What is Fiction and Non-Fiction

Mofizur Rahman

What is Fiction and Non-Fiction

Genres of Fiction and NON-Fiction (An Abc of English Literature)

Department of English Learn & Language
For English Literature Students & Teacher
What is Fiction and Non-Fiction, All About Fiction and NON-Fiction (Genres) An Abc of English Literature,


Definition of Fiction

Fictitious narratives in prose. It may be based on facts but narrated with the colour of imagination. It is different from factual reports. All novels and short stories fall under this genre. Fables, parables, fairy tales and folklore are not called fiction though there are fictional elements in each of them.


A fictitious prose narrative of a certain length (50,000 and above words). A novel tells an imaginary story about recognizable characters and their actions.In other words, the people and events in traditional novels are imitation of real human society.

The common elements found in a conventional novel are:-

  1. A fictitious story, often a fictitious love story;
  2. A plot(arrangement of the incidents according to the logic of cause and effect);
  3. Suspense or curiosity to know what happens next;
  4. Credible characters (some common human beings, not supernatural or superhuman beings);
  5. Setting in a place where the incidents of the story take place;
  6. Setting in time that changes with the progress of the story;
  7. A point of view or the voice of the narrator;
  8. Longer than short stories and usually shorter than romances;
  9. An illusion of a realistic society;
  10. A world vision;

A novel may be tragic or comic. It may be general or regional. It may be psychological or social. A novel may also be a picaresque novel or a gothic novel or an epistolary novel or a non-fiction novel or a novelette and the like.

Picaresque Novel

A novel that tells the story of a rascal or knave who moves from place to place for adventures and fights his evil antagonists. It is realistic in manner and satiric in aim. Cervantes' Don Quixote (1605) and Henry Fielding's Tom Jones are famous examples.


A kind of novel that focuses on the protagonist's growth from childhood to adulthood, and then to maturity. It traces the protagonist's quest for identity through psychological and moral crises. It is also called formation novel or education novel. The well-known examples of this kind of novel are: Charles Dickens' David Copperfield and Great Expectations; George Eliot's Mill on the Floss.

Kunstler roman

A kind of novel that portrays the growth of a novelist or any other kind of artist from a naïve stage to maturity. James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Youngman is an example of this kind of novel.

Gothic Novel

A form of prose narrative which comprises a medieval setting, wild and horrific incidents and mysterious occurrences. Clara Reeve's Old English Baron is an example. Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights and Dickens' Great Expectations have gothic elements.

Epistolary Novel

A novel in the form of letters. The narrative of this type of novel is carried forward by letters written by one or more of the characters of that novel. Richardson's Pamela is an example.

Regional Novel

A novel that depicts in its plot the customs, dialects and ways of life of a specific rural region. A novelist who writes regional novels chooses a particular fictional region for the settings of all of his novels.

For examples R. K. Narayan's novels are set in “Malgudi”, Thomas Hardy's novels are set in “Wessex” and William Faulkner's novels are located in “Yoknapatawpha County”.

Non-fiction Novel

A novel based on real characters and events. It is journalistic intone and lacks the touches of imagination generally found in other types of novels. Truman Capote's In Cold Blood is an example.


A short novel usually of thirty to forty thousand words. It is shorter than a novel but longer than a short story. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad and George Orwell's Animal Farm are best examples' of this genre.

Short Story

A short fictional narrative in prose (of about six to ten thousand words) that can be read in one sitting. It starts abruptly, rises to a climax and ends suddenly with a sense of incompleteness. The incident in it is invented instead of being an account of an event that actually happened. Short stories are also called short-fiction.

Elements of a short story:-

  1. Fictional narrative in prose;
  2. Short in length (can be read in one sitting);
  3. A single setting;
  4. A single plot aiming at a single effect;
  5. A central character; there may be a few supporting characters;
  6. A single theme;
  7. Covers a short period of time;
  8. Begins suddenly;
  9. Ends with a powerful suggestion;

Maugham's “Luncheon” and O' Henry's “Gift of the Magi” exemplify all these features. Among the short story writers, Guy de Maupassant, Rudyard Kipling, D. H. Lawrence, Charles Dickens, George Orwell, O' Henry. (William Sydney Porter),

James Joyce, Catherine Mansfield, Herman Melville, Saki: (H. H. Munro), Mark Twain (Samuel. Langhorne Clemens), Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allen Poe are well-known.


A short account of an incident usually used within a narrative to illustrate, a point or highlight a truth. It is used as a digression from the main story. An anecdote may be historical or biographical or fictional.



A short composition in prose which analyses a subject often to make a view point for general people. It differs from a short story because a short story is fictitious while an essay is an analytical presentation of something real. Examples: Orwell's “Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool”; Bertrand Russell's “Future of Mankind”, etc.


