Say you have an author who has a lot of random personal stories from their life, all interesting, but don't stand on their own to be an interesting, single story. The author decides, "why not combine them all into one story?" Well, that sort of becomes an autobiography, I guess, if you actually tell the story in a more chronological way that follows the timeline of their life.

What if the author decides not to do everything chronologically? Basically, taking these non-fictional stories, reordering them a little, and placing them all into a fictional character's life, somewhat shortening the timespan in the process? Basically, the story itself and the character would be fictional, but each separate story within the fictional story is non-fictional.

Does the fictional part of the story trump the non-fictional parts of the story and just classify the entire thing as fiction, or a novel? Or is there any special word or perhaps genre that would be used to better identify something like this? Ultimately, is there a word to identify a fictional story made up of non-fictional stories?

I've seen this similar question, but it talks about historical settings in a novel, mainly the non-fictional location a book is set in. I can't imagine that's really the same thing, as the situation I'm outlining is kind of the opposite. The stories themselves are non-fictional, but the setting, location, characters, etc are all fictional.

  • Possibly a thinly-veiled fiction. Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 20:45
  • A collage of real-life experiences and hearsay weaved into a novel? Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 21:43
  • @BlessedGeek, ‘weaved’? Surely real-life experiences would be woven into a novel … Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 22:40
  • Sometimes I get confused if I should use learned or learnt. Proved or proven. In the US, my colleagues and acquaintances get puzzled if I say/write learnt, proven, car park, bonnet. After 2 decades in the US, I am still facing minor linguistic dilemma. Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 23:07
  • @BlessedGeek Aren't we all. There is a lot of confusion between past and past participle forms. It is "prove, proved, proved" but "show, showed, shown" in Merriam Webster, for example; but both MW (AmE) and OED (BrE) have "weave, wove, woven" as preferred terms, though MW does acknowledge "weaved" as an alternative for either past tense or past participle.
    – nxx
    Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 23:50

8 Answers 8


The adjective fictionalised is often used in this sense, as in the real-life basis was "made fictional". However, that word is sometimes also used of the purely fictional.

"A fictionalised account of..." can be clearer that it means fictionalised in that sense.

A subset of such novels would be romans à clef (sing. roman à clef, sometimes found hyphenated, and occasionally without the grave on the a). Such novels are disguised accounts where names and dates are changed and other degrees of artistic license are taken, but where there is a strong correspondence between them and reality (or at least, the authors side of the story).


I came across the term "creative nonfiction" just the other day. I think this quite aptly fits what you describe (do a Google search and you'll see it has a lot of usage in the field). It is very much the equivalent of "experimental fiction", but for nonfiction.

Having said that, if the focus on the writing is on the nonfiction elements rather than on creativity/experimentalism, I prefer the term "fictionalised nonfiction" in general, or "fictionalised autobiography/memoir" in particular.

If you are interested in what happens when you fail to disclose that your autobiography is fictionalised, see "Controversy" here (where James Frey's A Million Little Pieces is described as "semi-fictional"). In this case (from the same link):

the Brooklyn Public Library went as far as recataloging Frey's book as fiction, although it appears most other libraries have not followed suit

Incidentally, the semi-autobiographical "dramatic recount" of the Vietnam War, The Things They Carried, is classed on Amazon as fiction...


If it were a collection of autobiographical anecdotes, I'd call it a memoir. Thus, combined with John Hanna’s answer, you could call it the fictionalized memoirs of the author.


This sounds like novelization

the conversion of a true story, film, etc into a novel, or a work that results from this conversion process

It is somewhat akin to docudrama

a dramatized television movie based on real events

In both cases, the revised presentation strays from absolute fact to create a new concept based on the authors interpretation (or fabrication) of the actual events.


I would call it a pseudo-fiction. If you are referring to the collection of items, it can be called a pseudo-fiction anthology.

Pseudo-fiction is a false fiction, a non-fiction pretending to be a fiction. It is the mix of real life stories and characters with fictional stories and characters. I came up with the word based on similar terms1 then I did a research and found out that it is used in different sources including Google Books. It is not a very common term but there is a significant amount of usage and fits to your description.

1 A similar term is a pseudo-documentary which is a film or video production that takes the form or style of a documentary film but does not portray real events. Wikipedia

Example usage:

Bending the rules of the informational travel book, Dickens thus transforms his observations about the Tombs into a pseudo-fiction, complete with a narrator, characters, and a mystery to be solved. He "controls the discursive framework" of the account, offering his portrayal of the Tombs unreal, as if the horror cannot be conveyed factually.

The Self in the Cell: Narrating the Victorian Prisoner by By Sean C. Grass (2014)]

  • Not my downvote, but I think your answer would be better received with some citations. Would does "pseudo" mean, and why do you think "pseudo-fiction" might apply here?
    – nxx
    Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 23:39
  • Of course I meant "What...".
    – nxx
    Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 23:52

how about composite non-fiction ?

This seems to be a feature in Barack Obama's Audacity of Hope where the details are meshed together to simplify the story (several girlfriends become one).


I don't know if there's a term for it, but I'd just call it fiction based on real life events.


The phrase "Literary Reflections" comes to mind as a loosely related compilation of short stories. Perhaps this might be further shortened to just Reflections. This might be most effective if the stories are of an important subject, time period or individual - however loosely connected. An author -- for example -- might introduce a fictional character in a fictional setting to tell the series of non-fictional stories. One example of literary reflections is -- literally -- "Literary Reflections" by James A. Michener (1993).

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