What Is Fiction?

quote from Mark Twain
When we say fiction we mean any story created by the writer’s imagination. Since it is a product of the imagination, it maybe or not based on history or fact. In its original form, fiction refers to the major literary narratives. We refer them to as the novel, novella, short story, or play. Nowadays, fiction appears in various formats: writings, live performances, films, television programs, and games.

Since fiction involves creative invention, readers don’t assume its faithfulness to reality. Readers don’t expect factual characters or descriptions. This makes fiction open to interpretation even if it claims to be, or marketed as, “historical”. This also makes the distinction between fiction and non-fiction thinner. Hence, we hear the term “creative non-fiction” these days. The thin line between the two may be defined from the perspective of the audience. If its people, places, events are all factual and real, it’s non-fiction. If it deviates from any of the elements, it’s fiction.

What we can distinguish is how a fictional work grounds on reality. A story is realistic when its basic setting is real and the possibility of events to happen in the world we live in. A story is non-realistic if it is set in an imaginary universe, or in an alternative history or timeline, or in some non-existent location or era.

In short, fiction is both artifice and verisimilitude. It requires both creative invention and a degree of acceptable truthfulness. Thus, the notion of a “willing suspension of disbelief”. Fiction brings the possible and the impossible together.

How do you define fiction? Let me know your comments below.


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