Fiction describes people, places, events, and/or complete narrative works derived from imagination, in addition to, or rather than, from history or fact. Fiction may be presented in a variety of formats, including live performances, recorded media, and games, though the term originally referred to the major narrative forms of literature (see literary fiction), including the novel, novella, short story, play, and narrative poem. Fiction constitutes an act of creative invention, so that faithfulness to reality is not typically assumed; in other words, fiction is not expected to present only characters who are actual people or descriptions that are factually true. The context of fiction is generally open to interpretation, due to fiction's freedom from any necessary embedding in reality; however, some fictional works are claimed to be, or marketed as, historically or factually accurate, complicating the traditional distinction between fiction and non-fiction. Fiction is a classification or category, rather than a specific mode or genre, unless used in a narrower sense as a synonym for a particular literary fiction form.
Reality and fiction
Fiction is commonly classified into a variety of subsets, called genres, each typically united by narrative technique, tone, content or popularly defined criteria. Science fiction often predicts or supposes technologies that are not realities at the time of the work's creation, while historical fiction places imaginary characters into real historical events. For example, Jules Verne's novel From the Earth to the Moon was published in 1865 and in 1969 astronaut Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. In the early historical novel Waverley, Sir Walter Scott's fictional character Edward Waverley meets the figure from history Bonnie Prince Charlie and takes part in the Battle of Prestonpans.
Some works of fiction are based on a true story, or a fictionalized account, or a reconstructed biography. Often, even when the author claims the story is true, there may be significant additions and subtractions from the true story to make it more interesting. One such example would be Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried.
Non-realistic fiction typically involves a story whose events could not happen in real life, or comprise an alternate history of humankind other than that currently understood as true, or requiring impossible technology. Fictional works that explicitly involve supernatural or magic elements are classified under the genre of fantasy, including Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland, J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter, and J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Fiction writers and creators sometimes use imaginary creatures such as dragons and fairies in works of fictions.
In terms of the traditional separation between fiction and non-fiction, the lines are now commonly blurred, showing more overlap than mutual exclusion, especially since reality can be presented through imaginary channels and constructions, and imagination can bring about significant conclusions about reality and truth. Literary critic James Wood, argues that "fiction is both artifice and verisimilitude," meaning that it requires both creative invention as well as some acceptable degree of lifelikeness, a notion often encapsulated in poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge's term, willing suspension of disbelief. Also, infinite fictional possibilities signal the impossibility of fully knowing reality, provocatively demonstrating that is that there is no criterion to measure constructs of reality.
- Flash fiction: A work of fewer than 2,000 words. (1,000 by some definitions) (around 5 pages)
- Short story: A work of at least 2,000 words but under 7,500 words. (5–25 pages)
- Novelette: A work of at least 7,500 words but under 17,500 words. (25–60 pages)
- Novella: A work of at least 17,500 words but under 50,000 words. (60–170 pages)
- Novel: A work of 50,000 words or more. (about 170+ pages)
- Epic: A work of 200,000 words or more. (about 680+ pages—counting a page roughly as 300 words)
Traditionally, fiction includes novels, short stories, fables, fairy tales, plays, and some poems, but it now also encompasses comic books, operas, and many films, video games, radio programs, television programs, dances, and spoken narratives.
The Internet has had a major impact on the distribution of fiction, calling into question the feasibility of copyright as a means to ensure royalties are paid to copyright holders. Also, digital libraries such as Project Gutenberg make public domain texts more readily available. The combination of inexpensive home computers, the Internet and the creativity of its users has also led to new forms of fiction, such as interactive computer games or computer-generated comics. Countless forums for fan fiction can be found online, where loyal followers of specific fictional realms create and distribute derivative stories. The Internet is also used for the development of blog fiction, where a story is delivered through a blog either as flash fiction or serial blog, and collaborative fiction, where a story is written sequentially by different authors, or the entire text can be revised by anyone using a wiki.
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Although fiction may be viewed as a form of entertainment, it has other uses. Fiction has been used for instructional purposes, such as fictional examples used in school textbooks. It may be used in propaganda and advertising. Although they are not necessarily targeted at children, fables offer an explicit moral goal.
It may be used for educational and learning purposes in corporate training programs for delivering valuable management and behavioral lessons.
A whole branch of literature crossing entertainment and science speculation is science fiction. A less common similar cross is the philosophical fiction hybridizing fiction and philosophy, thereby often crossing the border towards propaganda fiction. These kinds of fictions constitute thought experiments exploring consequences of certain technologies or philosophies.
- "Definition of 'fiction'." Oxford English Dictionaries (online). Oxford University Press. 2015.
- Farner, Geir (2014). "Chapter 2: What is Literary Fiction?". Literary Fiction: The Ways We Read Narrative Literature. Bloomsbury Publishing USA.
- Culler, Jonathan (2000). Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. p. 31.
Non-fictional discourse is usually embedded in a context that tells you how to take it: an instruction manual, a newspaper report, a letter from a charity. The context of fiction, though, explicitly leaves open the question of what the fiction is really about. Reference to the world is not so much a property of literary [i.e. fictional] works as a function they are given by interpretation.
- Iftekharuddin, Frahat (ed.). (2003). The Postmodern Short Story: Forms and Issues. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 23.
- M. H. Abrams, A Glossary of Literary Terms (7th edition). Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace, 1999, p. 94.
- Whiteman, G.; Phillips, N. (13 December 2006). "The Role of Narrative Fiction and Semi-Fiction in Organizational Studies". ERIM Report Series Research in Management. ISSN 1566-5283. Retrieved 23 October 2009.
- William Harmon and C. Hugh Holman A Handbook to Literature (7th edition). New York: Prentice Hall, 1990, p. 212.
- Wood, James. 2008. How Fiction Works. New York. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. p. xiii.
- George W. Young: Subversive Symmetry. Exploring the Fantastic in Mark 6:45-56. Brill, Leiden 1999, p. 98, 106-109. ISBN 90-04-11428-9
- Milhorn, H. Thomas. (2006). Writing Genre Fiction: A Guide to the Craft. Universal Publishers: Boca Ratan. p. 3-4.
- Jones, Oliver. (2015). "Why Fan Fiction is the Future of Publishing." The Daily Beast. The Daily Beast Company LLC.
- Eco, Umberto 2009. On the ontology of fictional characters: A semiotic approach. Sign Systems Studies 37(1/2): 82–98.
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- Kate Colquhoun on the blurred boundaries between fiction and non-fiction
- Example of a Serial Blog/Short Story Magazine