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Narrative Nonfiction Books: Definition and Examples

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Hannah Yang

narrative nonfiction

Table of Contents

What is narrative nonfiction, narrative nonfiction examples, how prowritingaid can help you write narrative nonfiction.

There are countless types of nonfiction books that you can consider writing. One popular genre you might have heard of is narrative nonfiction.

So, what exactly is narrative nonfiction?

The short answer is that narrative nonfiction is any true story written in the style of a fiction novel.

Read on to learn more about what narrative nonfiction looks like as well as some examples of bestselling narrative nonfiction books.

Let’s start with a quick overview of what narrative nonfiction means.

Narrative Nonfiction Definition

Narrative nonfiction, which is also sometimes called literary nonfiction or creative nonfiction, is a subgenre of nonfiction. This subgenre includes any true story that’s written in the style of a novel.

narrative nonfiction definition

It’s easy to understand this term if you break it down into its component parts. The first word, narrative, means story. The second word, nonfiction , means writing that’s based on fact rather than imagination.

So, if you put those two words together, it’s clear that narrative nonfiction refers to true events that are written in the style of a story.

Narrative Nonfiction Meaning

You can think of narrative nonfiction as a genre that focuses both on conveying the truth and on telling a good story.

Everything in a narrative nonfiction book should be an accurate portrayal of true events. However, those events are told using techniques that are often used in fiction.

For example, narrative nonfiction writers might consider writing craft elements such as plot structure, character development, and effective world-building to craft a compelling story.

Most narrative nonfiction books include the following elements:

A protagonist (either the author themselves or the core subject of the story)

A cast of characters (who are real people)  

Immersive, fleshed-out scenes

A plot arc similar to the plot arcs found in fiction novels

Use of literary devices such as metaphors, symbols, and flashbacks

Some narrative nonfiction writers also play with more creative elements to make the story more intriguing, such as multiple POVs, alternating timelines, and even the inclusion of emails, diary entries, and text messages.

nonfiction narrative writing examples

Be confident about grammar

Check every email, essay, or story for grammar mistakes. Fix them before you press send.

At the end of the day, though, narrative nonfiction is still a form of nonfiction. That means it’s important to try to be as accurate as possible.

Authors writing in this genre need extensive research skills, whether that means combing through historical records or interviewing experts. It’s impossible to create a completely accurate representation of any true story, so it’s fine to take some creative license when writing narrative nonfiction, but most authors still do as much research as they can to make sure they’re correctly depicting what happened.

Which Genres Count as Narrative Nonfiction?

It’s hard to draw a clear line around what counts as narrative nonfiction since many works of writing blur the lines between subgenres.

Two genres that commonly intersect with narrative nonfiction are memoir and autobiography, which are terms that apply when an author tells the story of their own life. When these stories are told in a narrative style, some people consider that to be narrative nonfiction or literary nonfiction, while others believe memoir and autobiography should be a separate category.

Most journalism and biographies aren’t included under the narrative nonfiction umbrella, since they usually focus more on reporting than on telling a story. Still, a form of journalism called literary journalism deliberately aims to tell personal stories in a more creative way, and there are also biographies that do the same.

Some books in other nonfiction subgenres, such as travel writing, true crime, and even food writing, can also be told in a way that resembles narrative nonfiction. In fact, more and more nonfiction books these days are using literary techniques to hook readers in.

Narrative nonfiction books can focus on just about any topic as long as they use literary styles to tell true stories. If you’re writing nonfiction, you can definitely consider incorporating literary elements to craft a compelling narrative around your topic.

The best way to understand a genre of writing is by reading examples within that genre. Here are ten of the best narrative nonfiction books to add to your reading list.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (1965)

Truman Capote, best known for his novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s, started out as a fiction writer. When he wrote In Cold Blood , he famously called it a “nonfiction novel,” which introduced that term into the popular consciousness for the first time.   

In Cold Blood tells the story of a brutal quadruple murder that took place in 1959 in Holcomb, Kansas. The book describes the details of the murder, the ensuing investigation, and the eventual arrest of the murderers.  

In many ways, In Cold Blood defined the narrative nonfiction genre. It was one of the first times an author had written journalism in the structure of a novel, and it inspired many future writers to try creative nonfiction too.

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (1997)

Jon Krakauer is a journalist and a mountaineer who summited Mt. Everest on the day a terrible storm hit the mountain. That storm ended up claiming five lives and leaving Krakauer himself ridden with guilt.

Into Thin Air is Krakauer’s account of his adventure and its deadly aftermath. It portrays the entire cast of characters that accompanied him up the mountain and also shows the character growth Krakauer experienced as a result.

