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7.1: Nonfiction

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    Nonfiction\(^{79}\) is content (often, in the form of a story) whose creator, in good faith, assumes responsibility for the truth or accuracy of the events, people, and/or information presented. Authors of such accounts genuinely believe or claim them to be truthful at the time of their composition or, at least, pose them to a convinced audience as historically or empirically factual. 

    types of nonfiction: 

    Common literary examples of nonfiction include expository, argumentative, functional, and opinion pieces; essays on art or literature; biographies; memoirs; journalism; and historical, scientific, technical, or economic writings. 

    Journals, photographs, textbooks, travel books, blueprints, and diagrams are also often considered non-fictional. 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 nonfiction, such as journals of self-expression, letters, magazine articles, and other expressions of imagination. Though they are mostly either one or the other, it is possible for there to be a blend of both. Some fiction may include nonfictional elements.

    What is a "life" when it's written down? How does memory inform the present? Why are autobiographies and memoirs so popular?


    Simplicity, clarity and directness are some of the most important considerations when producing nonfiction. Audience is important in any artistic or descriptive endeavor, but it is perhaps most important in nonfiction. 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 nonfiction 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 nonfiction. 


    Here are some typical elements in nonfiction pieces:

    • Factual information, according to what the writer remembers
    • Reflection
    • Organization: if not chronological, it should still make sense to reader
    • Quality content: the details/description should be concise and vivid
    • Dialogue (optional)

    a student example of nonfiction\(^{80}\)

    We were sitting in the living room when it happened, and I was so nervous I could have exploded. My heart was in my mouth, and the pounding of it made me so anxious I struggled to get the words out. But I had to say it. I had no choice. I’d never been extraordinarily brave, but when something was necessary, I could do it.

    “Do you even love me anymore?”, I asked him, looking down. My voice didn’t sound like my own. 

    I knew his answer long before he said it. He paused, and that silence was hours, years, and endless nights. The end of a relationship with someone I adored with all my heart, but who didn’t adore me. His dark eyes found mine, and, very quietly, he answered.

    “No,” he said. He couldn’t look at me, and instead focused his eyes down on the floor. I thought he was a coward. I wasn’t angry about it at the time, but disgusted. He had been blatantly unhappy in our relationship for so long, but didn't have the guts to end it. When you find a wounded animal you don’t drag out their pain. You do the humane thing and shoot them, ending their suffering. You give them peace. And he was a coward who never had the strength to end mine. 

    I always despised crying. I was raised in a broken home, one where crying loudly would be met with blind drunken anger. So when he finally admitted what I had known for too long, I kept my cool. I swallowed those feelings into a pit and held them there. I didn’t want them anyways. Nobody likes to feel hurt or weak. 

    “Okay. I’m moving out today then.”, I said. Cordially, cool-ly. Like this was a business meeting between coworkers rather than a break-up. 

    I called my friend, Kaity, and asked her if I could stay with her. She accepted. My roommate-ship with her would not last very long. After it ended I would live with my good friend Parsheana before she moved out and I lived alone. When we were roommates I met some of her band friends from Hazen, including my now-boyfriend Ethan. My happiness with him always makes me wish I left David sooner. Everyone in the world deserves to be with someone who loves them. 

    When I looked back years later, I could never find where it went wrong. I still can’t. When did our relationship turn, from late night dates with Chinese food and video games, into mean remarks about my body? I used to sit behind David on the couch as he sat on the floor, and hunch over him. I would rest my head on his shoulder and twine my fingers through hair. I loved him. 

    Becoming best friends with David saved me. I got away from my step-family, who promptly kicked me out three weeks after I told them I had a boyfriend. He helped me see that life wasn’t so bad. It wasn’t stupidly pointless. David wrapped me in his arms and understood that feeling. He had the scars on his arms to prove it. And he was my best friend, but somewhere after our one-year anniversary he stopped being happy. He started saying negative things about me. He stopped sleeping in the same bed, arguing that he wanted to stay up and play games all night. He started pulling away with irritation when I touched him. 

    I’ll never forget one of the first times that David said something mean to me. I can’t remember if it was the very first, but I think it was close. His words turned me into a statue. Remembering them brings back that feeling. It’s like they’re frozen deep in my brain. I was trying on some new summer clothes, some capris and a t-shirt. He and his friend Christian were playing PlayStation in the living room. I wanted to show off my new clothes, and went out to the living room. I was confident. I felt cute, and I liked wearing capris a lot so I was rocking them. I got David’s attention, and he looked at me, and said something I never expected him to say. 

    “Wow, you need to lose weight,” he said. Nonchalantly, like his behavior was completely normal. 

    Ouch. I really did freeze up. It’d have been easier to have been slapped across the face, in a way. Christian stopped playing PlayStation and looked at me. He wasn’t the best guy, and had a bad habit of fucking around on his girlfriends, but he had a heart. He had faults, but putting down his girlfriends wasn't one of them. The look he gave me was full of sympathy. That look did it. Staring into Christian’s blue eyes pulled me out of my frozen trance. I began to tear up before heading back into the bedroom. David followed me, and told me all about how “he wanted the best for me”, and he “wanted to help”. Swearing that he loved me and apologizing.

    After that happened the comments became pretty regular. When you read about abuse you learn that it escalates a little at a time until it becomes normal. Well, him saying that to me normalized it, and made it regular. Suddenly it was all about me being too fat. […] I wasn’t horrendously overweight or anything, but the comments did their toll on my self-esteem. I started to hate myself and every curve I had. 

    It hurt to take that leap and force him to admit he didn’t want to be with me anymore, but those words ripped off the band-aid. It wasn’t easy to heal. Going through a breakup and living on my own forced me to be more independent. I have this journal entry from that time period where I wrote about how lost I felt. I didn’t know who I was and I was just going through the motions. I got my GED because I should, accepted a promotion at work because it paid well, and started college. 

    Eventually I figured it out, but when I think about this chapter of my life now I think of self-discovery. Leaving David took courage, and everything that came after took even more. I learned to deal with stressful adult responsibilities on my own. Bills, cleaning, and car troubles kept me busy, but it was peaceful. I focused on myself. In the start of my next relationship I stood my ground when I didn’t like something, and I still do. 

    My experiences with my ex taught me that your love for others should not dull the love you have for yourself. For, at the end of the day you should feel good about who you are. There will be times in life where you have to stand alone, where it gets hard to carry on, and in those times you have to hold yourself up. You have to be resilient and look out for yourself. You are your own person, and can be anything you want to be, and I choose to wake up and be myself and find joy in doing so. As Dr. Seuss once said, “There is no one alive who youer than you!”. My breakup with David helped me realize this, because it pushed me out of being who I was. I was comfortable and co-dependent. It made me a better person. One that is stronger and knows who I am.


    questions / activities.

    <Students might be assigned – as part of the final project? – to create questions and activities for chapters that do not contain those pieces quite yet.>


    Compose an original piece about a person, place, or thing in your life. Make sure to include these elements: Factual information, according to what the writer remembers; Reflection; Organization; Quality Content/Details

    \(^{79}\)Wikipedia contributors. "Non-fiction." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 14 Nov. 2016. Web. 14 Nov. 2016. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

    \(^{80}\)This piece of nonfiction by Jamie Olson is licensed CC-BY-NC-SA; it was created for NDSCS English 211 in the Spring of 2021.The prompt for this project was “Write about an event that changed you.”

    This page titled 7.1: Nonfiction is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Sybil Priebe (Independent Published) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.