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Where Does Fiction End and Fantasy Begin?

Updated on March 27, 2015

Born from a Mailbag Question

I recently received a question for my Mailbag series from a friend named Brad. Let me share that question with you.

“We talked about this subject several times before, but it keeps popping up . The subject is credibility of scenarios in the police and basically the good guy versus bad guy stories.

Most people can suspend reality in the storyline to enjoy the total picture. I have always had this problem.

Question, Am I supposed to ignore reality in scripts?

I understand that these are stories, but they should also relate to the real odds of these events synchronizing to the story. What are the real odds that this could actually happen?

It is one things if the genre allows for dispensing reality, but another things when this is not a parody on real life.

My wife, the reader, really likes the TV show Blacklist. I like the start James Spader, and his character, but I think that the script was written by college students during a Frat party.

It is not just one or two impossible sequences of events but most of the ones in the show. It happens episode after episode.

I know that you don't watch much TV, but I am sure this kind of writing is also found in fiction books. I also understand the irony of my question when applied to "Fictions", but fiction shouldn't mean fantasy. It should for the stories that could be real, just change the names and the events to protect the innocent.”

What a great observation and question, so much so that it deserves an article…so here it is.

Without a doubt my first novel was a fantasy
Without a doubt my first novel was a fantasy | Source

Let’s Begin with Two Definitions

Before we can discuss fiction and fantasy in literature, it seems to me we really need good definitions of both.

Fiction is described by Merriam-Webster as “written stories about people and events that are not real. Literature that tells stores which are imagined by the writer. Something that is not true.”

Fantasy, meanwhile, is defined by Merriam-Webster as “something that is produced by the imagination…an idea about doing something that is far removed from normal reality. A book, movie, etc., that tells a story about things that happen in an imaginary world.”

Even to the most casual observer, it should be apparent that there is overlap in these two definitions. The main difference, it seems to me, is that fantasy is “far removed from normal reality” whereas fiction is considered simply not real but still not far removed.

Are you confused yet?

If so, I think you can now appreciate Brad’s question.

Let’s look at a couple examples of literary fiction that really border on fantasy.

The lines are a little blurred with my second novel
The lines are a little blurred with my second novel | Source

FICTION

I have mentioned before that I am a HUGE fan of James Lee Burke. I don’t think there is a better writer alive today in the mystery genre of fiction. His depictions of scenes are exquisite. His characters seems real to me. They are frail and yet strong, flawed and yet so likeable. His main character, Dave Robicheaux, is a man I would love to meet in person but at the same time he would terrify me. Dave’s best friend, Clete Purcell, has a heart the size of Louisiana and yet he is close to being a sociopath.

So far so good. The characters are fictional and yet they are close enough to reality to keep us from floating into fantasy.

But then the stories unfold and we have a problem.

These two characters, one a cop and one an ex-cop, solve problems by creating havoc. They are fully capable of taking a sawed-off shotgun and killing bad guys on the streets of Louisiana, and they manage to do so without ever being punished. How is that possible? It seems to me that this fits under the category of “far removed from normal reality,” and yet it is classified as fiction.

How about “Moby Dick,” or “The Old Man and the Sea?” Are those not far removed from normal reality?

The Other End of the Spectrum

And then we have “To Kill A Mockingbird.” It would seem to me that this is as close to reality as we can get in fiction. Yes, the story is fictional, but it could have easily been a non-fiction book as it accurately depicts life in a small Southern town during the Great Depression.

Or we could look at the works of Bruce Catton, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of a Civil War trilogy that was so accurate as to make you feel you were on the battlefields of Bull Run and Antietam. That trilogy was described as historical fiction, but in fact it was 90% history and 10% fiction.

Back to Brad’s Observation and Question

So, should fiction ignore reality?

I don’t know if it should, Brad, but I think in most cases it does, and I can think of only one reason why it does…..because it sells….and it sells because people want to suspend and escape reality for a few hours.

And that’s a topic for another day!

I understand where Brad is coming from. He’s a black and white, by the numbers, embrace reality kind of guy. Unfortunately, fiction suspends all of that and makes it hard for guys like Brad to enjoy a fictional book, tv show or movie. I have no problem with it and in fact I much prefer to write fiction.

The aspect of Brad’s question that I found interesting, though, and the aspect I still don’t have an answer for, is what distinguishes fiction from fantasy? How can the Lee Child series of books about Jack Reacher be considered fiction when they are every bit as “far removed from reality” as the Superman books, which are fantasy?

I don’t have an answer?

Classifying my third novel leaves me in a fog
Classifying my third novel leaves me in a fog | Source

Practical Application for Writers

This would all be just an interesting intellectual exercise except for the fact that writers who produce novels must, at some point, decide what classification to give to their books. Is their novel a general fiction? Is it a fantasy? Is it a suspense book or a thriller? Is it mainstream?

These questions will drive you nuts if you let them.

