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The term "creative non-fiction" is the opposite: a non-fiction work expressed in a fiction style, such as a historical novel.

It may be a little less common, but is there a general term for the opposite?

In film it might be called a "mockumentary" (e.g. This is Spinal Tap), or "pseudo-documentary" (e.g. War of the Worlds), but the use of "documentary" concerns a particular non-fiction medium. One wouldn't use it for Scarfolk Council (a fictional history blog), for example, or Welcome to Nightvale (a fictional news radio show).

So is there a more general term I'm missing?

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  • Not too sure, but the only time I've really come across a specific name would be fora fiction book written in the style of an Autobiography which was referred to as a "faux" autobiography. Not really a catch all title though. Jul 1, 2014 at 10:04
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    I don't think there's a consistent word in use, but perhaps something like pseudo-non-fiction might convey the intent? The phrases "creative non-fiction" and "literary journalism" are used to refer to 'real' non-fiction written in literary styles, but i'm not able to find anything more specific that pseudo-X for the opposite phenomenon.
    – Shisa
    Jul 1, 2014 at 10:17
  • Would an example of what you're talking about be Asimov's "The Endochronic Properties of Resublimated Thiotimoline"? May 20, 2019 at 14:01

4 Answers 4

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The phrases creative non-fiction and literary journalism are used to refer to 'real' non-fiction written in literary styles, but there doesn't seem to be anything specific or consistent for the opposite phenomenon as a whole.

However, something like pseudo-non-fiction might work to convey the intent.

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  • Since it doesn't seem I'm missing something, happy to accept this answer. Your coined phrase would convey the right intent, I agree. Thanks.
    – Ian
    Jul 5, 2014 at 11:33
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A nearby concept at least:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_document

A false document is a technique employed to create verisimilitude in a work of fiction. By inventing and inserting documents that appear to be factual, an author tries to create a sense of authenticity beyond the normal and expected suspension of disbelief for a work of art. The goal of a false document is to convince an audience that what is being presented is factual.

In practice, false-document effects can be achieved in many ways. Tactics have included the following: fake police reports, newspaper articles, bibliographical references, documentary footage, or using the legal names of performers or writers in a fictional context. Supplementary material such as badges, identity cards (IC), diaries, letters or artifacts can also be included, and this extends the exercise beyond the confines of the text.

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  • Thanks @Neil That's another great specific term. So there are all these terms around for specific ways of producing this effect (mockumentary, false document, epistolary novel), but nothing, it seems, over all. Interesting!
    – Ian
    Jul 5, 2014 at 11:32
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The term epistolary novel comes to mind.

From wikipedia:

An epistolary novel is a novel written as a series of documents. The usual form is letters, although diary entries, newspaper clippings and other documents are sometimes used. Recently, electronic "documents" such as recordings and radio, blogs, and e-mails have also come into use. The word epistolary is derived from Latin from the Greek word ἐπιστολή epistolē, meaning a letter (see epistle).

The epistolary form can add greater realism to a story, because it mimics the workings of real life. It is thus able to demonstrate differing points of view without recourse to the device of an omniscient narrator.

Examples include Frankenstein, Dracula, and more recently, World War Z.

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  • It is good, yes, but another media-specific term, like pseudo-documentary. And the situations I'm discussing are neither pseudo-documentaries nor epistolary novels. I'm wondering if there's a generic term for the whole approach. (I like your avatar, @kevin_workman btw).
    – Ian
    Jul 1, 2014 at 22:08
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"Camera eye fiction" is the term used to describe works such as John Dos Passos U.S.A. trilogy, which incorporates non-fiction forms and techniques in a fictional work.

From Wikipedia entry U.S.A.

"The trilogy employs an experimental technique, incorporating four narrative modes: fictional narratives telling the life stories of twelve characters; collages of newspaper clippings and song lyrics labeled "Newsreel"; individually labeled short biographies of public figures of the time such as Woodrow Wilson and Henry Ford and fragments of autobiographical stream of consciousness writing labeled "Camera Eye". The trilogy covers the historical development of American society during the first three decades of the 20th century."

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