Non-Fiction vs Fiction

post by Michelle Griep

If I were to sit down across the table from you, cups of java in hand of course, and ask you how writing non-fiction is different from writing fiction, how would you answer? Think on it.

Ready? Answer in mind?

You are wrong, Bucko.

Today I’m here to blast out of the water the three most common misconceptions the average humanoid believes to be true about non-fiction vs. fiction.

In fiction you get to make things up, but in non-fiction you can only list facts.

Would you seriously want to read a novel wherein nothing is true? Fiction needs to have facts incorporated in order to be believable.
And conversely, in non-fiction you need to creatively express your facts so that a reader doesn’t shrivel up and die from literary dehydration.

Story is fine for fiction but forget about it for non-fiction.

Creativity is needed for fiction and non-fiction alike.

We all live in some kind of story. Maybe your life is a drama right now. Or perhaps you’re living in a sit-com. Whatever, story grabs hold of readers because that’s where writing connects with their heart. This is every bit as much true for non-fiction books as well fiction.

Writing fiction is harder than non-fiction –or– writing non-fiction is harder than fiction.

They’re both hard. Each requires attention to detail, word choices, writing tight, and content that scoots the reader to the edge of his seat.

Sure, there are some differences between the two. There is no arc or climax in a non-fiction book, no protagonists or antagonists. Fiction has a theme, but it’s not a useful how-to tool.

The point is don’t be all puffed up thinking non-fiction writers are smarter than fiction authors, nor put fiction writers on a pedestal of supreme creativity because non-fiction writers surely only deal in dust-dry words. Writers are writers no matter the genre. Words are words. The great divide isn’t so great after all.

In my newest release, THE CAPTIVE HEART, I blend historical fact with fast-paced fiction. Here’s a blurb . . .

Now available on Amazon.

       On the run from a cruel British aristocratic employer, Eleanor Morgan escapes to America, the land of the free, for the opportunity to serve an upstanding Charles Town family. But freedom is hard to come by as an indentured servant, and downright impossible when she’s forced to agree to an even harsher contract—marriage to a man she’s never met.
       Backwoodsman Samuel Heath doesn’t care what others think of him—but his young daughter’s upbringing matters very much. The life of a trapper in the Carolina backcountry is no life for a small girl, but neither is abandoning his child to another family. He decides it’s time to marry again, but that proves to be an impossible task. Who wants to wed a murderer?
       Both Samuel and Eleanor are survivors, facing down the threat of war, betrayal, and divided loyalties that could cost them everything, but this time they must face their biggest challenge ever . . . Love.


Knocking out  the misconceptions about non-fiction vs. fiction~Michelle Griep (Click to Tweet)


Michelle Griep


Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. Follow her adventures and find out about upcoming new releases at her blog, Writer Off the Leash, or stop by her website. You can also find her at the usual haunts of FacebookTwitter, or Pinterest.

Like what you read? There’s more. WRITER OFF THE LEASH: GROWING IN THE WRITING CRAFT is a kick in the pants for anyone who wants to write but is stymied by fear, doubt, or simply doesn’t know how to take their writing to the next level.

Make Your Writing Better By Resting

From July 2015 to July 2016, I wrote three books for a total of 250,000 words.

For some super writers, that’s nothing. But for me, it was quite a feat.

While I’ve learned to write faster using the Story Equation, three books was still a bit much.

It started last summer when my editor proposed two books due by December 1st.

I was hesitant. I wasn’t sure I had the emotional energy to write two books! In the fall of 2015 I was just over a difficult year physically in 2014. What if I ran into problems again?

Connecting emotionally to the characters is important to me and that’s hard to do when I have to simply “produce.” Hard to do when a tough year hang over your head.

Yet the Lord nudge me, “Do it. Diamonds come from pressure.”

I did it. It was fun. But no time to rest. On to the next deadline to make this trio in a year complete.

Once I turn in The Writing Desk rewrites, I will have nothing pressing until January. I can take my time to read, dream, plan the next book.

