology as they have been expressed since ages. However, the non-fictional writing about a mythology doesn’t make it true. The subject of a non-fictional writer can be a fictional work. For example, a Hollywood movie review is an example of a non-fictional writing, but it doesn’t represent truth, it represents a fictional work.
While writing a non-fictional work, it is necessary to consider about clarity, simplicity and a systematic direct approach towards the subject. While reading a non-fictional work, the reader will expect direct and clear information about the theme of writing and its subject. In general, a non-fictional writer can take two different approaches while writing a piece of work. They may write a non-fictional write up based on actual facts and reason or they may write a non-fictional work expressing their opinions along with the opinions of others about a particular subject. In most of the cases, the writer intends to offer factual information about the subject along with their own opinions and understanding of the subject. Like any other piece of writing, a non-fictional write up is also produced for attaining as much audience as it is possible. To achieve more readers, it is necessary to explain the facts about the subject in a non-fictional work in simplest and direct manner.
Since the beginning, people have shown their interest in expressing and explaining what they observe in appropriate manner and whenever a person try to depict or write about what they actually observe, their work becomes an example of non-fiction. Thus, it can be said that the non-fiction work is being produced since ages. Perhaps, non-fictional works are being produced much before human society started using written language to express themselves. The cave paintings of pre-historic men that depict hunting trips of pre-historic hunter gatherers can be claimed as the oldest piece of non-fictional work.
Indus valley civilization produced a lot of non-fictional work such as “Caraka Samhita” or ‘Compendium of Caraka’ which was a medical, non fictional Ayurvedic information bank of medicines and their usage. Literature work of ancient China, ancient Persia, ancient Greece, and Rome had a huge collection of non-fictional work that included narratives or accounts of legal systems, economic systems, prevalent social practices, philosophical thoughts, travelogues, and a lot more. Chinese literary work literary work, Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War’ can be said as the oldest non-fictional work written about military treatise. Ancient journals, essays, and prose literature about natural science, history, law, philosophy, and economics are all examples of non fictional writing.
The world of non-fictional writing includes a huge volume of literature. Some of the major types of non fictional written work include essays, scientific or research papers, histories, autobiographies, biographies, book reports, diaries, dictionaries, encyclopedias, guides and manuals, philosophy, travelogue, natural science papers, self-help articles, and text-books. Let us discuss about these major types of non-fictional writing works one by one.
Writing an essay includes the job of expressing one’s point of view about a certain subject. An essay may include political ideas, literary criticism, observations, logical and philosophical arguments, memoirs, and opinions of the writer of the essay.
In many countries, essay writing has been included as a major part of academic education system. A number of structures essay formats have been developed to make an essay appear more impressive. Essay writing is being considered as special writing skills and many universities select applicants for various courses on account of their ability to write essays.
Scientific or research papers are academic writing works which are often published as science journals, academic journals, thesis, or books. A research paper contains motive or the title of the research, abstract or summary of the whole research work, introduction, method of research, results of the research work, discussion about the research work and its results, conclusion acquired through the research results, and a proper reference lists to mention all literary work that helped the writer in completing the research paper.
Non fictional writings about the historical events, persons, people, civilizations, and so on, based on available written documents, historical monuments and other forms of information is known as non-fictional history. Non-fictional writers working on subjects of history are known as historians. Writing about history includes the job of organizing and presenting the information about the past that has been revealed through discoveries. It can be compared with a research work that includes narrative account of available evidences and information to examine, analysis, and present the probable sequence of incidences and events that happened in past.
An autobiography is a non-fictional work about a person written by their own self. An autobiography is a written record of a person’s view point about his life based on his memories and biases. However, an autobiography is different from a memoir which is also a form of non fictional writing. While an autobiography includes the whole life and time of the writer, a memoir specifically represents the writer’s own feelings, emotions, and point of view about a particular incidence, or a short period of his life.
A biography is different from an autobiography because it is written by someone else other than the subject person of the narrative. A biography includes proper research and detailed description about a person’s life and his view points and may include a logical analysis of his personality based on the point of view of the writer.
A book report is a review of a literary work which includes a logical criticism of the written work. A book report consists of an analysis of the book on account of its content and writing style. A book review can be a summary of the book or it can be a scholarly review. A number of printed and digital newspapers, magazines, and periodicals offer quality book reviews about the recently published books. Just like book reviews or book reports, non fictional writing also include film reviews which include logical criticism of a movie and its analysis based on content, direction, and acting skills of the director and actors.
Writing a diary is like daily record keeping arranged by date. The writer writes about the major incidences, actions, and feelings that they observed during the entire day in a discrete manner. A personal diary is based on personal view point of the writer through which, they offer their opinions about the major happenings of the day. Writing a diary is to keep a record for oneself and it is written with an intention to keep the written work private, or with very limited readers. Nowadays, people prefer to write blog diaries.
A dictionary is a record of words of one or more languages that are listed in alphabetical order that offers information about the usage, etymologies, pronunciations, phonetics, and definitions of the words. The oldest dictionary was written in around 2300 BCE and it included words of Sumerian and Akkadian languages.
An encyclopedia is a collection of reference work that offers brief information about either all divisions of comprehensions, or a specific division of knowledge. A dictionary can be said as an encyclopedia which contains all information about the words of a language or more than one language.
A guide or a manual is a communication document that offers technical information and help to people or customers who are supposed to use a specific system of machines or processes.
Philosophical writings are forms of non-fictional writing that are written for the discussing certain fundamental problems such as what is life, reason, reality, illusion, existence, values, morality, ethics, knowledge, language, and so on. Philosophy is considered as non-fictional work because it is based on a systematic process of logical arguments.
Travelogues are description of experiences of a traveler that he observed while touring a place. It is also known as itinerary work. Travelogues are often used to enhance tourism.
Natural science papers are specific types of scientific research papers that are intended to narrate the study and observations about living organisms including plants, animals, and insects. However, natural life papers can be non-scientific too.
Self help articles are specific written work by experts to help people in improving their personal, economical, intellectual, and emotional situations.
Text books are manual of instructions or course to help students in learning and mastering a subject. Text books are often written as per the demands of schools and other educational institutes.
People often prefer reading fictional works because they want to get rid of the real life problems. However, non fictional writing proves to be a real challenge for the writer and the reader both. Non fictional writing is not about telling anything that a person feels, rather; it is expressing the truth about a subject that a person knows in exact manner. In order to be a successful non fictional writer, it is necessary for a person to try to be objective in their day to day life as that will help them in thinking objectively which is necessary for factual writing. Maintaining a regular diary or blog will help a person to improve their skills of non fictional writing. One can also improve their ability to write non fictional write-ups by posting their opinions about consumer reviews sites for those products or services that they are using. Gradual building up a habit of factual writing is the first step towards becoming a successful non-fictional writer.
Image Credits – Field Notes by Nick Olejniczak