What is Literary Nonfiction Exactly?

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • Nov. 6, 2018, 10:03 a.m.

Literary nonfiction, also known as narrative nonfiction, is one of the best genres for getting students to engage in large quantities of reading. But what exactly is literary nonfiction? We hear the word nonfiction and instantly think informational, which is only partly true. The word literary means "narrative" and nonfiction means "accurate". So literary nonfiction is essentially a true story. And who doesn't like a really good true story?

Literary nonfiction is a true narrative that uses literary elements to tell factually accurate stories.


Literary nonfiction is a true story that follows the elements of fiction.

  • Setting
  • Plot (problem/solution)
  • Characters
  • Beginning, Middle, & End
  • Sequence

Examples of Literary Nonfiction

  • Autobiography
  • Biography
  • Memoirs
  • Diaries
  • Journal Entries

Kelly Harmon and Randi Anderson

About The Authors

Kelly Harmon & Associates began in 2001 with a mission of instructional coaching and providing rich literacy resources for educators and parents. Our work incorporates research-based best practices for teaching and learning.

Learn More »