Non-fiction and Fiction Are Very Different
No matter what techniques you use
My goal for this year is to become a full-time storyteller. Which is not the easiest goal. Especially since everyone and their dog thinks that they already are a storyteller (it’s a skill that has to be actively practiced like any other one).
And it’s not just any kind of storyteller. I’m aiming for fiction.
Fiction is very different to non-fiction, though I’ve had some people tell me, to my face, that they are in fact the same thing.
They do things differently.
To tell a story in a non-fictional way is to tell the truth. Non-fiction is grounded in reality. It has facts. Figures. Numbers. Real people. And it’s tied to a place and time in history.
You’ll see this kind of storytelling come out in personal essays, memoirs/biographies, and blogs. There are also other forms of non-fiction writing, but they don’t necessarily have storytelling elements (like articles, news-related content, advertisements, reviews, persuasive writing, etc.)
This kind of story has a similar structure to a narrative story in that it has a beginning, middle, and end. However, you cannot change the story in order to meet the needs of readers (especially if the story is based on a real person who lived a life that ended tragically). It must be given in the way that it happened, and left that way.
The biggest problem that you’ll face in this type of writing is bending the truth into lies. People will find out. And they won’t pay you for lying in this kind of storytelling (they’ll sue you if anything). So be careful. And tell the truth.
To tell a story in a fictional way is to tell lies that sound like truths.
This isn’t like little Billy telling his mom that a horse ate the cake while she had her back turned.
It’s more like the listeners/enjoyers of the story understand that the story is not real. However, they are willing to suspend their disbelief for a brief moment in time. When the story is done they can continue to live their lives.
Fiction tends to have a plot, settings, and characters created from the imagination of the storyteller. They can be real or wholly imagined. As long as it’s good. And it can have specific structures unless it’s literary/academic (then good luck with understanding it and the awards that story received).
The biggest problem you’ll run into is finding an audience who’s willing to read and buy your stories. Unless your name is already out there, you’ll have to put in a lot of time (and money) to get your work read.
The biggest difference between the two is the reasons why you read them.
I do not read non-fiction for the same reasons I read fiction. And I don’t know of anyone who does either.
I read non-fiction if I’m looking to learn or understand something better.
I read fiction if I want a really good story to think about for years and years (and potentially buy a lot of merch related to it).
The only similarity that they have, for me, is that they both require working on your writing. A lot. They utilize a lot of your time. Time well spent if you continue to work on your stories for a long time. Because they are both playing the long game.
Don’t misunderstand me. I think that they’re both great ways of utilizing writing and storytelling to get an idea out there. But I definitely wouldn’t say that they’re the same thing.
Hopefully, you don’t either.