This book is a famous example of a memoir that reads like an adventure novel. The American Academy of Arts and Letters gave this book an Academy Award in Literature in 1999 and described it as combining “the finest tradition of investigative journalism with the stylish subtlety and profound insight of the born writer.”

Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand (1999)

Seabiscuit was a California racehorse in the 1930s. Because of his crooked leg, he was never expected to win.

However, when Seabiscuit was bought by Charles Howard and ridden by a jockey named Red Pollard, he rose to unexpected success. Now, Seabiscuit is remembered as one of the most iconic racehorses of all time.

Laura Hillenbrand, an equestrian writer, tells Seabiscuit’s story in this classic work of narrative nonfiction. Charles Howard, Red Pollard, and all the other characters involved in Seabiscuit’s life are researched and portrayed in a masterful way.   

narrative nonfiction books

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi (2003)

From 1995 to 1997, Nafisi led a secret book club at her house in Tehran. Every Thursday, she met with her most dedicated female student to read banned Western classics together, from Pride and Prejudice to Lolita.

In Reading Lolita in Tehran , Nafisi describes her experiences throughout the Iranian revolution. It’s a gripping book that provides rare and extraordinary insight into what it was like to be a woman in Tehran in the late 1990s.

Like all great narrative nonfiction, this book would be a compelling novel even if you didn’t know it was a true story, but the fact that it’s all true makes it even more powerful.  

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2010)

Henrietta Lacks was a Black woman whose cells were taken by medical researchers in 1951 without her knowledge or consent. Ever since then, her cells, now known as HeLa cells, have been kept alive for medical uses.

HeLa cells have been essential for researching diseases, creating the polio vaccination, and making other medical breakthroughs. And yet, her family never benefited from or consented to their use.

Rebecca Skloot’s bestselling book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks tells Lacks’ story in a thoughtful and illuminating way, weaving in research on the unjust intersection of medicine and race. The book won many awards and was later made into an HBO movie.

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly (2016)

America’s achievements in space could never have happened without the contributions of Black female mathematicians at NASA, known as “human computers.” Before modern computers existed, these women used pen and paper to perform the calculations that launched rockets into space.

Shetterly’s book tells the stories of four of these brilliant women: Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden. The story follows them for over three decades as they overcame racial and gender prejudices to help shape American history.  

This work of literary nonfiction is well-researched, informative, and powerful. It was also made into a major motion picture by Twentieth Century Fox.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (2016)

Paul Kalanithi, a Stanford neurosurgeon, was only 36 years old when he received his Stage IV lung cancer diagnosis. He went from treating patients to becoming the patient in such a short span of time that he had to quickly learn how to accept his own mortality.

Kalanithi wrote this medical memoir during the last years of his life, describing how he came to terms with his diagnosis. When Breath Becomes Air tells Kalanithi’s story in a poignant and unforgettable way.   

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann (2017)

Killers of the Flower Moon is a true crime murder mystery about a terrible crime in the 1920s, when members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma started getting killed one by one. Anyone who tried to investigate was in danger of getting murdered too until the death toll rose to over two dozen.

When the truth was finally uncovered, it turned out to be a chilling conspiracy bolstered by prejudice against Indigenous people.

Journalist David Grann tells the story of this shocking crime in this narrative nonfiction book, which is soon to be made into a major motion picture.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara (2018)

The Golden State Killer was a serial killer who raped and murdered dozens of people in the 1970s and 1980s. Michelle McNamara was a true crime journalist who coined the name “Golden State Killer” in 2013 when she was poring over police records, determined to figure out the killer’s identity.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, which was still in the process of being written when McNamara died, blurs the genres between nonfiction, memoir, and crime fiction. The book eventually helped lead to the killer’s capture.

Facing the Mountain: A True Story of Japanese American Heroes in WWII by Daniel James Brown (2021)

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Japanese Americans faced suspicion and systemic prejudice from their own country. In spite of the injustices they faced over the next several years, many Japanese Americans still signed up to fight for the US in World War II.

In Facing the Mountain , Daniel James Brown tells the stories of four Japanese American heroes: Rudy Tokiwa, Kats Miho, Gordon Hirabayashi, and Fred Shiosaki. The book follows these four men and their families and communities, who were irreversibly impacted by the events of the war.

narrative nonfiction books list

Writing narrative nonfiction can be incredibly rewarding, but it can also be unusually tricky because you have to accomplish two goals at once. Unlike other nonfiction, which aims to inform, or most fiction, which aims to entertain, narrative nonfiction seeks to inform and entertain at the same time.

To inform, you’ll need your writing to be clear and easily readable. To entertain, you’ll need it to be gripping and active.

ProWritingAid can help with both of those goals. At the most basic level, the AI-powered grammar checker will make sure your writing is free of grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes. At a more sophisticated level, it will also make sure you’re hooking your reader in by using the active voice, precise word choices, and varied sentence lengths.

