What Makes Fiction “Fiction?”

Posted by on Oct 7, 2013 | 0 comments

I meet many people who have reached a point in their lives where they can no longer keep their inner fiction writer trapped inside. Despite decades of more or less normal existence, they are driven to finally try their hand at creating a story and, if possible, to get it published.

I get so immersed in my work as a writer and an editor that I sometimes forget that not everyone knows the difference between fiction and non-fiction.


So for anyone who scratches their head over that distinction, here it is:


A fictional story is about imaginary people, places or events. Novels and short stories are works of fiction.

A non-fiction book is about real people, places or events. Biographies and textbooks are examples of non-fiction books.


Aspects of a novel might seem real (indeed, the best writing of any sort tends to be believable) or it might be “based on a true story.” Writers of fiction often spend countless hours researching the era in which they are setting their book, or the landscape in which the story unfolds. But the details of the story itself are invented.

We can get very technical describing the various parts of a novel and I’ve never been big on technicalities. If you’re writing a novel yourself, you will probably want to become familiar with a few terms, however, so you have a handle on what you’re doing. When I wrote my first novel, Shades of Teale, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing: I jumped in and wrote the thing and had agonies of repair work to do after. This was all well and good but that might be part of the reason it took me 13 years to complete.


Let’s save you some time, shall we, and look at what goes into a novel:


Plot is the unfolding of what happens in a novel and it usually revolves around what the character(s) do, say and think. There needs to be action in a novel in order to keep your readers engaged in your story. Your plot, sometimes referred to as your storyline, needs to unfold in a logical, orderly way so your readers don’t get confused and put the book down in favour of other, more interesting activities like dusting the blinds or folding the laundry. Your plot has a beginning, a middle and an ending, and there may be lots of detours on the road between each point. Typically a character takes action, which is then followed by an emotional reaction and then a response. 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 summary.


I’ll have more to say on the topic in my next blog. But in the meantime, have you started a novel? Would you like some help completing or editing it? I invite you to visit my business website to see some of the ways I work with authors and if you see something there that resonates with you, please get in touch!

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