Fiction is commonly broken down into a variety of genres: subsets of fiction, each differentiated by a particular unifying tone or style, narrative technique, media content, or popularly defined criterion.
Some works of fiction are slightly or greatly re-imagined based on some originally true story, or a reconstructed biography. Often, even when the fictional story is based on fact, there may be additions and subtractions from the true story to make it more interesting. An example is Tim O’Brien’s The Things they Carried, a series of short stories about the Vietnam War.
Types of literary fiction in prose include:
- Short story: A work of at least 2,000 words but under 7,500 words. The boundary between a long short story and a novella is vague.
- Novella: A work of at least 7,500 words but under 50,000 words. Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899) is an example of a novella.
- Novel: A work of 50,000 words or more.
The combination of inexpensive home computers, the Internet and the creativity of its users has led to new forms of fiction, such as interactive computer games or computer-generated comics. The Internet is also used for the development of blog fiction, where a story is delivered through a blog either as flash fiction or serial blog, and collaborative fiction, where a story is written sequentially by different authors, or the entire text can be revised by anyone using a wiki. The Internet has also had a major impact on the creation and distribution of fiction, calling into question the feasibility of copyright as a means to ensure royalties are paid to copyright holders. Also, digital libraries such as Project Gutenberg make public domain texts more readily available. Countless forums for fan fiction can be found online, where loyal followers of specific fictional realms create and distribute derivative stories.
Fiction has come to encompass imaginative storytelling in any format, including writings, live performances, comics, films, television programs, animations, games (most notably, video games and role-playing games), and so on. In its narrowest traditional usage, fiction denotes any literary narrative including novels, novellas, short stories, and plays.
Fiction’s traditional opposite is non-fiction, a narrative work whose creator assumes responsibility for presenting only the historical and factual truth. The distinction between fiction and non-fiction however can be unclear in some recent artistic and literary movements, such as postmodern literature.
Characters and events within a fictional work may even be set in their own context entirely separate from the known universe: an independent fictional universe. A work of fiction implies the inventive act of worldbuilding, so its audience does not typically expect it to be totally faithful to the real world in presenting only characters who are actual people or descriptions that are factually true. Instead, the context of fiction, generally understood as not adhering precisely to the real world, is more open to interpretation.