In addition, you can also use ProWritingAid to make sure you’re writing in the right tone and for the right reading level. Running your narrative nonfiction manuscript through ProWritingAid will ensure your writing truly shines.

There you have it—our complete guide to narrative nonfiction.

Good luck, and happy writing!

Hannah is a speculative fiction writer who loves all things strange and surreal. She holds a BA from Yale University and lives in Colorado. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her painting watercolors, playing her ukulele, or hiking in the Rockies. Follow her work on or on Twitter at @hannahxyang.

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The Finest Narrative Non-Fiction Essays

Narrative essays that I consider ideal models of the medium

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Perhaps you're the same kind of non- Writer writer. The playful amateur kind who uses it to explore and communicate ideas, rather than making the medium part of your identity. But even amateurs want to be good. I certainly want to get good.

Knowing what you like is half the battle in liking what you create. In that spirit, I collect narrative non-fiction essays that I think are exceptional. They're worth looking at closely – their opening moves, sentence structure, turns of phrase, and narrative arcs.

The only sensible way to improve your writing is by echoing the work of other writers. Good artists copy and great artists steal quotes from Picasso.

You may want to start your own collection of lovely essays like this. There will certainly be some Real Writers who find my list trite and full of basic, mainstream twaddle. It probably is. I've done plenty of self-acceptance work and I'm okay with it.

Twaddle aside, the essays below are worth your attention.

by Paul Ford

Paul Ford explains code in 38,000 words and somehow makes it all accessible, technically accurate, narratively compelling, and most of all, culturally insightful and humanistic.

I have unreasonable feelings about this essay. It is, to me, perfect. Few essays take the interactive medium of the web seriously, and this one takes the cake. There is a small blue cube character, logic diagrams, live code snippets to run, GIFs, tangential footnotes, and a certificate of completion at the end.

by David Foster Wallace – Published under the title 'Shipping Out'

Forgive me for being a David Foster Wallace admirer. The guy had issues, but this account of his 7-day trip on a luxury cruiseliner expresses an inner monologue that is clarifying, rare and often side-splittingly hilarious.

He taught me it is 100% okay to write an entire side-novel in your footnotes if you need to.

by David Graeber

Graeber explores play and work from an anthropological perspective. He's a master of moving between the specific and the general. Between academic theory and personal storytelling. He's always ready with armfuls of evidence and citations but doesn't drown you in them.

by Malcolm Gladwell

This piece uses a typical Gladwellian style. He takes a fairly dull question – Why had ketchup stayed the same, while mustard comes in dozens of varieties? – and presents the case in a way that makes it reasonably intriguing. He's great at starting with specific characters, times and places to draw you in. There are always rich scenes, details, personal profiles, and a grand narrative tying it all together.

Some people find the classic New Yorker essay format overdone, but it relies on storytelling techniques that consistently work.

by Mark Slouka

by Joan Didion

The Electric Typewriter

100 short memoir examples - narrative personal essays, scars by david owen, these precious days by ann patchett, the same river twice by david quammen, 50 more great articles about life, after life by joan didion, now we are five by david sedaris, feet in smoke by john jeremiah sullivan, when things go missing by kathryn schulz, 25 more great articles about death.

nonfiction narrative writing examples

Love and Relationships

True love by haruki murakami, dating online by emily witt, no labels, no drama by jordana narin, the worst friend date i ever had by samantha irby, 50 more great articles about love and relationships, my first time, twice by ariel levy, tragedy averted. minimal gagging. by lidia yuknavitch, a girl's guide to sexual purity by carmen maria machado, deeply, truly (but not physically) in love by lauren slater, 50 more great articles about sex, peculiar benefits by roxane gay, thanksgiving in mongolia by ariel levy, long day's journey by elizabeth gilbert, trapped by aron ralston, the kingdom of the lotus by patrick symmes, 50 more great articles about travel, ultimate glory by dave gessner, skating home backward by bill vaughn, off diamond head by william finnegan, tennis, trigonometry, tornadoes by david foster wallace, 50 more great articles about sport.

nonfiction narrative writing examples

Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin

How to slowly kill yourself and others in america by kiese laymon, the price of black ambition by roxane gay, 25 more great essays about race, the comfort zone by jonathan franzen, on being an only child by geoff dyer, a raccoon of my own by lauren slater, my dad tried to kill me with an alligator by harrison scott key, difficult girl by lena dunham, seventeen by steve edwards, age appropriate by jen doll, richard by allie brosh, 50 more great articles about growing up, lost in the meritocracy by walter kirn, dumb kids' class by mark bowden, fragments from an education by christopher hitchens, 20 more great articles about education, having children, joy by zadie smith, channel b by megan stielstra, a birth story by meaghan o'connell, i was pregnant, and then i wasn't by laura turner, 10 more great articles about having children.

