Difference between Fiction and Nonfiction Books

July 21, 2016 by Editorial Team

It’s hard to be a book lover especially when there are so many types and genres to choose from. But most bookworms can be divided into those who prefer nonfiction and those who would rather escape reality and read fiction books.


Fiction books are firmly defined as make-believe stories resulting from the imagination of an author. A work of fiction may have been based on facts or actual events, but crucial plots are often derived from creative invention. Fictional books are usually popular due to the nature of their stories. Without the constraints of using only real events or logic, an author can create an entire new world depending on his or her creativity. Even historical data can be reinterpreted because fictional books have the freedom to not follow accurate accounts.

Fictional books can be broken down further into subcategories such as Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Legends, Mythologies and many others. And as mentioned above, some of the stories in these books are actually plausible in real life. Take for example “The Princess Diaries” by Meg Cabot, which tells the Cinderella-like story of a girl discovering that she is actually a princess of a small country. The novel is done in a diary fashion and we get to know everything through her thoughts. While fictional and far-fetched in nature, princes and princesses do exist in real life and some royalty have been known to take extreme measures in raising their future heirs. Many fictional books, though, are laced with characteristics such as magic, incredibly advanced technology or mythical creatures.

Nonfiction books narrate accurate or true accounts of events by people who have researched, witnessed or actually experienced them. Throughout the years, many nonfiction books have also been proven to contain false information but they are retained in this category because the author genuinely presents what he/she believes in these accounts at the time of writing. These books can be subjective or objective depending on the point of view of the writer.

Journals, biographies, history books and memoirs are all subgenres of nonfiction books. They are informative in nature and give readers a chance to know about specific events or people in history. “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank is an example of an autobiography; it was written by Anne Frank, who died during the Nazi regime.


A reader would immediately recognize what is the difference between fiction and nonfiction books because of how the author presents the story.

To put it simply, fictional books are based on the imagination while nonfictional books are based on reality. Throughout the years the line between the two have blurred so much so that fictional books are often based on real events while nonfictional books may contain fictional dialogues or events.

If you want to simplify the difference between them, you could say that fiction involves imaginary people in imaginary settings experiencing imaginary events whereas nonfiction draws from the real experiences of real people in real places.

But if you want a more complex analysis, it all boils down to what the book claims. Plenty of nonfiction books have speculations in them and not all are proven to be true. Since there are many gaps in history that could only be solved through time travelling, authors often have to resort to filling those gaps and doing some heavy guesswork. These gaps are then filled with “fiction” or “imaginative” writing, but it doesn’t make the book fictional at all. Why so? Because the book still claims to be in line with reality. The author believes this is how it all happened and it is often backed with heavy research. To create a complete falsehood, however, is to disregard respect for any authenticity in the book.

Fiction doesn’t bother with claims and instead deals with the “what if?” question. The imagination of the author would often allow them to create an alternate universe or spin a whole new chain of events to suit the storyline. Fiction entertains while nonfiction strives to deliver facts as best as it can.

Take for example these two books:

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot (example of a fiction book)

Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank
Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank (example of a non-fiction book

They are both diaries but what makes Anne Frank’s diary a nonfiction book is that it narrates actual events told by Anne herself. She experienced what she wrote and shared with the world. Meanwhile, the diary of a fictional princess tells the world imagined by the author. There is no real Princess Mia who discovered who she really was.

There are no open-ended questions to a work of nonfiction because the book itself gives the answers to the readers. Fiction books on the other hand give a thrilling promise of adventure that will allow the audience to imagine whatever they want to.

Comparison Chart

Fiction BooksNonfiction Books
Based on imaginationBased on facts
May contain supernatural elementsOnly contains true to life events
Deals with the “what ifs”Rely on claims