Nonfiction Narrative

By AmyLawr
  • The Unfortunate Traveller

    Foley places the earliest known work of documentary fiction in 1594. The piece is called The Unfortunate Traveller.
  • A Journal of the Plague Year

    Wainwright cites Lodge's belief that A Journal of the Plague Year was the first documentary novel (Wainwright, 2014, p.26).
  • Period: to

    Roman Documentaire

    According to J. A. Cuddon, the first type of nonfiction narratives were called "documentary novels." He stated that Edmond and Jules Goncourt, brothers, used this form of writing throughout the 1860s. These pieces were labeled "roman documentaire", which translates to "documents of the people" (Wainwright, 2014).
  • First known use of Nonfiction

    According to the Oxford English Dictionary the first use of nonfiction was in 1867. Before this items were labeled by their topics. One of note is that "Histories" would be labeled today as nonfiction, while "Secret Histories" would be considered nonfiction or possibly historical fiction (Plante, 2022).
  • Hiroshima

    According to Lemann (2019), John Hersey's Hiroshima should be considered the first nonfiction novel because it was told "in an unadorned, omniscient third-person voice". However, Hersey would have refuted this. He raised several concerns about the nonfiction novel and thought authors were using it to "fabricate" (Russell, 2014). One author he specifically targeted was Truman Capote. Hersey was concerned with minutiae of stories saying that "the writer must not invent" (Rosenwald, 2020).
  • Period: to

    The quadruple murder of the Cutter Family

    Four members of the Cutter family were murdered in Holcomb, Kansas. Truman Capote saw a notice of this crime in a newspaper and decided to use it to create the nonfiction novel (Wainwright, 2014).
  • Period: to

    The New Yorker

    Many literary nonfiction authors found a home at the New Yorker. It is considered the most influential magazine of literary nonfiction, though Esquire and Harper's also had some literary nonfiction sections (Weber, 1978).
  • Period: to


    The romance-reportagem was a popular genre during the military dictatorships in Brazil from 1964 through 1985. This genre title translates to "novel-journalistic reporting" from Portuguese. Under the dictatorships, investigative assignments were illegal for Brazilian newspapers and magazines. Since novels were not as harshly regulated, events were discussed in these texts.
  • In Cold Blood

    In Cold Blood
    This piece took Capote around six years to finalize. He first published it as a serial in The New Yorker and later it was reedited and turned into a book. Russell (2014) states that Capote's acknowledgement places any fault of inaccuracy on memory, official records, and persons directly involved. By doing this, Capote is able to keep the book unofficial while still maintaining an air of authority.
  • Period: to

    Third Phase of the Documentary Novel

    According to Foley (1986), In Cold Blood is not a new genre. It is the third phase of the documentary novel. She considered it the final chapter of the genre.
  • Creation of the term Nonfiction novel

    In an interview with George Plimpton, Truman Capote went into detail about what a nonfiction novel was. He saw it as a "reportorial finger exercise...[with] full scale narrative". One of his wishes was to raise journalism to literary standards of the day. He said that this style needed to hold to the facts, but the author had the right of how to present facts to the readers and in what order (Plimpton, 1966).
  • In Cold Fact

    Philip K. Tompkins, employed by Esquire magazine, wrote an exposé on In Cold Blood titled In Cold Fact. Tompkins spent time in Holcomb re-interviewing Capote's sources. He found that scenes may have been created or memories transferred to different characters. It should be noted that if the text was a fiction novel, Tompkins would not be able to research the events to prove falsities (Heyne, 1987).
  • A Sentimental Journey

    A Sentimental Journey
    Viktor Shklovsky was a soldier for the Red Army and served on the Austro-Romanian front. Defamiliarization was an essential part of his narrative. Russell (2014) cites Monas for providing the link between Russian confession mode to nonfiction novels.
  • Period: to

    Institutional changes to News

    Maguire & Maguire (2020) cite Schmidt's article about United States media change during the late twentieth century. A storytelling movement effectively changed the way news was created and consumed during this time. This process is referred to as narrative journalism and was started in the 1960s by outliners.
  • The Last Cowboy

    The Last Cowboy
    Written by Jane Kramer, this work has been classified as a narrative reportage. Her plan was to document the life of the cowboy to compare it to the mythical cowboy of the Western. She chose Henry Blanton as her subject because he seemed "settled into his life, but he could not seem to settle for it" (Weber, 1978, p.488). This piece is considered both narrative and journalistic because the piece is about Blanton and how he was affected by the world around him.
  • The Stranger Beside Me

