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What is fiction? Some exploration


Fiction is any literary narrative in the form of prose or verse. Fiction is a process of invention
rather than being an explanation of events that actually happened. Fiction denotes an
agglomeration of narratives which are written in prose and sometimes used synonymously
for novel.

Literary prose narratives are the ones where biographical, historical and contemporary facts
are referred and defined as – “fictional biography”, “historical or nonfiction novel”. Literary
critics and philosophers have always explored the truth value of a fiction. They have tried to
engage themselves in a special world created by an author. The world can be also analogous
to the real world but it has its own settings, beings and mode of coherence. Often, fiction is
seen as a form of emotive language.

Fictional sentences are meaningful according to the rules of ordinary, nonfictional discourse:
however it follows the conventions mentioned by an author and readers of a work of fiction.
Fictions are not necessarily assertions of facts. Hence they need not be subject to the
criterion of truth and falsity which applies to sentences in a nonfictional discourse. The
speech act theory suggests that a fictional writer only pretends to make assertions about
what he or she or anybody asserts to be true. The concept of fictive utterances include
genres of literature like – poems, dramas and narratives. A novel is made up of fictional
utterances. Modern critics of prose fiction create distinctions between fictional scenes,
persons, events and dialogues that any narrator describes about their own assertions of the
world. The assertions of the narrator have to be explicit. Assertions and claims by Tolstoy at
the end of War and Peace are often implied, inferable from the control of fictional
characters and plots of the narrative. These are often assertions of the author and seem to
be true about the world and tries to relate to the moral world of actual experience. These
assertions can also be linked to the belief systems of the reader. It is also linked to the moral
experience, interpretation and acceptability of the reader. Belief systems in fiction can be
explored through S.T. Coleridge’s description of reader’s attitude as a – “Willing Suspension
of disbelief”.

Review of exploration of theories dealing with the criterion of truth in fiction can be traced
back to Monroe C. Beardsley’s work. Jacques Derrida and his followers criticised the notion
of truth in a fiction by saying that the binary notion of “truth and false” in a fiction is one of
the metaphysical presuppositions of Western Thoughts. Relationship of fiction to the real
world is also being explored by Peter Lamarque, Stein Haugom Olsen. Catherine Gallagher
explores the concept of fiction in the larger literary history. All of these explorations
question the Western binary presuppositions of fiction as true and false and presents a
multifarious world within the binaries of true and false.

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