nonfiction narrative writing examples

Patient by Rachel Riederer

The empathy exams by leslie jamison, 50 more great articles about health, mental illness, adventures in depression by allie brosh, darkness visible by william styron, insane after coronavirus by patricia lockwood, 20 more great articles about mental health, explicit violence by lidia yuknavitch, heroin/e by cheryl strayed, me & my monkey by anonymous, me and my girls by david carr, my addicted son by david sheff, how i let drinking take over my life by william leith, 10 more great articles about addiction, autobiography of a body by lucy grealy, a few words about breasts by nora ephron, a thin line between mother and daughter by jennifer egan, the broken country by molly mccully, the trash heap has spoken by carmen maria machado, saying goodbye to my chest by naomi gordon-loebl, the onset by my ngoc to, 20 more great articles about body image, see also..., 150 great articles and essays.

nonfiction narrative writing examples

The Unspeakable Things Between Our Bellies by Lidia Yuknavitch

Woven by lidia yuknavitch, girl by alexander chee, pause by mary ruefle, lost cat by mary gaitskill, three by david sedaris, my life as an undocumented immigrant by jose antonio vargas, been down so long it looks like debt to me by m.h. miller, lucky girl by bridget potter, goodbye to all that by joan didion, my misspent youth by meghan daum, lost and found by colson whitehead, night-shifting for the hip fleet by mark jacobson, 25 more great articles about new york, the muse of coyote ugly saloon by elizabeth gilbert, quitting the paint factory by mark slouka, the loading dock manifesto by john hyduk, 40 more great articles about work, the real heroes are dead by james b. stewart, remains of the day by mary lee hannell, 10 more great articles about 9/11.

nonfiction narrative writing examples

Book-Length Memoirs

Slouching towards bethlehem by joan didion, me talk pretty one day by david sedaris, just kids by patti smith, the chronology of water by lidia yuknavitch, a heartbreaking work of staggering genius by dave eggers, the glass castle by jeannette walls, brain on fire by susannah cahalan, irritable hearts by mac mcclelland, hunger by roxane gay, a sliver of light by shane bauer, joshua fattal and sarah shourd, 100 more great nonfiction books, subscribe to our email newsletter.

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Examples of Creative Nonfiction: What It Is & How to Write It

POSTED ON Jul 21, 2023

P.J McNulty

Written by P.J McNulty

When most people think of creative writing, they picture fiction books – but there are plenty of examples of creative nonfiction. In fact, creative nonfiction is one of the most interesting genres to read and write. So what is creative nonfiction exactly? 

More and more people are discovering the joy of getting immersed in content based on true life that has all the quality and craft of a well-written novel. If you are interested in writing creative nonfiction, it’s important to understand different examples of creative nonfiction as a genre. 

If you’ve ever gotten lost in memoirs so descriptive that you felt you’d walked in the shoes of those people, those are perfect examples of creative nonfiction – and you understand exactly why this genre is so popular.

But is creative nonfiction a viable form of writing to pursue? What is creative nonfiction best used to convey? And what are some popular creative nonfiction examples?

Today we will discuss all about this genre, including plenty of examples of creative nonfiction books – so you’ll know exactly how to write it. 

This Guide to Creative Nonfiction Covers:

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What is Creative Nonfiction?

Creative nonfiction is defined as true events written about with the techniques and style traditionally found in creative writing . We can understand what creative nonfiction is by contrasting it with plain-old nonfiction. 

Think about news or a history textbook, for example. These nonfiction pieces tend to be written in very matter-of-fact, declarative language. While informative, this type of nonfiction often lacks the flair and pleasure that keep people hooked on fictional novels.

Imagine there are two retellings of a true crime story – one in a newspaper and the other in the script for a podcast. Which is more likely to grip you? The dry, factual language, or the evocative, emotionally impactful creative writing?

Podcasts are often great examples of creative nonfiction – but of course, creative nonfiction can be used in books too. In fact, there are many types of creative nonfiction writing. Let's take a look!

Types of creative nonfiction

Creative nonfiction comes in many different forms and flavors. Just as there are myriad types of creative writing, there are almost as many types of creative nonfiction.

Some of the most popular types include:

Literary nonfiction

Literary nonfiction refers to any form of factual writing that employs the literary elements that are more commonly found in fiction. If you’re writing about a true event (but using elements such as metaphor and theme) you might well be writing literary nonfiction.

Writing a life story doesn’t have to be a dry, chronological depiction of your years on Earth. You can use memoirs to creatively tell about events or ongoing themes in your life.

