AskDefine | Define fiction

Dictionary Definition



1 a literary work based on the imagination and not necessarily on fact
2 a deliberately false or improbable account [syn: fabrication, fable]

User Contributed Dictionary




From fictionem (accusative of fictio).


  1. Literary type using invented or imaginative writing, instead of real facts, usually written as prose.
    The company’s accounts contained a number of blatant fictions.
    I am a great reader of fiction.
  2. Invention.
    The butler’s account of the crime was pure fiction.


Related terms


literary type



From fictionem (nominative of fictio).



fr-noun f

Related terms

Extensive Definition

Fiction is the telling of stories which are not entirely based upon facts. More specifically, fiction is an imaginative form of narrative, one of the four basic rhetorical modes. Although the word fiction is derived from the Latin fingo, fingere, finxi, fictum, "to form, create", works of fiction need not be entirely imaginary and may include real people, places, and events. Fiction may be either written or oral. Although not all fiction is necessarily artistic, fiction is largely perceived as a form of art or entertainment. The ability to create fiction and other artistic works is considered to be a fundamental aspect of human culture, one of the defining characteristics of humanity.

Elements of fiction

Even among writing instructors and bestselling authors, there appears to be little consensus regarding the number and composition of the fundamental elements of fiction. For example:
  • "Fiction has three main elements: plotting, character, and place or setting."
  • "A charged image evokes all the other elements of your story—theme, character, conflict, setting, style, and so on."
  • "For writers, the spices you add to make your plot your own include characters, setting, and dialogue."
  • "Contained within the framework of a story are the major story elements: characters, action, and conflict."
  • " . . . I think point of view is one of the most fundamental elements of the fiction-writing craft . . ."
As stated by Janet Evanovich, "Effective writing requires an understanding of the fundamental elements of storytelling, such as point of view, dialogue, and setting." The debate continues as to the number and composition of the fundamental elements of fiction.


Characterization is often listed as one of the fundamental elements of fiction. A character is a participant in the story, and is usually a person, but may be any persona, identity, or entity whose existence originates from a fictional work or performance.
Characters may be of several types:
  • Point-of-view character: the character from whom the story is viewed.
  • Protagonist: the main character of a story
  • Antagonist: the character that stands in opposition to the protagonist
  • Supporting character: A character that plays a part in the plot but is not major
  • Minor character: a character in a bit/cameo part


Plot, or storyline, is often listed as one of the fundamental elements of fiction. It is the rendering and ordering of the events and actions of a story. On a micro level, plot consists of action and reaction, also referred to as stimulus and response. On a macro level, plot has a beginning, a middle, and an ending. Plot is often depicted as an arc with a zig-zag line to represent the rise and fall of action. Plot also has a mid-level structure: scene and sequel. A scene is a unit of drama—where the action occurs. Then, after a transition of some sort, comes the sequel—an emotional reaction and regrouping, an aftermath.


Setting, the locale and time of a story, is often listed as one of the fundamental elements of fiction. Sometimes setting is referred to as milieu, to include a context (such as society) beyond the immediate surroundings of the story. In some cases, setting becomes a character itself and can set the tone of a story.


Theme, a conceptual distillation of the story, is often listed as one of the fundamental elements of fiction. It is the central idea or insight serving as a unifying element, creating cohesion and is an answer to the question, 'What did you learn from the piece of fiction?' In some cases a story's theme is a prominent element and somewhat unmistakable.


Style is not so much what is written, but how it is written and interpreted. Style in fiction refers to language conventions used to construct the story or article. A fiction writer may manipulate diction, sentence structure, phrasing, dialogue, and other aspects of language to create style or mood. The communicative effect created by the author's style is sometimes referred to as the story's voice. Every writer has his or her own unique style, or voice . Style is sometimes listed as one of the fundamental elements of fiction.


Types of prose fiction:
  • 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)

Forms of fiction

Traditionally, fiction includes novels, short stories, fables, fairy tales, plays, and poems, but it now also encompasses films, comic books, and video games.
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 serialblog, and collaborative fiction, where a story is written sequentially by different authors, or the entire text can be revised by anyone using wiki.

Uses of fiction

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. It may be perpetuated by parents out of tradition such as with Santa Claus or to instill beliefs and values. Although they are not necessarily targeted at children, fables offer an explicit moral goal.



See also

Main list: List of basic fiction topics
fiction in Arabic: خيال
fiction in Catalan: Ficció
fiction in Danish: Fiktion
fiction in German: Fiktion
fiction in Esperanto: Fikcio
fiction in Spanish: Ficción
fiction in Estonian: Ilukirjandus
fiction in Finnish: Fiktio
fiction in French: Fiction
fiction in Indonesian: Fiksi
fiction in Icelandic: Skáldskapur
fiction in Italian: Fiction
fiction in Japanese: フィクション
fiction in Latin: Fictio
fiction in Dutch: Fictie
fiction in Norwegian: Fiksjon
fiction in Polish: Fikcja literacka
fiction in Portuguese: Ficção
fiction in Russian: Художественная литература
fiction in Simple English: Fiction
fiction in Albanian: Fiktiv
fiction in Swedish: Fiktion
fiction in Thai: นิยาย
fiction in Chinese: 小说

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Marchen, Western, Western story, Westerner, adventure story, allegory, anecdote, apologue, apparition, article, autograph, bedtime story, blague, brainchild, bubble, canard, chimera, cock-and-bull story, composition, computer printout, concoction, copy, delirium, detective story, document, draft, edited version, eidolon, engrossment, essay, exaggeration, extravaganza, fable, fabliau, fabrication, fair copy, fairy tale, falsehood, falsity, fancy, fantasque, fantasy, farfetched story, farrago, fib, figment, final draft, finished version, first draft, fish story, flam, flimflam, flimsy, folk story, folktale, forgery, gest, ghost story, half-truth, hallucination, holograph, horse opera, idle fancy, illusion, imagery, imagination, imagining, insubstantial image, invention, legal fiction, legend, letter, lie, literae scriptae, literary artefact, literary production, literature, little white lie, love story, lucubration, maggot, make-believe, manuscript, matter, mendacity, misrepresentation, mystery, mystery story, myth, mythology, mythos, narrative, nonfiction, nursery tale, opus, original, paper, parable, parchment, penscript, phantasm, phantom, piece, piece of writing, pious fiction, play, poem, prevarication, printed matter, printout, production, reading matter, recension, romance, science fiction, screed, scrip, script, scrive, scroll, second draft, shocker, sick fancy, slight stretching, space fiction, space opera, story, suspense story, tale, tall story, tall tale, taradiddle, the written word, thick-coming fancies, thriller, transcript, transcription, trip, trumped-up story, typescript, untruth, vapor, version, vision, whim, whimsy, white lie, whodunit, wildest dreams, work, work of fiction, writing, yarn
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