|Language Arts » Narrative Non-Fiction
What Is Narrative Nonfiction?
In fiction, such as myths and short stories, the subject matter is imaginary. In nonfiction, the subject matter is factual. The writer of nonfiction writes about actual people, places, and things.
There are two basic approaches to the subject matter. The writer can try to report facts with as few personal opinions as possible. Or, the writer can present his or her personal opinions about some facts. Often, nonfiction writing falls somewhere between these two approaches. It is impossible to leave out opinions altogether. After all, the the writer must begin by deciding which facts to include. These decisions are opinions. A careful reader must keep this in mind when reading nonfiction.
Here are the forms of nonfiction.
A diary is the day-by-day record a person keeps of his or her own activities and thoughts. It is meant for the writer alone.
An autobiography is the story of a person's own life. Usually, the writer wants to share what he or she learned from the events.
A biography is the story of another person's life. The writer bases the report on records of what the person did and said.
A personal recollection, like an autobiography, is written about a person's own life. However, it concentrates on one event.
The History of Nonfiction
As long as writing has existed, nonfiction has existed. The kinds of nonfiction, though, have changed and developed over the years.
The first biographies, for example, were written to glorify heroes at leaders. These accounts told only the subject's good acts. By the 1800's. however, biographers were beginning to include the subject's weaknesses, also. The first great modern biography was by James Boswell. an English writer. He wrote The Life of Johnson about his friend Samuel Johnson, writer of one of the earliest English dictionaries. Modern biographies try to be true to the subject's personality and history. They usually are researched carefully and try to be objective.
The Elements of Nonfiction
Characters, Plot, and Setting. Like fiction, nonfiction has characters, plot, and setting. However, these elements are real, not made up. The main character in an autobiography or biography is called the subject. The subject's words, thoughts, and actions are presented.
Purpose. Different types of nonfiction have different purposes. Biographies and autobiographies, for example, have the purpose of informing the reader. They use explanatory, descriptive, and narrative paragraphs. Other types of nonfiction, such as newspaper editorials, are intended to win readers over to a certain opinion. They use persuasive paragraphs. Sometimes a piece of writing combines purposes. In his diary, for example, Davy Crockett both explains and persuades.
Tone. The writer's attitude toward his or her subject matter is called tone. A writer's tone may be sympathetic, as in "We'll Always Sing His Songs." It may be bitter, as in "The First Day of the War." It may be comic, hopeful, solemn, or anything the writer likes.
How To Read Nonfiction
1.As you read, try to separate facts from opinions. Keep in mind that the writer has chosen facts that present a certain picture of the subject. Think about what might be missing as well as what is there.
2.Think about the writer's purpose. What is he or she trying to explain? Or is the writer trying to win you over to his or her opinion of an action or a person? You can appreciate how well a writer says something, even when you don't agree. In fact, this ability is an important quality of a critical reader.
3.Be aware of the writer's tone. Frequently a writer reveals much about himself or herself by the tone he or she uses. This is especially important in autobiographical writing.
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