My latest novel, “Shadows Kill,” could easily fall under the category of suspense, but it is also a thriller and yes, it is also a mystery. What do I call it when it comes time to query agents and publishers? The answer to that question is fairly important. Some agents only handle mysteries and won’t touch a thriller. Some only handle general fiction and not suspense novels.

See where I’m going with this one? If I pick the wrong genre I may be greatly hurting my chances of getting published, so I better pick correctly. Even in the world of self-publishing, an author must make this decision before downloading the manuscript onto Amazon.

Sorry, Brad

I have no definitive answer for you, and yet I suspect your question is pretty damned important.

The only thing I know with any certainty is that I love being a writer of fiction. I’m reminded of John Denver’s song “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.” In my case, the song title would be “Thank God I’m a Fiction Writer.” I’ll leave it to others to decide whether my fiction is fantasy.

2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

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    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Mm, yes, this really is a tough one. When pushing a book it could be crucial...knowing what heading it should be under! Thanks for that food for thought!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You are welcome, Jackie, and thanks for being here. Sorry I don't have a definitive answer for you.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 2 years ago from Central Florida

      I prefer fiction over non-fiction when I read for pleasure. My mother's the opposite. I guess she's much like Brad in that respect.

      This week's Guide to Literary Agents' newsletter addresses the subject of genre, as defined by literary agents. If anyone's interested, here's the link: http://writersinthestormblog.com/2015/03/book-genr...

      These days there are so many sub-genres, it's hard to tell where a fiction novel fits. Can a novel be marketed in more than one genre?

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sha, it is suggested that it not be, and for the life of me, I don't know why they make that suggestion. I would think they would want to know the most accurate description of a book before considering it, but what the hell do I know? LOL Have a great weekend and thank you.

    • Iris Draak profile image

      Cristen Iris 2 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      Awesome article and I will tweet it. This is really, really important stuff for commercial writers. We've got to know our genre. We've also got to know where our genre overlaps with others so we can sell our work to multiple audiences AND we have to be able to make a case for how it fits into each.

      On the fiction/fantasy thing. I think of fiction as life-like and fantasy as dream-like.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Cristen, you are probably as close as anyone with your definitions of fantasy and fiction. The genres are a tough call, one I struggle with on each book I write. Thank you my wise friend and have a superb weekend.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      As for fantasy v fiction, I would say that fantasy covers things we wouldn't be able to do or see in our real world but fiction covers what could happen in our world (even if it's illegal or immoral).

      Your other categories (thriller, suspense, mystery), to my mind, would include a predominance of one above the others - too simplistic? Probably!

      Great discussion of the question which makes us think carefully about what we produce or wish to produce.

      Have a great Friday and a great weekend, bill!

      Ann :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Ann. Your explanation is as good as anything I can come up with. I hope you have a fun-filled weekend, as will I, and I'll talk to you again soon.

      Bill

    • mpropp profile image

      Melissa Propp 2 years ago from Minnesota

      Very interesting question...and I don't have an answer either, but I do have an observation. My oldest son is an avid reader, loves fantasy and dystopian novels. My youngest son, on the other hand, doesn't want to have anything to do with fantasy. He says he prefers "realistic fiction". I don't know if that is an official genre category, but if it is--then I think that Brad would be a fan!

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Awesome hub narrating the features and qualities of fiction and fantasy genres of writing. Both seem to be related to each other as both of them involve imagination and creation of characters and incidents from writer's creativity.

      Voted up and awesome.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Melissa! It really is an interesting question. "Moby Dick" is considered fiction but I swear, could it be closer to fantasy? And I do agree with Brad that at times I wish authors didn't feel the need to stray so far away from reality. A well-written book does not need flares and whistles to get my attention.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Very true, Venkatachari M...thanks for sharing your thoughts, and I agree with you.

      Have a nice weekend, my friend.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      A good fantasy story doesn't just contain unreal elements. It must contain a logically consistent world. it must answer the question "what if the world was like this?" Plus there has to be a good story with good characters and a good plot. It can not just be about the fantastical elements, the themes must relate to our real lives.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      I think the definition is somewhat in the eyes of the beholder. I know how I define these terms, but others might be different,

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 2 years ago from Southern Illinois

      It's difficult for me to differentiate between fiction and fantasy. I guess fiction is a story written in the mind while fantasy is make-believe, which is the same thing!! I'm confusing myself. If you understand this comment I'd be surprised. lol

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Very important issues for all fiction writers. And, need to be reconsidered regularly. Thanks for the the great discussion! ;-)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Interesting, Catherine. Thanks for your perspective on it. Much-appreciated.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      And I agree with you, Larry. Now, do our interpretations match those of agents and publishers? That's the bigger question writers have to be aware of. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ruby, I am quite concerned, because I understood what you were saying. LOL Thanks and have a great weekend.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 2 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Hee......................