And just be. Drive to the beach. Spend time just sitting at His feet.

Rest. It’s so key to a writer’s life.

In the Old Testament, God tells the people of Israel to “fast work.” We have to labor to enter into rest because it’s our default to work. To want to stay busy. To feel like the more we work the more we’ll get done.

I’ve heard testimonies of successful businessmen who worked 12 – 15 hours a day and still didn’t accomplish all they wanted.

But when they started “resting” before the Lord at the beginning of their day, they accomplished all their work and more in a regular 8 hour day.

I ended up on a two week vacation this summer in the middle of the deadline. I had a few restless nights wondering if I’d meet my July deadline.

How can one rest when there’s work to be done?

I finished. Two days early. On the heels of my father-in-laws passing.

God can multiply our time if we take time to rest and just be!

This fall I can take the top down on the car and drive along the beach if I want. Let the wind blow through my hair and my thoughts.

Take time to rest. Don’t go from one thing to the next.

Work hard on deadline. Rest in between.

You’ll be better for it.


New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Rachel Hauck lives in sunny central Florida.

A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in Journalism, she worked in the corporate software world before planting her backside in uncomfortable chair to write full time eight years ago.

Her book The Wedding Dress hit Amazon’s bestsellers list the first half of 2016.

Rachel serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a mentor, conference speaker and worship leader.
Rachel writes from her two-story tower in an exceedingly more comfy chair. She is a huge Buckeyes football fan.

Here latest novel is The Wedding Shop“Spellbinding.” Starred Booklist Review
Visit her web site:

Hook ‘em Tight: One Technique for Writing a Book They Can’t Put Down by Author Janine Mendenhall

So you’d like to write a novel, huh? I can appreciate that. I want to write another one too. In fact, like you, I’d like to keep writing them from now on—a book a year, or maybe even two. But the thing is neither one of us wants to produce an ordinary piece. 
We both want to please our readers so much that they won’t want to put our books down, right?
That means we need to hook our respective audiences not only with an excellent story full of conflict-based tension, but most especially, where people normally think it’s time to stop reading.
So when do readers reach for their bookmark? (I’ll give you one guess.)
That’s it, at the end of a chapter!
Before I go any further, I need to give credit where it is due because, the truth of the matter is, I learned to write (and still am, by the way) by following Steven James’s directions in Story Trumps Structure and from other great Craft books written by James Scott Bell, Jack M. Bickham, and Jordan E. Rosenfeld—to name a few.
Now that that’s settled, let me share three ways to keep your readers reading. 
3 Ways to Hook Readers at the End of a Chapter 
(My examples come from my debut inspirational historical fiction/romance novel. Preview Starving Hearts at 
  1. Modify Your Thinking. The close of a chapter is NOT the end. It’s the beginning of your next scene, or one that will follow soon enough. Instead of tying things up in a nice little bow and losing the tension you’ve built up, create some suspense by leaving a string untied. 
Add an extra dose of tension in the language too.
These are the last three sentences of Chapter 2–Savior in Starving Hearts.
        At the far end of the gallery, she entered the deserted renovation area. Honestly, at the moment, she could not care less that it was off limits. 
