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Old October 21st, 2009, 04:20 PM   #1
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Narrative Nonfiction vs Historical Fiction


I have recently been confused by the boundary between what is considered Historical Fiction and what has been considered Narrative Nonfiction. Books like Devil in the White City or 1776 make vivid descriptions of characters thoughts and feelings but rarely is this kind of information cited or sourced. Are these works of historical fiction? I hope someone can clarify. If I write a narrative story, for example on Benjamin Franklin, can I claim that he saw the clock before he left his or something similar like that and still consider it non-fiction?
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Old October 21st, 2009, 11:08 PM   #2

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Re: Narrative Nonfiction vs Historical Fiction


The line is a blury one, but I would say that the difference between Narrative Nonfiction and Historical Fiction is that in the Historical Fiction the "fictional" detailings of things like thoughts and speech will be a constant, whereas in Narrative Nonfiction they will appear in brief bursts seperated by the major sections of pure 100% fact.

One could compare it to including in a book numerous paintings of the main figures that were made long after they were dead. As such, the painting would be based upon the impressions of the artist - "fictional", in a sense.

There is also that the Narrative Nonfiction will be utterly based on the historical record when it doesn't slip into detailings, whereas even Historical Fiction that is masterly in its accuracy of events, such as Colleen McCullough's books, will occaisonally slip into altering the events slightly, usually for the sake of brevity.
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Old October 22nd, 2009, 07:28 AM   #3

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Re: Narrative Nonfiction vs Historical Fiction


For me, the acid test is whether artistic license affects the actual historical interpretation. In your example of Franklin, seeing the clock wouldn't be a problem. Seeing the clock and noting that he was angry because he was late to his meeting with George II, might be.
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