Creative Nonfiction and Essay: What’s the Difference?

For years, I’ve been a bit confused as to exactly what creative nonfiction was.

Was it an essay, or something else altogether?

Well, instead of continuing to wonder, I’ve decided to do a little research and find out.

Essay: According to “The essay is a written piece that is designed to present an idea, propose an argument, express the emotion, or initiate debate. It is a tool that is used to present writer’s ideas in a non-fictional way. Multiple applications of this type of writing go beyond, providing political manifestos and art criticism as well as personal observations and reflections of the author.”

Creative Nonfiction: Per “Simply put: Creative nonfiction is true stories, well told.”

The site goes on to break down what exactly makes up creative nonfiction: Creative nonfiction can be an essay, a journal article, a research paper, a memoir, a tweet; it can be personal or not, or it can be all of these.”  

The key? It must not be ‘made up’ – as in no fictional elements whatsoever.

So, briefly, the essay is a form of creative nonfiction.

Where fiction is a creative work which involves fictional setting, characters and events that includes forms like novels, novellas, and short stories – so, creative nonfiction is a creative work which involves true stories and real people that includes forms like essays, journals, and memoirs.

A good example of a short creative nonfiction: A Soldier’s Story by Lee Roberts.

A great example of an essay: Ever Et Raw Meat & Other Weird Questions by Stephen King.


  1. Thanks, Carrie Ann! Your post reminded me how I began my journey a decade ago, intent on writing stories worthy of the subject — my dad. Retelling how we served as my father’s caregivers compelled me to dig deep into storytelling techniques and style.

    A Soldier’s Story by Lee Roberts mirrored the goal I had for sharing how I got to know my true dad during the last six months of his life. That seed of creative fiction set me on a path to learn how to write a book readers will love to read. And although I’m still learning, your post made me feel like I’m heading in the right direction.


Love to Hear from You!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.