       Opening the door of the first room she reached, Annette stepped in and lurched to a halt.
Did you see and feel that? 
The door opened, but we couldn’t see what Annette saw. The shocking word lurched created a touch of suspense, and the reader turned the page. 
Once the page is turned, we’re safe, as long as there’s a good hook waiting to catch the reader at the beginning of the next chapter.
  1. Create Nagging Doubt. Our readers have very quick minds. If we offer just enough information to create a slight imbalance, they will get the subtle hint and ask themselves “But did she?” (or a similar contrary question), and that will be enough to make them move on and find the answer.  
Here’s what I mean.
Read the last three sentences of the Prologue of Starving Hearts. See if you feel enough doubt to cause you to ask what I call a contrary question.
         Annette was too overwhelmed to care. All she wanted was Mother’s assurance that she would never see or hear of the fiend again. Mrs. Chetwynd agreed that was best, and she would personally see him immediately dispatched from the estate. And that was precisely what Annette believed Mother would do.  
Of course, readers don’t necessarily realize they are constantly scrutinizing stories as they read them. But did you recognize the subtle “But did she?” that came at the end of that sentence? 
My heroine, Annette, believed her mother would do what she said, but the fact that I wrote it this way caused you to doubt that her mother did what she said.
That nagging doubt is enough to keep the reader going, of course, it also makes a promise, and as Steven James always says, we need to be very careful to keep our promises to our readers. 
If we don’t, they will close our books and never read any of them again. (If you haven’t read Story Trumps Structure, please know, it is well worth your time, and Steven James isn’t even paying me to say this. ☺)
  1. Play Opposites Attract.  I cannot emphasize it enough. Our readers are very intelligent, and they often automatically predict what will happen next. We can take advantage of this brilliance by giving them something negative or scary to worry them without even putting it on paper.
Notice the end of Chapter 4—The Plan. 
You will automatically predict that the opposite of what I’m telling you is really what will happen next. And because that opposite is attractive in a negative way, it’s likely you’ll want to find out how bad things get for my hero, Peter.
Try it, and see what happens.
         Adjusting his evening coat again, Peter willed himself to move to the door. He had made his decision. He would propose tonight, and she would accept him. Then his life would begin, and all would be well.
It did happen, didn’t it? You predicted she would not accept his proposal and that things would not end well, right? That’s because you’re smart, just like our readers.
On that note, it’s time to say goodbye, at least for now. I hope you enjoyed this little lesson on 3 Ways to Hook Readers at the End of a Chapter so they can’t put your book down. Visit me and preview Starving Hearts to see if I’m successful at keeping your attention. 
If I do, remember, the credit for Craft goes to those I mentioned above, but the real glory belongs to God.   “Whoever abides in (Him) . . . bears much fruit, for apart from (Him) you can do nothing.” John 15:5
Janine Mendenhall teaches teens English, of all things! Sometimes she sleeps, but most nights she reads, writes, or watches movies like “Pride and Prejudice” and claims she’s researching her next book. “Splickety Love” and “Splickety Prime” have published her flash fiction. She and her husband, Tom, live in North Carolina where they and their two golden retrievers help gratify the needs of their five children and two cats.


