Fiction or Non-Fiction – That is the Question

crossed swords 2

Today, we’ll digress a bit from process, but there is a process of choice in this post. Like Hamlet when he gave his famous speech, what you read took thinking, based on your preferences, your tastes, and your genres.

Is there a war between fiction and non-fiction? There doesn’t have to be. I’m encouraging you to read both in this post. It will help you to be more well-rounded.

Why do you read what you read? Are you a reader of fiction or non-fiction? Or both? I believe it’s important to know and recognize that at different stages of our lives, we concentrate on different things. To give myself as an example, I grew up reading fiction, and the probably the only non-fiction I read were biographies, and those were few. I’m gonna get spiritual on ya, but that’s just me. If you disagree, that’s OK.

Somewhere in my late twenties to early thirties – for a period lasting probably twenty years, I read a lot of Christian non-fiction. Why did I switch?

For me, during that non-fiction time period, it was about what I could learn. Most of my Christian friends read non-fiction, almost exclusively. I don’t have to ask them why. I know why I did. I wanted to learn and be enriched with the how-to, the deeper spiritual truths, and to enhance my relationship with the Lord. I wanted to read about others’ journeys of faith and how it related to me.

About twenty years ago, someone asked me why I only read non-fiction. I replied, “Because it’s real. It’s not made up.” I guess I needed more reality in what I read at that time.

But lately, or should I say the last few years or so, I’ve been turning back to fiction. As a writer, in the past, I wrote articles as a free-lance reporter for newspapers and magazines. I tried writing a non-fiction book, but I didn’t get very far.

I find myself getting caught up in stories, both as reader and writer. Stories, as I said a couple of months ago, are the main way that Jesus communicated truth to the masses. He only explained their deeper meanings to His disciples.

The argument that fiction “is not real” could be disputed. I just read a series of books where the main character was based on a real person and his experiences, even one that seemed totally unbelievable. I knew the author had based her books on someone she knew – but the experiences that her character went through were real to the man. The most seemingly amazing experience: being strapped to the bottom, yes the bottom, of a Piper aircraft during WWII flying from Germany to Paris. But it saved the guy’s life. Wow. How real is that? But it was in a novel.

I’m writing a historical fiction novel where I have included a true event from my hometown’s history. If you Google “The Gunfight at Hyde Park” (no matter how you spell it) you’ll find the Wikipedia page I first read to research the event I remembered hearing about as a youngster.

crossed swords

What I see about this ‘debate’ of fiction v. non-fiction is that some elements must be included in both in order for the ‘story’ (whether true or made up) to be successful in communicating its main point.

• First, it must be a compelling story, or no one will care. If non-fiction, what’s the life-changing truth? Same with fiction.
• Second, we must care about the characters, or the real people involved.
• Third, the story must move along, and not dawdle.
• Fourth, it must come to a satisfactory conclusion.

A couple of suggestions for you. If you’ve been stuck in a rut of reading only one or the other (fiction or non-fiction), then I challenge you to read the other. For me, I’m going to challenge myself to read a non-fiction book. I’ve probably only read two or three non-fiction books in the last year and a half, compared to close to two hundred, (I’m not kidding) novels.

If you’re stuck in non-fiction, find a good novel to read. There are many genres to choose from. What did you like reading as a child? Do you like romance? How about science-fiction/fantasy type books? If you’re a woman, there are lots of books in what is called “women’s fiction” out there, dealing with issues we’re concerned about. Suspense, thrillers, and speculative type books are also out there.

If you’re stuck in fiction, find a subject you want to grow in, read the reviews of those kinds of books, then read something “real.”

How do you find a good book? Read reviews. That’s how I find many of the books I purchase for my kindle. I like to read both the five-star and the one-star. Why did someone like it so well? Why didn’t they like it? Reviews tell you. I write book reviews, mainly fiction now. My link is here.

Get out of your rut. Read something new this summer!

What do you like to read? Leave a comment, and let me know.

Donna Smith mug shot

Donna L.H. Smith has written numerous articles for newspapers and magazines in the past, and is now trying her hand at fiction. She resides in Pennsylvania. She blogs prolifically and reads avidly. She recently completed the Craftsman program through Christian Writer’s Guild and is in the process of writing her first novel, a historical romance western. She is married to a wonderful man for 26 years.

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