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.
Jessi Rita Hoffman … book editing by an industry professional