Fiction is the classification for any story created by the imagination, rather than based strictly on history or fact.[note 1] Fiction can be expressed in a variety of formats, including writings, live performances, films, television programs, video games, and role-playing games, though the term originally and most commonly refers to the major narrative forms of literature (see literary fiction), including the novel, novella, short story, and play. 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 broken down into a variety of subsets, or genres, each typically defined 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. 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. Historical fiction places imaginary characters into real historical events. 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.
Non-realistic fiction typically involves a story whose events could not happen in real life, because they are set in an alternative universe, an alternative history of the world other than that currently understood as true, or some other non-existent location, or because they require impossible technology or a defiance of the currently understood laws of science. Fictional works that explicitly involve supernatural, magical or logically impossible elements are often 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. Some works of fiction are based on a true story, 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, a series of historical fiction short stories about the Vietnam War.
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, while, at the same, 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 believability, 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.
Traditionally, fiction includes novels, short stories, fables, legends, myths, fairy tales, epic and narrative poetry, plays, (including opera, and various kinds of theatrical dancing), but it also encompasses comic books, and many films, video games, radio programs, television programs (comedies and dramas) etc.
The Internet has had a major impact on the creation and 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.
- Short story: A work of at least 2,000 words but under 7,500 words (5–25 pages). The boundary between a long short story and a novella is vague.
- Novella: A work of at least 17,500 words but under 50,000 words.(60–170 pages). Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (1899) is an example of a novella.
- Novel: A work of 50,000 words or more (about 170+ pages).
- Most broadly, fiction may describe not just a class of narratives, but also any people, places, events, or media content derived from imagination.
- "fiction." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. 2015.
- Sageng, Fossheim, & Larsen (eds.) (2012). The Philosophy of Computer Games. Springer Science & Business Media. pp. 186-187.
- William Harmon and C. Hugh Holman A Handbook to Literature (7th edition). New York: Prentice Hall, 1990, p. 212.
- "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.
- Yet, as philosopher Stacie Friend explains, "in reading we take works of fiction, like works of non-fiction, to be about the real world—even if they invite us to imagine the world to be different from how it actually is. [Thus], imagining a storyworld does not mean directing one’s imagining toward something other than the real world; it is instead a mental activity that involves constructing a complex representation of what a story portrays" (Friend, S., "The Real Foundation of Fictional Worlds", Australasian Journal of Philosophy, forthcoming: ).
- The research of Weisberg and Goodstein (2009) — Weisberg, D.S. & Goodstein, J., What Belongs in a Fictional World?, Journal of Cognition and Culture, Vol.9, No.1, (March 2009), pp.69-78 — revealed that, despite not being specifically informed that, say, the fictional character Sherlock Holmes, had two legs, their subjects "consistently assumed that some real-world facts obtained in fiction, although they were sensitive to the kind of fact and the realism of the story" (Friend, forthcoming).
- 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.
- 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
- Jones, Oliver. (2015). "Why Fan Fiction is the Future of Publishing." The Daily Beast. The Daily Beast Company LLC.
- Milhorn, H. Thomas. (2006). Writing Genre Fiction: A Guide to the Craft. Universal Publishers: Boca Raton. p. 3-4.
- J. A. Cuddon, The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms (1992). London: Penguin Books, 1999, p.600.
- Heart of Darkness Novella by Conrad - Encyclopedia Britannica,
- 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