An argumentative writing in prose on a controversial issue of a particular time. It is written to favour a side of the controversy and suggest a solution. Milton's Areopagitica is an example of it.



A very short, allegorical story of animal characters which teaches a moral for human beings. Aesop's fables are best examples. Here is one:

The Greedy Dog

A greedy dog went into a butcher's shop and stole a big juicy bone. He ran away so fast that the butcher could not catch him. He ran out into the fields with the bone. He was going to eat it all by himself. He came to a stream. There was a narrow bridge across it. The dog walked on to the bridge, and looked into the water. He could see his own shadow in the water. He thought it was another dog with a big bone in his month. The greedy dog thought the bone in the water was much bigger than the one he had stolen from the butcher. The greedy dog dropped the bone from his mouth. It fell into the water and was lost. He jumped into the water to snatch the bigger bone from the other dog. The greedy dog jumped into the water with a high splash. He looked everywhere but he could not see the other dog. His shadow had gone. The silly dog went home hungry. He lost the bone and got nothing because he had been greedy.


A parable is an allegorical story of human characters which teaches a religious moral. There are several famous parables in the Bible. Here is one:-

A Religious Moral Story or Example of Parable

'The kingdom of Heaven is like this. There was once a landowner who went out early one morning to hire labourers for his vineyard; and after agreeing to pay them the usual day's wage he sent them off to work. Going out three hours later he saw some more men standing idle in the market-place. “Go and join the other in the vineyard, ”he said, “and I will pay you a fair wage”; so off they went. At midday he went out again, and at three in the afternoon, and made the same arrangement as before. An hour before sunset he went out and found another group standing there; so he said to them, 

“Why are you standings about like this all day with nothing to do?” “Because no one has hired' us”, they replied; so he told them, “Go and join the others in the vineyard”. When evening fell, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, “Call the Laboure's and give them their pay, beginning with those who came last and ending with the first.” Those who had started work an hour before sunset came forward, and were paid the full day's wage. When it was the turn of the men who had but come first, they expected something extra, were paid the same amount as the others. As they took it, they grumbled at their employer:

“These. late-comers have done only one hour's work, yet you have put them on a level with us, who have sweated the whole day long in the blazing sun!” The owner turned to one of them and said, “My friend, I am not being unfair to you. You agreed on the usual wage for the day, did you not? Take your pay and go home. I choose to pay the last man the same as you. Surely I am free to do what I like with my own money. Why be jealous because I am kind?” Thus will the last be first, and the first last.' (Matthew:20) This parable teaches God's supremacy and His ways to man.


A form of medieval narrative in which a brave and chivalric knight moves from place to place in search of extravagant adventures and finally wins the favour of a courtly lady. It may be in verse or in prose. Sir Thomas Malory's Morte d' Arthur is a famous romance in prose. Sir Gawain and the Greek Knight by an anonymous writer is a romance in verse.


A literary attack on the follies and vices of an individual or a society with a view to correcting them through laughter and ridicule. It may be in prose or in verse. It is of two kinds: formal (direct) and informal (indirect).

A formal or direct satire is one which is not mixed with other genres. It may again be of two types: Horatian and Juvenalian. The mild and sophisticated literary attacks are Horatian satire and the severe, indignant attacks are Juvenalian satire.

An indirect or informal satire is presented in the form of another genre. It may be presented in the form of an allegory as Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel which is known as satiric allegory. It may be satiric epic (or mock-epic) as Pope's Rape of the Lock.

Thus, it may be satiric comedy as Ben Jonson's Volpone and Alchemist; satiric travelogue as Swift's Gulliver's Travels; satiric novel as Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and George Orwell's Animal Farm; satiric verse as Eliot's Waste Land and satiric essay as Addison's essays.


A literary form in which one story is told in the guise of another story. In other words, an allegory is a story of double meanings. Its author comments upon some persons or events of his age under disguised names. It may be both in prose and in verse. Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress is a well known allegory in prose which deals with Christian notion of a soul's salvation. Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel is a political allegory in verse that uses names of Biblical personages and events to mean the political situation of his time.


A story about a semi-god human figure. In it the writer focuses on the greatness of a human being though some supernatural beings may be involved in it. Beowulf, King Arthur, Faust and Robin Hood are the great legendary figures.


An ancient story about gods and goddesses and their mysterious activities. In myths there may be human characters but the main characters must be supernatural beings.


Myths are collectively called mythology. The Greek mythology, the Roman mythology, the Egyptian mythology and the Indian mythology are well-known.

what is fiction and, what is fiction and, what is fiction and, what is fiction and, what is fiction and, what is fiction and, what is fiction and, what is fiction and, what is fiction and

Post a Comment


Post a Comment (0)

#buttons=(Ok, Go it!) #days=(20)

Our website uses cookies to enhance your experience. Learn More
Ok, Go it!