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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On The Birth Of Narrative Nonfiction

Narrative nonfiction involves the use of novelistic techniques--scenes, dialogue, and character development--to tell a true story. Contrary to their claims, Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, Thomas Wolfe, and Hunter Thompson did not create this journalistic sub-genre. Mark Twain, Stephen Crane, Richard Harding Davis, and later, Ernest Hemingway, all journalists before becoming novelists, used narrative nonfiction in their news reporting, then later as writers of nonfiction books. A good narrative nonfiction book will usually outsell an equally good novel. Most readers prefer engaging stories that are true rather than made up. As a novelist, that is not good news for me.

Thornton P. Knowles


  1. Question for you, Thornton P... Where did the recent thing of calling a non-fiction book a "novel" come from? Where I'm from, a novel is fiction and non-fiction is NOT the same as a novel!... Any ideas, or am I just an old fuddy-duddy...?

  2. A nonfiction book is not a novel. The term "narrative nonfiction" refers to fact-based literature. It's just another way to write nonfiction. All novels are narrative in nature.

  3. Thank you! I'm seeing it all over- nonfiction books being called novels! I don't know why I find it so irritating, but I do...