If you’re unsure of what kind of creative nonfiction to write, why not consider a creative memoir? After all, no one else can tell your life story like you. 

Nature writing

The beauty of the natural world is an ongoing source of creative inspiration for many people, from photographers to documentary makers. But it’s also a great focus for a creative nonfiction writer. Evoking the majesty and wonder of our environment is an endless source of material for creative nonfiction. 

Travel writing

If you’ve ever read a great travel article or book, you’ll almost feel as if you've been on the journey yourself. There’s something special about travel writing that conveys not only the literal journey, but the personal journey that takes place.

Writers with a passion for exploring the world should consider travel writing as their form of creative nonfiction. 

For types of writing that leave a lasting impact on the world, look no further than speeches. From a preacher's sermon, to ‘I have a dream’, speeches move hearts and minds like almost nothing else. The difference between an effective speech and one that falls on deaf ears is little more than the creative skill with which it is written. 


Noteworthy figures from history and contemporary times alike are great sources for creative nonfiction. Think about the difference between reading about someone’s life on Wikipedia and reading about it in a critically-acclaimed biography.

Which is the better way of honoring that person’s legacy and achievements? Which is more fun to read? If there’s someone whose life story is one you’d love to tell, creative nonfiction might be the best way to do it. 

So now that you have an idea of what creative nonfiction is, and some different ways you can write it, let's take a look at some popular examples of creative nonfiction books and speeches.

Examples of Creative Nonfiction

Here are our favorite examples of creative nonfiction:

1. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

No list of examples of creative nonfiction would be complete without In Cold Blood . This landmark work of literary nonfiction by Truman Capote helped to establish the literary nonfiction genre in its modern form, and paved the way for the contemporary true crime boom.  

2. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast is undeniably one of the best creative memoirs ever written. It beautifully reflects on Hemingway’s time in Paris – and whisks you away into the cobblestone streets.  

3. World of Wonders by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

If you're looking for examples of creative nonfiction nature writing, no one does it quite like Aimee Nezhukumatathil. World of Wonders  is a beautiful series of essays that poetically depicts the varied natural landscapes she enjoyed over the years. 

4. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson is one of the most beloved travel writers of our time. And A Walk in the Woods is perhaps Bryson in his peak form. This much-loved travel book uses creativity to explore the Appalachian Trail and convey Bryson’s opinions on America in his humorous trademark style.

5. The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln

 While most of our examples of creative nonfiction are books, we would be remiss not to include at least one speech. The Gettysburg Address is one of the most impactful speeches in American history, and an inspiring example for creative nonfiction writers.

6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Few have a way with words like Maya Angelou. Her triumphant book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings , shows the power of literature to transcend one’s circumstances at any time. It is one of the best examples of creative nonfiction that truly sucks you in.

7. Hiroshima by John Hershey

Hiroshima is a powerful retelling of the events during (and following) the infamous atomic bomb. This journalistic masterpiece is told through the memories of survivors – and will stay with you long after you've finished the final page.

8. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

If you haven't read the book, you've probably seen the film. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is one of the most popular travel memoirs in history. This romp of creative nonfiction teaches us how to truly unmake and rebuild ourselves through the lens of travel.

9. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

Never has language learning brought tears of laughter like Me Talk Pretty One Day . David Sedaris comically divulges his (often failed) attempts to learn French with a decidedly sadistic teacher, and all the other mishaps he encounters in his fated move from New York to Paris.

10. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Many of us had complicated childhoods, but few of us experienced the hardships of Jeannette Walls. In The Glass Castle , she gives us a transparent look at the betrayals and torments of her youth and how she overcame them with grace – weaving her trauma until it reads like a whimsical fairytale.

Now that you've seen plenty of creative nonfiction examples, it's time to learn how to write your own creative nonfiction masterpiece.

Tips for Writing Creative Nonfiction

Writing creative nonfiction has a lot in common with other types of writing. (You won’t be reinventing the wheel here.) The better you are at writing in general, the easier you’ll find your creative nonfiction project. But there are some nuances to be aware of.

Writing a successful creative nonfiction piece requires you to:

Choose a form

Before you commit to a creative nonfiction project, get clear on exactly what it is you want to write. That way, you can get familiar with the conventions of the style of writing and draw inspiration from some of its classics.

Try and find a balance between a type of creative nonfiction you find personally appealing and one you have the skill set to be effective at. 

Gather the facts

Like all forms of nonfiction, your creative project will require a great deal of research and preparation. If you’re writing about an event, try and gather as many sources of information as possible – so you can imbue your writing with a rich level of detail.

If it’s a piece about your life, jot down personal recollections and gather photos from your past. 

