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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Fiction or Non Fiction?

   
Author Topic: Fiction or Non Fiction?
Josh Leone
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A.
I write an essay about cloning. Not about the tech of cloning, but rather an essay on the spiritual and philosophical aspects of cloning. I site mainly my own opinion on the matter and the point of the essay is to ask the questions and make people think of their own answers. Aside from a few quotes from various scientists there are no “hard facts” involved.

B.
I write a short story about a cult that clones Jesus (I didn’t, but it’s been done a lot. Tech is only a very minor part of the story. Most of the story is about the more abstract aspects of cloning someone like Jesus. ). I toss in a few quotes from real life scientists to add to the realism, but like most SciFi, the tech I use is mostly unproven.

Now here’s the thing. I actually did write A and it was considered Non-Fiction. I know for a fact that B, if I did write it, would be considered fiction. Can anyone tell me why they aren’t BOTH fiction?

Josh Leone
www.JoshLeone.com


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mikemunsil
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quote:
A.
I write an essay about cloning. Not about the tech of cloning, but rather an essay on the spiritual and philosophical aspects of cloning. I site mainly my own opinion on the matter and the point of the essay is to ask the questions and make people think of their own answers. Aside from a few quotes from various scientists there are no “hard facts” involved.

This is classic creative non-fiction.

Although you included your own opinions, the focus of the essay was to '...ask the questions and make people think of their own answers.'

It qualifies because the intent was to educate, and the vehicle used was the creative expression of your own opinion which, once expressed, is a fact and not fiction. That you have opined is a fact, although your opinion may not necessarily be 'true and correct'.

quote:
B.
I write a short story about a cult that clones Jesus (I didn’t, but it’s been done a lot. Tech is only a very minor part of the story. Most of the story is about the more abstract aspects of cloning someone like Jesus. ). I toss in a few quotes from real life scientists to add to the realism, but like most SciFi, the tech I use is mostly unproven.

This is fiction. It is fiction because the 'facts' that are used are speculative, and, like all fiction it makes use of enough reality to inspire the willing suspension of disbelief. However, the intent is to speculate and entertain, not to teach. It is genre writing because of the use of unproven technology as a central device.

See The Art of Creative Nonfiction : Writing and Selling the Literature of Reality, by Lee Gutkind http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0471113565/qid=1112060293/sr=2-1/ref=pd_ka_b_2_1/103-7025643-1431000 for more information on n on-fiction, creative non-fiction and the differences between them and fiction.

mm


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MaryRobinette
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Gee. I would have thought it was a simple as saying, "One's a story; it's got a plot."

[This message has been edited by MaryRobinette (edited March 28, 2005).]


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ScottMiller
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Mary: You beat me to my answer. Now I'm doubly clueless; I can't come up with the educational answer or the glib, witty one-liner. Rats.

Well, er, one's non-fiction because, despite relying on personal opinion, it doesn't have any made-up incidents in it, as B obviously does.

Oh, I give up. Where's a corner I can sit in? Just hand me the dunce hat and I'll be fine.


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Josh Leone
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They both have plot. They are both basically made up.
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Jeraliey
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plot =/= made-up stuff. (Ignore scope difficulties; you know what I mean.)

[This message has been edited by Jeraliey (edited March 29, 2005).]


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mikemunsil
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quote:
Gee. I would have thought it was a simple as saying, "One's a story; it's got a plot."

I'm practicing to get paid by the word.


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wbriggs
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A story is a narrative about things happening that didn't really happen. John went here, did that, such-and-such followed. If John didn't do these things, or John doesn't exist, it's fiction. Best answer I can come up with.
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Survivor
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I think that case A could only be considered fiction if you attributed authorship to a fictional person. Even if you cited a lot of "facts" that weren't actually true, and lied about your own opinions and the opinions of other people, that wouldn't qualify it as "fiction" as opposed to "non-fiction".

Not all fiction is narrative, though that touches on a strong element of how we define it. And most certainly, it isn't as though the presence of a plotline or narrative structure prevents writing from being considered as "non-fiction".

The key distinction ia that in the case of "non-fiction" you claim that you are being truthful in your statements and the publisher and readers are will regard any untrue statement on your part as a simple lie rather than a "fiction". Please note, the claim must be made by the actual author, not a fictionalized version of that author which only exists in the text itself.

If you notice something legalistic about this definition, that's because the legal distinction between fiction and non-fiction is the only important distinction. The overlap between the art of writing a fictional work and a non-fictional work is much more substantial than the differences.


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Josh Leone
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I did some freelance work for a music PR company and what I saw there was that the labels placed on creative work are pretty much just for the stores and radio stations. I suppose it's pretty much the same with writing. I just never liked neat little labels. Everything is so catagorized and sub-catagorized and sub-sub-catagorized that it takes some of the fun out of it.

Josh Leone

[This message has been edited by Josh Leone (edited March 30, 2005).]


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Pyre Dynasty
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Like Survivor said, (OR at least I think this is what he said.) A is Non-Fic because you are a real person and your opinion is real.

Plus it's all in what you said, Non-Fic is called an essay and Fic is called a story. If you wrote an essay about cloning Jesus it would be non-fic despite it's trueness.


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Robyn_Hood
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Taken from Dictionary.com:
quote:
fic·tion ( P ) Pronunciation Key (fkshn)
n.

1. An imaginative creation or a pretense that does not represent actuality but has been invented.

2. The act of inventing such a creation or pretense.
A lie.

3a. A literary work whose content is produced by the imagination and is not necessarily based on fact.

3b. The category of literature comprising works of this kind, including novels and short stories.

4. Law. Something untrue that is intentionally represented as true by the narrator.


So fiction is anything that is made up and non-fiction is the opposite.

You can write an essay from a completely made-up POV and it would be fiction, just as you can write something like an autobiography which is in story form but still non-fiction.


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teddyrux
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Generally, an opinion piece is considered non-fiction, unless you specifically state that you made up/lied about your opinions. Why would you do that? Opinion piece = non-fiction.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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I remember being informed by someone that an article I had written about STAR WARS could not be nonfiction because STAR WARS isn't true.

I just said "thank you," and changed the subject.


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