What Is the Difference Between Fiction and Literature?

How to Distinguish Fiction from Literature

What is the difference between fiction and literature? There is overlap between these two categories, which makes it difficult to distinguish one from the other. Literature is a broader category, encompassing fiction as well as other works. In that light, fiction can be thought of as a sub-category of literature. 


Literature is a term used to describe written or spoken material. Broadly speaking, it designates anything from creative writing to more technical or scientific works, but the term is most commonly used to refer to works of the creative imagination, including poetry, drama, and fiction, as well as nonfiction.


The term fiction indicates a work of the imagination or invention, which contrasts with non-fiction, which is usually thought to be based on facts. Written works like novels, short stories, plays, and poems are fictional. Newspaper articles, essays, biographies, and histories are examples of non-fiction. All of these may be thought of as literature.

Literature vs. Fiction

A work of fiction is a work of literature, but the term literature encompasses far more than just fiction. Literature also refers to non-fiction, including memoirs, biography, and other works that are factual in scope. Literature is a broad and sometimes changeable designation, and critics may argue about which works deserve to be called literature. Sometimes, a work not considered weighty enough to be considered literature at the time it was published may, years later, acquire that designation.