Plan your writing

Unlike a fictional novel, which tends to follow a fairly well-established structure, works of creative nonfiction have a less clear shape. To avoid the risk of meandering or getting weighed down by less significant sections, structure your project ahead of writing it.

You can either apply the classic fiction structures to a nonfictional event or take inspiration from the pacing of other examples of creative nonfiction you admire. 

You may also want to come up with a working title to inspire your writing. Using a free book title generator is a quick and easy way to do this and move on to the actual writing of your book.

Draft in your intended style

Unless you have a track record of writing creative nonfiction, the first time doing so can feel a little uncomfortable. You might second-guess your writing more than you usually would due to the novelty of applying creative techniques to real events. Because of this, it’s essential to get your first draft down as quickly as possible.

Rewrite and refine

After you finish your first draft, only then should you read back through it and critique your work. Perhaps you haven’t used enough source material. Or maybe you’ve overdone a certain creative technique. Whatever you happen to notice, take as long as you need to refine and rework it until your writing feels just right.

Ready to Wow the World With Your Story?

You know have the knowledge and inspiring examples of creative nonfiction you need to write a successful work in this genre. Whether you choose to write a riveting travel book, a tear-jerking memoir, or a biography that makes readers laugh out loud, creative nonfiction will give you the power to convey true events like never before.  

Who knows? Maybe your book will be on the next list of top creative nonfiction examples!

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Narrative Writing: Definition and Examples

In case you’re wondering what is meant by “narrative writing,” the definition is pretty simple: It’s any kind of writing that tells a story. That’s because “narrative” means story. But be a little careful: narrative writing is not the same as fiction writing! Fiction writing is just one kind of narrative writing.

Storytelling certainly occurs in fiction—it is the very essence of fiction—but nonfiction writers also tell stories sometimes. When a piece of nonfiction writing has a great deal of narrative in it, it qualifies as narrative nonfiction (sometimes called “creative nonfiction” or “literary nonfiction”). That makes it quite different from the other kind of nonfiction—the kind without stories—which is sometimes called “research nonfiction.”

Narrative writing, then, by definition, includes both fiction writing and any nonfiction that heavily utilizes storytelling as a technique. Some examples of narrative nonfiction genres would be memoir, autobiography, biography, and the personal essay.

In a personal essay , the writer tells a story about an incident that happened, and reflects upon it. In a memoir , an author writes stories of multiple past incidents, personally experienced, and reflects on the meaning those held for his life.

Autobiography is like memoir, except broader and more detailed. If you’re writing your autobiography, you try to include in the story all the important details of your past. If you’re writing a memoir, however, you’re selecting particular memories to highlight and leaving out much of the rest of your personal history. Biography is like autobiography, only written about someone else.

These are all examples of narrative nonfiction . . . factual writing that relies heavily on storytelling. By contrast, what are some examples of narrative fiction ? Every genre of imagined story (nonfactual story) you are familiar with, in either novel or short story form: mysteries, thrillers, fantasy, sci-fi, and the list goes on.

Narrative nonfiction and narrative fiction taken together, then, form the category called “narrative writing.” Both imaginary and factual writing are included in the narrative writing definition, with storytelling being the common and distinguishing characteristic. Most of the time—but, as we have seen, not always—narrative writing is fictional, and takes the form of the novel or short story.

Narrative writing definition

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4140+ Creative Nonfiction Short Stories to read

Submitted by writers on Reedsy Prompts to our weekly writing contest . The creative nonfiction stories on this page deliver exactly what it says on the tin: true stories told in weird and wonderful ways.

🏆 Winning stories

“ dear coldplay, i love you. wait. scratch that. ” by éan bird.

This letter isn’t to you, the band. This letter is for the band’s front man.My apologies. Let’s start over.Dear Chris Martin,I love you. But we need to break up.You don’t know me, Chris. We’ve never met. You grazed my hands at a concert once, but I’m told that doesn’t count. But you and I have history, my dear; decades of triumph, grief, adoration, frustration knotted and woven together in indecipherable patterns. I’ve discovered, in recent contemplations about our relations, it...

“ Careful—You’ll Slip, Fall, and Die on Those Slippery Slopes ” by Liv Chocolate

cw: references to sexual assault, kidnapping, and murderThe first time I crossed a street by myself—as in, without one or both of my parents present—I was seventeen. My parents warned me that the outside world was dangerous, and that, if something were to happen to me, I wouldn't know what to do. According to my parents, kidnappers, murderers, and kidnapper-murderers lurked on every corner of our small, suburban town where, statistically, my chances of becoming the victim of a violent crim...

“ Letting go ” by Rebecca Miles

I dedicate this story to my partner and to everyone who has carried or is carrying the burden of grief.Sitting by the bed, holding my hand, you think my mind is fighting against the decision of my body to quit life’s game. My eyes are closed, but I sense your will through the fingers laced tightly around my own. Tenderness is a force and you stake my claim to life through the insistent pressure of your hand. How it has grown over these long years from its immaculate small perfection to this manifestati...

