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What's the difference between "non-fiction narrative" and "memoir"?  What is "commercial non-fiction"?  What is "general non-fiction"?

Hello Beth:

A non-fiction narrative, also called "creative non-fiction," is a non-fiction book written using novelistic techniques, like well-developed characters, description, dialogue, etc. A good (and perhaps the first) example would be Truman Capote's IN COLD BLOOD. The story actually happened, but Capote presents it not as journalism, and not as fiction, but something in between. For more information, see (You will have to cut and paste as this site does not support hyperlinks). Such books might include stories of events, with the emphasis on the reactions of the people involved rather than what exactly happened. Some details may be fabricated, but not the important ones.

A "memoir" of course is the story of someone's life, usually the author. It may or may not be presented in novelistic fashion.

For a good explanation of "commercial non-fiction," go to

General non-fiction might include self-help books, personal experience, humor, how-to, biographies, medical stories, etc.

These terms are used in publishing and journalism, but I suspect they are principally made up by publishers in their never-ending quest to categorize EVERYTHING.

I hope this helps. If it does, a nice rating would be greatly appreciated. I am proud of my high score over 700 + questions.

Thank you for writing!  

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Susan Rand


I can answer questions about the elements of fiction and non-fiction writing: how to get started, writing techniques, re-writing, etc. I will NOT write for you, do critiques except from my website at, or give you ideas. I will not answer home-or-schoolwork questions in any category. If English is your second language, please say so, and I will make an exception. Please submit no more than one or two questions at once, as I tend to go into detail in my answers.


I wrote my first book in 1957 and have been writing and studying writing since. I have a BA in Written Communications, and have taught writing both privately and through adult education for 15 years. Have also edited (fiction books) for an online publisher and edited/wrote more than 100 articles for a teen sex education site. Currently writing web content and mentoring beginning writers.

BA degree in Written Communication

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