Fiction or Non-Fiction by Allison Symes

Image Credit:  Images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

I love reading and writing non-fiction but I came to the latter relatively recently. It was a result of discovering the joys of writing for an online magazine, Chandler’s Ford Today, I dipped my literary toes into the wonderful world of factual writing. 

I’ve recently had the joy of being published in print for the first time in non-fiction with my chapter Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories in Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing, which has been compiled and edited by Wendy H Jones of this parish. So another reason to love non-fiction then.

I hope to develop my non-fiction “string” to my writing “bow” further.

My first love though is fiction (and especially humour, fairytales, fantasy etc) and it always will be. I also became a published author in that form long before anything of mine appeared in non-fiction.

But is non-fiction still considered the poor relation to fiction? If it is, I don’t think it should be. Reading an interesting article or several has often triggered ideas for stories funnily enough. 

And I’ve welcomed the fact these days non-fiction is using a lot of fictional techniques to get across information in an entertaining way. 

I suppose non-fiction, when I was growing up (oh so many moons ago!), was linked in my mind at least with big dusty reference books on the library shelves, which were seldom taken down and which would seriously damage your foot if you dropped said books on it! I am glad things have got better here. There is no reason for a non-fiction book to be dull and every reason for it not to be!

I wonder if people have woken up to the idea non-fiction needs to “compete” with fiction in proving to readers it can be every bit as entertaining a read as the latest novel or flash fiction collection, say.

Often if I am working on a blog post or article, ideas will come to me to resolve knotty problems in stories I’m drafting. It is as if I need my brain to work on something else to free up my subconscious to come up with solutions to my fictional problems.

I also have the advantage here of always having something to work on. Also, I am never bored!

I like the contrast and differing challenges to fiction and non-fiction. But I would like to see non-fiction celebrated more. Getting facts across to people in palatable forms (especially children) is vital. Nobody wants to read a boring book.


My go-to read for non-fiction is historical. I’ve enjoyed reading the Ben Macintyre books and thought London by Peter Ackroyd was well done. The thought of writing the biography of a city as if it was a living and breathing character was an interesting technique to use.

And yes truth definitely is stranger than fiction. Non-fiction books, when well written, often prove that point.


Peter Leyland said…
That's a very interesting piece Alison. I think I'm now working in the spaces between fiction and non-fiction. Some writers like Hannah Storm call this CNF (Creative Non-Fiction) in her flash writing pieces in 'The Thin Line Between Everything and Nothing'. Others like Deborah Levy call it 'living autobiography'. A good example is her book 'Things I Don't Want to Know' which I couldn't put down! I'm hoping to explore these issues in future blogs.
Allison Symes said…
Many thanks, Peter. Good luck with what you are working on - that sounds really interesting. I like the whole idea of creative non-fiction (or the best of both worlds as it could be considered). Thanks for the tip about Hannah Storm. I will try and look her book up. Sounds great.
I found this interesting too. I think a family history account I wrote not long ago could probably come under 'creative non-fiction' as I made it into a kind of story about my researches. But then, non-fiction always has to be more than a list of facts - there has to be an angle of some kind I think.
Allison Symes said…
Thank you, Cecilia. And yes non-fiction, like fiction, has to have a hook to lure readers in with. I love the storytelling techniques Ben Macintyre uses in his non-fiction works. Not a dull moment either.

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