⭐️ Recommended stories

“ awake ” by morgana lightraven.

It's always the same story. Three am in the morning, pitch dark outside, and I fall awake. It seems funny to say it that way, but it happens EVERY SINGLE NIGHT, like clockwork. No need to look at the clock to see what time it is, although I must admit that I did, at first. Now, there's really no need. In the beginning, I thought of it as a mystery, and wondered at the punctuality of the time when it happened. No...

“ Damn the Lizard Patriarchy ” by Hazel Ide

CW: Off-page mentions of suicide and sexual assault.When I was young, I fell in love with a girl. Her heavy black Doc Marten boots, climbing out of her boyfriend's shitty old sedan, caught my eye as I stumbled off the school bus, my friend slamming into me from behind. I watched her smile and laugh, dumbstruck, before I was shouldered out of the way by other students, anxious to flee the tall yellow monstrosity behind me, but I couldn't stop staring. She wore a crushed velvet blue mini dress, a thick black ch...

“ 1861 - A Reunion in Calcutta ” by Suma Jayachandar

CW: Racism, Religious fervor Is that the perfume gifted by your captors who snatched you away from your kingdom that’s wafting in the air, my darling boy? It stinks and smells worse than your uncle’s blood splattered on your face even as you watched in horror: a 7-year-old Maharaja robbed of his wazir and his regent mother robbed of her brother. It’s been 13 years since we breathed the sam...

nonfiction narrative writing examples

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“ all the angels, singing to me ” by delbert griffith.

I stare at the alarm clock. It’s a superfluous thing in my life. I never use it as an alarm clock because I’m always awake before it activates. 3:27 am. I wait and watch. The minutes feel like decades. I wonder – and I do this every morning – why a minute feels like an eon. I won’t get out of bed until it reads 3:30. For some reason, it feels like a sin to be up before 3:30. The clock hits the magical momen...

“ The Puzzle in the Mirror ” by Dolly Joyce

"I can't sleep", I yell out loud to an empty bed in darkness. I'm tired, quite literally I am exhausted. The last few weeks I have felt more drained than a dozen pipes being snaked by a dozen plumbers.It isn't easy to watch your father die slowly.The man who once built buildings and started working at the tender age of 13, is losing a battle that is slowly leaving little cracks in his foundation. Cracks that no amount of plaster or elbow grease can fix.As I lie in bed, feeling the heaviness of my sadness, I see his fa...

“ The Most Silent Night ” by Nina H

Holly wreaths and red bows swam around in a blurry sea in front of me. I sniffled as a stray tear dropped onto the wrapping paper I had just taped down. I put the gift aside and looked around the room for another to wrap. I could hear the faint sound of my mom’s television in the next room. Late night television held limited options, but I’m pretty sure she wasn’t paying much attention t...

“ I can’t sleep ” by Julie Hernandez

I can’t sleep. I can’t sleep, but I can cry. I can’t sleep, but I can still breathe. I can’t sleep, but I can still worry. I can’t sleep, but somehow I still have visions in my head, some lighthearted and others just plain confusing. I can’t sleep, so I roll around in my bed, I toss and turn, this way and that. I flip my pillow over and over. I look at the clock and I give up. I get up, and I go to the bathroom. An easy feat after birthing a few babies. I look at the clock, and I go back to my bed. I no longer reach out or look over becau...

“ Hope ” by Darlene Watson

“I can’t sleep,” throwing the blanket off in a huff and staring at the ceiling, Clara whispers into the darkness, “you’ve got to be kidding me.” She reaches blindly for her phone that she’d left on the floor beside the thin mattress. Squinting at the sudden glare, she groans at the time, “Shit, 2:25 and I have so much to do in the morning and instead of sleeping I’m laying here…talking to myself apparently.” Clar...

“ The Book Brigade ” by Sophia Torresan

All was dark but the poor ochre light from a single bulb. Raindrops collected on the window, the street outside illuminated by the roadside lamps. It was useless trying to study now, and Maria-Jo’s eyes were beginning to strain. She stretched out in a sigh, enjoying the delicious silence in the Heidelberg university library, certain she was the last there. Conscious that her Grossvater may be waiting up, she deftly place...

“ Instant Theatre-Just Add Coffee ” by Ed Friedman

Instant Theatre-Just Add Coffee I looked at the ad three times. Each time I looked at it put the newspaper down, but something kept drawing me back to it: Westchester theatre seeks actors, directors, and playwrights for a 24-hour Marathon. I always wanted to write a play. While I’d seen these marathons promoted in Off-Off-Broadway theatres, I always told myself t...