Ladies and Gentlemen… It’s Back Story vs Character History!

Ding, ding!

Referee: “Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the first ever
bout between Back Story and Character History.”
Wahhaaaaa. Cheerers!

Ref: “In this corner, from the New York City, wearing black
shorts, weighing in at a hefty five hundred and eighty-two pounds is the
champion of all novel prose, Baaaaack Storrrryyyyyy!”
Waahhhh…. crowd

“And in this corner, from Miami Beach, wearing blue shorts, weighing
a sleek one hundred and seventy-eight pounds is the challenger,
Chhhaaaarrracter Hhhiiiistorrrryyy.”
Wooooo…. Crowd booing.

Referee: “All right you twos, I want a clean fight. No
hitting below the belt, no tripping, spitting, holding or biting. Touch gloves,
go to your mutual corners and when the bell rings, come out fighting.”

Character History leaps to the center, bouncing, dancing,
he’s full of pip. From his corner, Back Story lumbers to the center of the ring.
One cross from the herculean champ, Character History will be out, face down on
the canvas.
Character History circles, jabbing at his opponent.
“He sure seems confident, Bill.”
“I’ll say he does, Sam.”
Smirking, Back Story takes a wide stance, raises his gloved
fists and waits, his hawk-like gaze tracing the young fighter. He’ll not give
up his championship belt without a fight. He know, this young whipper-snapper
has no power over him.
Character History bobs and weaves. He taunts. “You’re going
down, Back Story. You’re going down.”
“Take your best shot, wise guy.” Back Story strikes, a hard
right jab.
Oh! Character History takes the hit on the chin. His head
snaps back and he wobbles to stay up. He’s against the ropes. Back Story
presses forward.
“This is it folks. Back Story will win in round one with a
one-two punch.”
Just as he swings, Character History cuts low and lands a
hard shot to Back Story’s ribs. The big man his stumbling, breathing heavily.
His arms slip low but he recovers, watching Character
History circle. He strikes again with an uppercut…
“But mercy, Bill, Back Story misses by a mile.”
“And here comes Character History. With a jab, cross,
uppercut. Ooo, Back Story is taking a beating. He’s teetering… he’s stumbling…
he’s against the ropes. Sam, it’s not looking good for Back Story.”
Character History throws one final blow. A sharp cross. And
Back Story falls! The whole arena quakes as he hits the canvas. It’s like
watching Goliath being quelled with one of David’s stones.
The ref is on his knee, counting. “One, twos, three, four….
nine, ten. You’re out, Back Story. You’re out.”
It’s over. In Round One.
“Ladieeesssss and gentlemennnn, Chhhhaaarrracter Hissstory
is the new prose Cham’peeean of the World.
Fun, uh? Okay, I can hear y’all now, “Rachel, what are you
talking about?”
I’m talking about back story verses character history.
What’s the difference? Strength, power, speed, agility and ability to sustain
the long haul of a novel.
Back story is old fashioned writing. It’s large and
encumbersome. Slow. Waddling. And most of the time, unnecessary.
But writers use it and readers endure it because it gives us
some glimpse into the heart and soul of a character.
Character History is hot, lean and sleek, fast and quick, in
and out, not weighing down the story.
Back story, we all know, slows down the action. We’ve heard
the rule: No back story for the first 30-50 pages.
But wait, what if an author needs the reader to know
something critical about the character for the opening scenes to make sense?
That, my lovelies, is character history.
For example, Billy Bob is about to go on his first police
call — a possible robbery — since returning to the force after being shot in
the gut while responding to a bank hold up. He’s nervous. He’s anxious. When he
gets inside the establishment, he draws his gun a bit too early and almost
shoots his partner.
What’s going on with him? I f we stick to the “no back story
rule” we miss the importance of this moment. His jittery nerves just make us
think he drank too much coffee. We don’t care.
What the reader needs a bit of history. A line or two of prose, or even better dialog, that gives
the reader a hint of Billy Bob’s emotional state.
The scar on his
shoulder from the bullet wound burned and twisted as Billy Bob entered the
bank. It’d only been four weeks… and in a split moment, he couldn’t remember
why he’d returned to this job.

Ah, the reader has learned there’s something more to the
story. It ups the readers attachment to Billy Bob. This bit of history adds
tension. What bullet in the gut? When? Who shot him? Why?
All of those question, left hanging, can be answered later
in the story. Good stuff. If the writer wanted, s/he could add a line of dialog
from his partner.
“You okay?”
“I’m here aren’t I?”
“Just wondering.”
“You do your job, I’ll do mine.”
Why was his partner asking Billy Bob if he was okay? Hmm?
The reader wants to find out more so s/he turns the page.
Back story is another matter. Back Story stops the forward
action and talks about things unrelated to the current scene and emotion. Sure,
it’s about Billy Bob and it’s all true, but the reader doesn’t need to know he
wanted to be a cop since he was ten while our hero is stalking a burglar.
Here’s a back story blob:
“Since taking a bullet in the gut, Billy Bob wondered if he
could still be a cop on the beat. But his dad had been a cop and his father
before him. Every Martin man wore the badge. Billy Bob remembered the first
time he held his father’s badge, feeling the cool metal in his palm, stroking
his finger over the shiny brass. He knew then, at then, he’d be a cop just like
his father. Mother didn’t want him to be. She worried about Dad, but if a man
put on blue and a gold badge, wasn’t he invincible?”
Wow! All that while checking on a robbery call? By now, the
reader’s forgotten what was going on. The burglar has escaped while our hero
mused over his past. Or worse, shot Billy Bob’s partner.
The reader doesn’t need that much information. Especially in
the midst of a tense scene. Save it for later. Perhaps in a conversation with
his Dad when our hero, Billy Bob, is facing a voice-of-truth moment.
Do I still want to be
a police office?
Why did I become a
police officer?

