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What Are the Different Types of Nonfiction Short Stories?

By Dee Jones
Updated May 23, 2024
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Nonfiction short stories are true stories that are firmly based in fact but that use the same styles and techniques used in fictional short stories. Also called narrative non-fiction stories or literary nonfiction stories, nonfiction short stories seek to be entertaining while also depicting events as they really happened. The different types of nonfiction short stories include confessions, personal essays and anecdotes. Confessions are true accounts of a problem or moral dilemma faced by the writer. In personal essays, the writer relates some personal experience or memory to the reader, and anecdotes are very short and succinct nonfiction short stories that can have humorous, poignant or uplifting endings.

Confessions are nonfiction short stories in which a character faces some problem, conflict or moral dilemma. The idea of a confession is that it is a true account of an actual situation or event experienced by the writer. A confession story often involves a character who must make an unpleasant decision, such as deciding whether to cheat on a spouse, whether to leave an abusive relationship or whether to steal from an employer because of a desperate financial situation. This type of nonfiction short story can also be about a character making a questionable choice and, as a result, having to deal with the consequences, even if the only consequence is his or her own guilt. Since the early 20th century, there have been several popular magazines that have published confession stories exclusively.

Personal essays, also sometimes called personal narratives, are nonfiction short stories in which the writer relates some personal experience or memory to the reader. Many essays are about proving a point, making a persuasive argument or stating the reasons behind an opinion, but the purpose of a personal essay is simply to relay personal events to the reader as they really happened. The writer of a personal essay tries to convey to the reader the thoughts, emotions and sensations that they experienced at the time. A personal essay might also end with the writer explaining the lesson he or she learned or the realization to which he or she came because of that experience. Personal essays have much in common with diary or journal entries in which a writer might describe the things he or she experienced from day to day, but personal essays tend to be more structured and, like fiction short stories, they often have a clear beginning, middle and end.

Although anecdotes, like personal essays, relate some personal experience or memory to the reader, they tend to be much shorter. Many anecdotes are just one or two paragraphs long and can be funny, sad or uplifting. Anecdotes can end with a moral, a life lesson or, in the case of humorous anecdotes, a punch line.

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