Fiction and Nonfiction


When talking reading material with a FrogDog colleague a few weeks back, he said he didn't read fiction much because it's just "all made up."

Can I see why he'd feel this way? Sure. Yet I disagree that nonfiction is more edifying or more "true" than something conjured from the ether.

Let's discuss.

Why Nonfiction isn't Really Nonfiction

In choosing how to write about what happened—what to include and how to include it—nonfiction authors tell their version of the story. It doesn't help that there is no way to know everything about an event or person. Nonfiction authors must make a lot of assumptions.

That's why there are articles and books about the same moment or figure that are so vastly different.

Think autobiography and first-person accounts are more accurate? Nope. In the moment, very few of us are self-aware enough to know why we did something or how something transpired. Ever read studies about the unreliability of eyewitnesses? Ever watched viral videos in which a man in a gorilla suit walks across the screen—and you miss it completely? Exactly.

Add onto this our ego's need to make ourselves look good, and first-person accounts are particularly skewed.

Why Fiction is More Real than You Think

Fiction is honest about being an author's take on something.

And because fiction is independent of historical record, it can efficiently and effectively make points about society, history, human nature, and human dynamics without an author sifting through documents to find a "fact" that proves his point. The more nonfiction tries to make a statement and drive it home emotionally and intellectually, the more it may be fiction in disguise.

The best fiction helps us better understand ourselves and our world.

My Take

Nonfiction has value and I enjoy it. However, I see it for what it is: A perspective on an event or person and far from a full historical record.

For me, fiction is the purer way to say something about who we are, where we've come from, and where we are going.

And that's pretty profound.

What’s your take?