“ Bar Flies and Zombie Fungus ” by River Lethe

Bar Flies and Zombie Fungus By River Lethe This is the story of the time I blew off my lit final and went day drinking with a homeless guy. All this shit actually happened.  When me and Vince walk into the Bayhorse Tavern at 11 am, there’s a dumpy blond behind the bar leaning over a pile of cocaine teaching a Chihuahua to dance. She’s wearing a leopard print ki...

“ Smooth Criminals ” by J Doucette

POWERSCHOOL, Thank you, thank you very much. I know my daughter is smart. She is indeed. Must get it from her mother. She has an associates degree from the VET TECH INSTITUTE OF PITTSBURGH, 3.8 GPA. A NURSING DIPLOMA FROM LENAPE TECH SCHOOL OF NURSING, IN FORD CITY PA, VALEDICTORIAN 2018. 3.8 GPA. THE ONLY CLASS THAT STOPPED HER FROM ACHIEVING THE 4.0 SHE DESIRED? NURSING LEADERSHIP. HER FINAL COURSE OF S...

“ It Goes Without Saying ” by Nora Thompson

It was Justine that came forward first. She’d shown up to the Sid Press offices and asked to speak with me alone. I sat her in my personal office and shut the door. Sade caught my eye as I drew the blinds but she didn’t disturb us.  “The President has been sleeping with a student.” She said.  I swallowed, student-run newspapers usually didn’t get this kind of scoop, in my opinion they shou...

“ The Cedar Strake Apprenticeshop ” by Josh Robinson

Cedar Strake Apprenticeshop By Joshua Robinson The first thing that James noticed when he walked up the five steps and entered the large post-and-beam workshop was the smell. The mixture of pine and cedar and mahogany overwhelmed his olfactory senses in a welcoming way. The resins of other exotic woods had long...

“ Anna ” by Anne Buchanan

Sensitive Material Warning: Substance abuse, references to physical and sexual violence, mental health.  Heaven indeed, the valley in early spring. A light wind rustled the trees, tinged with the earthy scent of the paper mill. How lovely, the contrast of the season's chill with the sun proudly bathing the deck where I sat. Why would anyone wish to leave? I tried to shove down the sense of foreboding, and...

“ Beloved ” by 𝔊𝔲𝔞𝔡𝔞𝔩𝔲𝔭𝔢 𝔗𝔢𝔩𝔠𝔬𝔫𝔱𝔞𝔯

Long ago and far away, in the city of Chicago, two small dogs were found in the street and taken to a shelter. They were covered in scars, and some people said it was likely they had been used in dogfighting, maybe as bait dogs. The two pups, a male and a female, were named Nick and Nack. There was something about Nack that everyone noticed: she was so lovable. When she timed out at the first shelter she was kept at, the staff didn’t want to put her down, so they sent her to a second shelter. ...

“ Let Madness ” by Kim Hoag

Let Madness A poem with background story. • Lethe is a cure to madness – a sharp cut through the frontal lobe; Madness is wide-eyed and handsome as a bearded Prince waiting... smiling and standing against a thing howling in the rushes. Who could sleep with madness birthing dreams in the soul like moons, coldly burning, bri...

The Best Creative Nonfiction Short Stories

Made for those bookworms who love the compelling freedom of fiction but are looking for a little bit of the real world in their reading, creative nonfiction is the radiant lovechild of elegant poetry and rigorous reportage. Writers of this genre aim to present the truth — factually accurate prose about real life and real people — in a brilliant and creative way. Its faithful readers find themselves as enthralled by fact as they are by fantasy.

As a literary form, nonfiction can be a little hard to pin down. At its crux, creative nonfiction applies literary techniques drawn from poetry and fiction to content that would be at home in a textbook — making for an entertaining read that you might just learn something from! Among creative nonfiction short stories, you could find an insightful memoir, a dramatic monologue, hot, witty journalism, or a tight, personal essay.

Looking for new creative nonfiction stories? 

Look no further! Every week, hundreds of writers submit stories to Reedsy’s short story contest. On this page, you’ll find all of those that are categorized as creative nonfiction stories. This means that the featured writers were triggered by one of our prompts to look to their own experiences and reveal a true-life story — but, crucially, they decided to tell it in a brilliant and creative way. 

If you want to find the cream of the crop — perhaps the next Joan Didion or Jia Tolentino — then look to the top of the page: that’s where we’ve gathered all the winning and shortlisted entries. And don’t forget, if you’ve got a story to tell (fact or fiction), you too can enter our weekly contest and be in with a chance of nabbing the $250 prize plus a shot at publication in Prompted , our new literary magazine . Now wouldn’t that be a story?

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