Back Story is more for the author than the reader. Character
History is for the reader, and the power of the story.
So, what’s Character History and how do we use it?
Character History applies to the current action on the
stage. If your heroine cannot stand the hero, don’t let her behave irrationally,
leaving the reader in the dark. Don’t give us a snippy rude girl without giving
us motivation.
Drop in a line of history. “Ever since seventh grade when he stole her PE
clothes from her locker and she got detention, Jen couldn’t stand Colby Witherspoon.”
Drop in history and exit quickly. Leave the reader a
bit curious. In writing Love Starts With Elle, I had a paragraph or so of
history about Elle so the reader could understand the significant emotion of
the scene and what action was about to take place – a proposal. Elle had set up
Operation Wedding Day for herself in the book, Sweet Caroline. She wanted to
find a man. But her plan didn’t work. When she let it go, THEN she met the
handsome Jeremiah Franklin. When Elle got her own book, I needed to add that
bit of Operation Wedding Day “history” to help the reader “get” and care about Elle.
Character History sets up tension. Drop in a line about
how your character is afraid of…. snakes or heights. Don’t you love how Indiana
Jones hates snakes, then gets dumped in a pit of them? We first see his fear
when he’s escaping in a prop plane after taking the artifact from the cave. We
don’t get a bunch of lines about why and how he’s afraid of snakes, we just see
his reaction. Then when he’s dumped in the pit, our skin tingles. It’s Indy’s
worst nightmare. Most of ours too! Can you imagine how boring the scene
would’ve been if Indy went on for six or seven more lines about how his big
brother used to toss snakes on him when they played in his grandma’s creek? Who
cares at that point? We just need to know his history with snakes. Period. He
hates them.
Character History is part of the prose painting. It’s a
nice clutch on forward action. It helps the reader take a breath and get into
the heart and mind of the protagonist. But be careful. Just a bit of history is
all we need. If your character is passionate about ending injustice of some
kind, show us that passion on the page, then through dialog or a fast line or
prose, hint at why this injustice bothers your heroine so much. But don’t give
the reader a montage that begins when our heroine is ten and ends when she’s
sixteen, then brings us back to the current moment. Give just enough to fill
the reader in.
Character History sheds light on the protagonist
motivations. Let the history pertain to what’s happening on stage, in the
current scene. If your character is dealing with, oh, say, an errant child,
don’t stop and give a dissertation on the protagonist own childhood and
upbringing. Not necessary. Boring. But, do tell us how her mother was so kind
and patient, and it frustrates her how she is so impatient and sharp. That’s
all the reader needs to get what’s going on with the protagonist motivation.
Watch out for phrases like, “a sound brought her back into
the present.” Ooo, where did she go? On a back story rabbit trail? 
We all love
to sit and reminisce, but a novel is about tension, conflict and moving
forward. Most of us don’t stop to muse or reflect while arguing with our friend
or trying to save the world. Right?
Now, these are guidelines. Once in awhile, we do have a
character drift off in thought for a moment, but be guarded. Ask yourself if
there is a better, more emotionally impacting way to present the information.
If not, then go for the reflect and keep it brief.
So, there you have it. The bout between Back Story and
Character History. Go out writing and have a clean fight with your words.

Ding, ding!


New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Rachel Hauck lives in sunny central Florida.

A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in Journalism, she worked in the corporate software world before planting her backside in uncomfortable chair to write full time eight years ago.

Her book The Wedding Dress hit the top bestsellers list the first half of 2016.

Rachel serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a mentor and book therapist at My Book Therapy, a conference speaker and worship leader.
Rachel writes from her two-story tower in an exceedingly more comfy chair. She is a huge Buckeyes football fan.

Here latest novel, The Wedding Chapel landed on Booklist’s Top Ten Inspirationals for 2015.

Visit her web site: