10 Types of Creative Nonfiction Books and Genres and How to Write It

People always thought creative writing was all about fiction. Take a wild guess, what can be creative about nonfiction? It is already nonfiction and factual, so, no form of creativity is entertained, right?

You are absolutely wrong!

Creativity goes into fiction as much as it does in nonfiction.

In fact, I can argue that the creativity involved in nonfiction may be similar when juxtaposed. Well, that’s not the basis of this writing.

Moving forward, learn all about creative nonfiction, including its types, elements, and how to write it.

What is Creative nonfiction?

Creative nonfiction (CNF) is a way of telling stories that uses literary elements like poetry and fiction to tell real stories in a new way.

Creative nonfiction writers don’t just tell funny stories; they use craft and technique to pull the reader into their own lives. Poetic and fictional elements, like conceit and juxtaposition, as well as story arcs and character growth, work together to make a story that makes sense.

See also: How Many Word Count Are in a Novel? Word Count by Genre

4 Elements of Creative nonfiction

The main difference between creative nonfiction and regular nonfiction is the use of literary tools and methods. Creative nonfiction should have people and events that are based on real events, but it should also be written in a way that draws the reader in on purpose.

The following are elements of creative nonfiction:

1. Scene setting

To completely immerse readers in a scene, writers focus on certain features of a time and place. Metaphor, simile, and imagery are examples of literary elements that might help with this.

2. Character development

Genuine people, like real people, have goals, backgrounds, and distinguishing features. Dialogue, vivid characterization, and flashbacks are all common literary themes used in creative nonfiction.

3. Narrative

As with books, creative nonfiction works have a beginning, middle, climax, and end. The narrative of the story is the order in which these events occur. Using different narrative models, the author can guide the reader’s attention and set the pace of the story.

4. Subjectivity

In traditional nonfiction, the author keeps personal opinion a bay from the topic. Creative nonfiction, on the other hand, can infuse the writer’s point of view, feelings, and insights into the story. This is especially true for personal essays, which are usually written in the first person.

Creative nonfiction uses fiction’s chapters, acts, nonlinear timelines, and pacing as structural components. Writers of creative nonfiction blend events into narratives that flow naturally and keep readers’ attention from start to finish. However, the facts remain the most important element.

10 Types of Nonfiction Books and Genres

What are the types of nonfiction? Let’s examine common forms of the genre in detail.

#1. Memoir

Memoirs, one of the most popular types of creative nonfiction, describe the author’s personal experiences. Unlike autobiographies, memoirs do not need to be encyclopedic. Memoirs are one of the most straightforward types of creative nonfiction to write!

Memoirs, which narrate the author’s personal life, are one of the most popular types of creative nonfiction.

Memoirs are narrative works that frequently connect the author’s personal experiences to universal human concerns such as family, youth, and sadness.

Check out Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk, which explains the year she spent training a northern goshawk after her father died, to see what this means in practice.

But memoirs can be longer than articles. Memoir works are regularly grouped into essay collections and are a great starting point for a book project!

#2. Personal Essay

A personal essay, like a memoir, is based on the author’s own life and viewpoint and often provides the reader with a close-knit experience. However, personal essays are less narrative in form. Rather, the activity is usually inward-focused and mentally motivated.

Because of this, difficult-to-answer problems are commonly addressed in personal essays. The reader feels joy in watching the author attempt to handle difficult themes in a thought-provoking way. This is entirely in line with the meaning of “essay,” which is “to try.”

Personal essays are less narrative-focused. Rather, it is usually inward-focused and mentally motivated.

Memoirs hint at larger human themes, but personal essays create a direct link between societal narratives and the individual’s experience. In fact, personal experience is used as the stories and evidence. Personal essays use braiding, which is a structure that makes alternating from personal stories to a larger story possible when illustrating the connection between the person and society.

#3. Travel Writing

Nonfiction travel writing can take many different forms, including travel guides, blogs, journalism, and memoirs. Whatever the style, great travel writing allows readers to picture and interact with an unfamiliar environment.

Thus, travel writers employ sensory-engaging prose that transports you to a place you would not otherwise visit.

A well-written travel essay helps readers visualize and experience a strange place.

There are times when the writer’s mental trip takes precedence over the thrill of travel.

#4. Literary Journalism

Literary journalism, sometimes known as “immersion journalism,” “narrative journalism,” or “new journalism,” is a type of nonfiction writing that combines reporting with creative writing methods and approaches, such as character development.

Literary journalists frequently write in the first or third-person limited viewpoint. Instead of simply delivering information, such works seek to spark a deeper conversation among their readers.

Literary journalism is a subgenre of nonfiction writing that blends reporting with creative writing methods and approaches, such as character development.

#5. Features

A feature is a longer style of journalism than a news story, with the main goal of informing the reader about recent developments in the story’s facts. Features can provide a different perspective on a current subject or more in-depth coverage. Most importantly, features do not need to cover breaking news. This style of writing is more interesting and usually incorporates different perspectives. The writer has more room to play with style and structure.

Literary writing does not always take the form of a feature, though it can. Feature pieces can take several forms, including news features, trend reports, profiles, immersive features, and “creative” features based on the author’s personal experiences. As a result, features appear in many media outlets, including literary journals and newspapers.

See also: Point of View vs Perspective: Differences and Examples for Writers

#6. Cultural Criticism

This type of nonfiction investigates and offers criticism on a cultural element or artifact.

Cultural criticism generally examines little things to draw connections between them and larger cultural contexts. This is not to say that writing about culture must be abstract or broad. In fact, many cultural critics use their personal experiences as a starting point for more in-depth cultural debate.

#7. Ekphrastic Essays

The Greek word for “description,” ekphrasis, is commonly used to describe poetry written about a work of visual art. However, in modern literature, ekphrasis can be used in nearly any type of writing, including poetry and prose.

Ekphrasis is the use of poetry or prose to explain another work of art.

There are many ways to write an ekphrastic essay. These could be analytical articles on art, memoirs on your experiences, or the more creative method of speculating about the components of an artwork.

#8. Lyric Essay

The nonfiction prose used in the lyric essay is more poetic and concise.

The lyric essay is a relatively new genre that uses more poetic and condensed nonfiction writing. As a result, it is commonly referred to as a poetry-nonfiction hybrid. Although the definition of a lyric essay remains unclear, the following characteristics apply to this genre:

A focus on language and figurative means rather than argument.

a focus on experience and research rather than reporting. Even though lyric essays usually incorporate extensive research, they do so in a suggestive manner, leaving gaps for the reader to draw their own conclusions.

A tendency to meditate. Even though lyric essays frequently use study and direct experience, their emphasis is on contemplative writing skills rather than producing a coherent tale or storyline.

Examples of lyric essays include Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric, Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, Amy Leach’s Things That Are, and Kathryn Nuernberger’s The Witch of Eye.

#9. Hermit Crabs & Other Borrowed Forms

The hermit crab, introduced in 2003 by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola in their book Tell it Slant: Writing and Shaping Creative Nonfiction, adds a wonderful variety to the nonfiction prose styles used in current creative nonfiction.

Coined in 2003 by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola in their book Tell it Slant: Writing and Shaping Creative Nonfiction, the hermit crab adds a delightful variety to the types of nonfiction prose in contemporary creative nonfiction. The essay The Hermit Crab repurposes everyday forms—things we don’t usually conceive of as “literary”—as formats for creative nonfiction. A hermit crab, for example, may use the structure of a crossword puzzle, recipe, FAQ, or how-to manual.

Such texts generally discuss delicate or prickly issues (thus the allusion to the soft-bodied hermit crab that hunts for shells to live in).

See also: What Is a Narrative Arc (or Story Arc)? All You Need to Know

#10. Flash Nonfiction

Flash nonfiction essays run from a few hundred to two thousand words in length, however most publications only allow one thousand words. Precision and compression are stressed in flash nonfiction. It pushes the limits of how much you can hint at or how much plot you can tell in a few hundred words..

How To Write Creative Nonfiction: The 5 R’s

Lee Gutkind created a structure called the “5 R’s” of CNF writing. The five Rs work together to provide a solid foundation for all creative writing tasks. They are as follows:.

Write about real life: In creative nonfiction, write about actual people, real places, and genuine events that have happened or are now occurring.

Conduct extensive research: Learn everything you can about the problem in order to improve and broaden your ability to express it effectively.

(W)rite a narrative: Use storytelling strategies drawn from fiction, such as Freytag’s Pyramid, to structure the narrative of your CNF piece as a literary tale rather than a straightforward recount.

Include personal reflection: Give the narrative you’re reciting your own voice and view.

Learn by reading: Reading excellent creative nonfiction is the best way to improve your own writing style. Consume as much CNF as possible, paying close attention to how the author’s choices impact you as a reader.


  • Grammarly – types and elements of creative nonfiction
  • Writers.com – types and elements of creative nonfiction