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What is Nonfiction?

Nonfiction is a form of writing that tries to accurately represent an event, information, people, or community. This means that the subject of the writing really happened. It is different from fiction because the writer does not make up the story, but it can be told from a subjective (how our biases, opinions and experiences shape an event) or an objective viewpoint (an attempt to be free of biases or a specific perspective). Nonfiction attempts to be accurate, but that doesn’t mean it always is, it just means that the author believes that their account of the subject is truthful. Nonfiction can take many forms including self-help books, biographies, memoirs, history, cookbooks, news articles, op-eds, and travel writing.

Types of Nonfiction

Did you know that nonfiction books are the most sold books in the United States? There are many types of nonfiction, so these are just some to get to you started: 

  • Narrative NonfictionNarrative nonfiction (sometimes called creative nonfiction) tries to tell a true story about an event, place, people, or community. This genre, although telling a true story, is written like a fictional story and flows as though it was a novel instead of real life. It often includes, like in fiction, a climax and a resolution to the story. 

  • Expository Nonfiction: Expository writing educates the reader about a specific subject and exposes new information or teaches them a new skill. It presents information and can come in many different formats. Examples include news articles, textbooks, or cookbooks.

Examples of Nonfiction

Here’s a list of nonfiction examples that can help you start thinking about your own writing. A couple of questions to ask yourself for further thinking are included after each link. 

  • If Your Schools Won’t Teach Anti-Racism, Here’s What You Can Do at Home: by Meena Harris

    • How did the author use real life experiences and examples to support her thoughts? How does she provide new information?

  • Teaching Ferguson & Black Lives Matter: by Bettina Love 

    • How did you feel reading about the author discussing events that happened in their classroom? How does the author convey a story through their writing?

  • Exercise: The Ultimate Form of Self Care: by Dr. Jacque Strait, PhD

    • What did you think of the way the information is formatted? How is the writer’s point made?

  • Stay Curious in Tutka Bay: Because Small Things Matter: by Juno Kim 

    • What did you think of how the story of the travel is told? What impact does reading someone’s account of a place, you may not have been to, have on you?

Nonfiction Topic Ideas

When you write nonfiction you generally need to have some sort of research or knowledge of the subject to support your writing. You may need to do some additional research depending on the subject you wish to write about.

Now You Try!

Read the following topics and pick 1-2 that you might be interested in writing about. Try to come up with a few ideas for each topic, which can help you form an outline for your writing:

  • What event in history do you find really interesting, or do you think needs to be told from a different perspective?

  • Is there a person in your community or family who has a cool or interesting life? Who is it and why would you want to write about them?

  • Are there recipes from your family or community you would want to share? What are some of the recipes? 

  • What current issue (schools, pollution, etc.) do you feel passionate about and have a strong opinion that you can express? What research would you need to support your opinion?

  • Is there a place you’ve traveled to or a community you live in that you think the world needs to know more about? Where is that place and who are the different people or things someone would need to experience?

  • Is there a skill or subject you know a lot about and want to teach other people? What is that skill or passion you have? How would you go about writing about it if you had to describe it step by step?

Nonfiction Prompts

Pick 1 of the prompts below and write a response to it: 

  • What event in your life has angered you the most? Write the scene where it happened, and tell us what you would do if it happened again. 

  • Write about a secret that you’ve never told to the person you love.

  • Find an object that means a lot to you in some way. Using the memories, the connection, and meaning of that object to you, try to create an advertisement as to why someone else should have this object as well.

  • Free write a diary entry about your schedule as soon as you woke up today. 

  • Pick a very specific  topic you have always wanted to learn about. For Example, dark matter in space, cat’s purring, tornado weather, etc. Do research on this topic and explain how it works.

Want More?

Here are a few nonfiction works to help you generate ideas about topics you can write about:

  • An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz: The history of the United States is often told through the perspective of those who have colonized others and held power. This history book is told from the perspective of Indigenous people on how history unfolded. 

  • The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table by Minda Harts: Drawing upon her knowledge working in many businesses, the author wrote a book that helps women of color figure out how to navigate the workplace. 

  • The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey by Che Guevara: Born in Argentina, Che Guevara, then a medical student, took a journey across South America in honor of his friend’s birthday. In this book, the audience learns more about how the trip and how the people he met on it changed his life. 

  • Vietnamese Food Any Day by Andrea Nguyen: Our parents and families are often a key part of how and what we cook. In this cookbook, the author draws upon her experiences growing up and her mother’s cooking tips to write a book about the food of her culture. 

  • Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin by John D’Emilio: This biography of civil rights activist Bayard Rustin describes his life and the way his background and identity shaped his life and legacy. 

Other Helpful Examples

Are you ready to submit your nonfiction worl or a section of it? Upload  here!

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