What’s the deal with fiction vs nonfiction? In technical terms, fiction is cultivated by the imagination and nonfiction is plucked from facts. Where the seeds of fiction can drop out of the sky or rise up from the earth or plop into our laps off the back of a buzzing bee, the seeds of nonfiction are blown in by the current of our experiences. And, that’s where things get interesting. I’ll tell you what I mean…
Fiction vs Nonfiction :: Where do they Intersect?
Fiction vs. Nonfiction 01 :: Memory is Unreliable
When you think of fiction vs nonfiction you have to consider that there’s a certain degree of imagination in the recounting of our lives. Can you truly rely on the accuracy of your memory? The way you remember an event or a scent can be entirely opposite to the way another remembers that exact same thing. We all have an inner compass that directs us through right and wrong, but the way we navigate between the two differs greatly not only from each other, but inwardly within ourselves from season to season. Truth is variable.
“A typical biography relying upon individuals’ notorious memories and the anecdotes they’ve invented contains a high degree of fiction, yet is considered ‘nonfiction.’” – Joyce Carol Oates
Fiction vs. Nonfiction 02 :: We Tell Our Emotional Truths
Think of fiction vs nonfiction as a sliding scale of truth. Where research and journalism are at one end, science fiction and fantasy are at the other. Fiction vs nonfiction meet in the middle, somewhere between memoir and literary fiction.
When we tell the stories of our lives through memoir we’re not just relating the provable facts, we’re articulating our emotional truths. Since when were all our emotions logical and verifiable? Sometimes to convey an important emotional truth we have to exaggerate the verifiable truth. That’s not to say that we’re lying, it’s to say that we’re highlighting the strongest, most important truth. Similarly, in the telling of literary fiction, we are telling a larger truth about the human experience, which brings me to my final point.
Fiction vs. Nonfiction 03 :: It’s all Based on the Human Experience
Everything we write is based on the human experience. Fiction vs nonfiction, it doesn’t matter, you can’t escape telling a broad human truth. Try, I dare you. Someone somewhere will find meaning in your work. So what does that mean for fiction vs nonfiction? It simply means there’s a bit of both in everything we write.
What do you think? Where does fiction vs nonfiction intersect?