    The Stranger Beside Me
    This text launched Ann Rule's career as a true crime writer. She has stated she was inspired to write her story from In Cold Blood (Davis, 2012).
  • Truman Capote's death

    Capote dies from complications exacerbated by his alcoholism. He never finished another book after In Cold Blood (Richter, 2007).
  • Dashiell Hammett Award

    This award was established in 1991 for "literary excellence in the field of crime writing" (Davis, 2012, p.10). Nonfiction works are included as a nod to Capote's In Cold Blood. As of the writing of the article, only one nonfiction has been a finalist - Get Capone: The Secret Plot That Captured America's Most Wanted Gangster by Jonathan Eig.
  • Understanding Comics

    Understanding Comics
    Scott McCloud pairs text and images to help readers understand the history and design choices that make comics. It is narrative because it tells a story and nonfiction due to the median as well as the subject matter. McCloud's work has been hailed as legitimizing the comic in academic settings (Brower, 2022).
  • Creative Nonfiction - Literary Journal

    Creative Nonfiction - Literary Journal
    The first issue of Creative Nonfiction (Literary Journal) is published. This first piece included 92 pages of text. It was the first journal exclusively designed to showcase long-form narrative nonfiction. The first issue included a piece by John McPhee, a notable nonfiction narrative author. It was founded by Lee Gutkind and he is still an editor. (Gutkind, 2021).
  • In the Garden of Good and Evil

    In the Garden of Good and Evil
    Written by John Berendt, it has been hailed as "the best nonfiction novel since In Cold Blood" by Edmund White. The crux of the crime story is whether readers believe it was murder or a case of self-defense. (CNF Staff, 2010).
  • Angela's Ashes

    Angela's Ashes
    Frank McCourt's first memoir, this text receives both a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critic Circle Award. This text has also been scrutinized as leaning too hard into fictional components to the point of imaginative. (CNF Staff, 2010).
  • Black Hawk Down

    Black Hawk Down
    Originally published as a online serial in 1997, it was later published as a complete book in 1999. It was marketed as a piece of "narrative journalism" (Wainwright, 2014).
  • Nonfiction Narrative prevalence in Children's publishing

    At the turn of the century, nonfiction narrative become popular for children's publishing (Weisman, 2011). According to Stein & Beed (2004) students like "learning new, real-life information" (p.517).
  • Persepolis

    Originally written in 2002 by Marjane Satrapi, this text was translated into English in 2003. It is a nonfiction graphic novel written about her childhood and political upheaval. (CNF Staff, 2010).
  • Interview with Erik Larson

    Interview with Erik Larson
    This is an interview about the publication Devil in the White City. Larson stated that narrative nonfiction writing was "collect[ing] a lot of scenes" to create an interesting story. He reiterated that narrative nonfiction authors are not historians but writers who "find stories and bring them to life". He has credited historians for making these stories possible by creating detailed footnotes because "the best stuff" is usually found there (Kovach, 2003).
  • Capote - film

    Director Bennett Miller created the first of two films about Truman's experience of writing In Cold Blood. A second film, Infamous, was released by Douglas McGrath in 2006. Richter (2007) stated that nonfiction films have ethics to maintain truth, but leeway to tell a story.
  • A Million Little Lies Scandal breaks

    A Million Little Lies Scandal breaks
    Writer James Frey's book about addiction was originally marketed as a memoir, but later was marketed as a semi-fictional novel. Over 2 million copies sold were linked to the Oprah Book Club, which she later apologized for giving "the impression that truth does not matter". Frey still states that the book is essentially his life, even if some things were exaggerated or fabricated. (CNF Staff, 2010).
  • Masters of Fine Arts

    Although narrative nonfiction was at first looked down upon as a genre, by 2008 there were at least 50 different programs that offered Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction (Hart, 2008).
  • Margaret A. Edwards Award

    This award is presented to authors who have made a "significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature" (Partridge, 201, p. 70). In 2010 Jim Murphy was presented with this award. He was the first nonfiction author to receive this award, thus showing that nonfiction is accepted as a literary device.
  • Nonfiction Narrative - Activism

    Nonfiction Narrative - Activism
    We Are Water Protectors is written by Carole Lindstorm. It is a children's book that approaches the Dakota Access Pipeline and Ojibwa water rights. The book can be sung and Ernest Troost composed a flute piece to accompany it, which Don Markese plays. Since the book is aimed for children, it does not include the violence or political issues surrounding the pipeline (Schnider, 2021).