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 2 years ago from New York, New York

      Bill, I know it is late for me, but have been working on a deadline all day and just wanted to pop in before I take a break for tonight. Love that you said that you just don't have an answer, because sometimes we just don't have an answer for this and more. Have a great rest of you day and a wonderful weekend, too! ;)

    • Sparklea profile image

      Sparklea 2 years ago from Upstate New York

      Hi dear friend Billy Buc:

      This is an excellent 'ponder' hub!

      I have always thought that fiction contains made-up characters in situations that COULD happen in real life. The movie-goer that I am, many of the fiction movies are 'based on true life events.' I also suspect that many authors of fiction include stories of circumstances they have personally experienced (although kept from the reader).

      Although I consider fantasy books to be in the category of Cinderella, Snow White, and movies such as Guardians Of The Galaxy and The Avengers series (I LOVE Avenger movies) I couldn't help but notice that mpropp mentioned her son loved fantasy and dystopian novels (dystopian meaning an imaginary society where people often live dehumanized and fearful lives). Since I practically LIVE at Barnes & Noble I have noticed an increase of dystopian novels. I am personally hooked on the Divergent series: Divergent, Insurgent and Allegiant. Insurgent is playing at theatres right now. (I have seen both movies and Allegiant comes out next March) The excellent author, Veronica Roth, writes in the first person and her story is riveting.

      All this being said, I would personally categorize Shadows Kill as a thriller. I LOVE that you are writing this series in the first person, and I love Eli's character. I see this book as a thriller because, for the most part, I was on the edge of my seat, throughout the whole book.

      This is just a thought: Whatever genre you pick when you introduce your book to an agent in your query letter, mention the category you think it falls under, for example, 'thriller.' I would suspect that whoever reads your novel and is eager to represent you, could or might say to you, "I love the book but I suggest you categorize it as 'suspense.'

      But since you only can pick one, just start with one.

      NOT telling you want to do! It is just a thought, but I feel in my heart that whoever you send your manuscript to, will not just be able to read the first page, they will continue on and on. I know I did.

      God bless, Sparklea :)

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks for this. I just recently learned how VERY important it is to classify your novel correctly with a webinar. I thought mine was romance, but it's not. It's women's fiction. It has romance IN it, but it is not the main story arc.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      Friend Bill, I am a very avid reader of fantasy, which has become its own genre. Fiction is the figment of someone’s imagination, but it can overlap with fact, as in historical fiction or even biographical fiction. There are many kinds of fiction, including, but not limited to, mysteries, thrillers, action adventure, science fiction, and good ole every day stories. Fantasy is the figment of someone’s imagination, but it is other-worldly. It brings in the esoteric, good or evil. Today’s fantasy is a spinoff from science fiction, which usually contains more technology than mind over matter. It can be totally other-worldly or it can be incorporated into a fiction story. In other words, these genres can overlap, and thus lead to confusion.

      I think people misuse the word “fantasize”. Children may tell an untruth, and their parents accuse them of fantasizing, when the word should be “fabricating”, although a child’s imaginary friend would be “fantasizing”. I have never watched “Blacklist” so I could not say whether it contained fantasy. Good examples of fantasies include “Dominion” and “Legion” for adults and “The Little Mermaid”, “Beauty and the Beast” for children, and Harry Potter for all the above. Hope this helps because fantasy is near and dear to me heart.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Bill, it is for a fact. This genre question will come back time and time again for any serious writer. Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I thought you'd like that, Ruby. :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Janine! I appreciate you taking the time to visit even though you are busy. Have a great weekend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Lea, thank you as always for your thoughts. Actually, and I'm not sure why, suspense/thriller go together under genres. There is much I don't understand about genres, but I do know that most agents and publishers list those two as one as though they are the same thing. Again, no clue why that is.

      I certainly hope you are right about "Shadows Kill." I'll be done with the final draft in two weeks and then the letters start going out. Cross your fingers.

      Blessings always

      Bill

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for sharing that, Rebecca. I can see why you would think what you thought...tough call for sure. The also have "general fiction" and "mainstream," and I'll be darned if I can tell the difference between the two.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      MizB, this is just one of those times where I sit back and listen to everyone else tell me the answer. LOL I just think it's an interesting topic for discussion. Personally, I think most of the private eye fiction novels I read are fantasy. :) But what do I know?

      Have a great weekend, as will I.

    • Anna Haven profile image

      Anna Haven 2 years ago from Scotland

      Interesting question and hub. Fiction could be but isn't real. Fantasy isn't and couldn't be real, as viewed within the realms of our society's understanding of reality. Maybe? :)

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      Interesting question Bill. Enjoyed the discussion. Never really thought about but I can certainly see now how fiction and fantasy cross paths. Have a great weekend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Anna, your explanation is as good as any I've heard. Thanks for playing along with my idle pondering.

    • profile image

      DJ Anderson 2 years ago

      First, I have to say that I was halfway through the TED Talk before I realized he was not talking about Elvis. I thought they had finally found him, alive and well, singing in some dive bar down in Key West. Greatly

      disappointed!

      Next, I feel the need to defend "The Blacklist" simply because James Spader can do no wrong. Anyone should have learned that from watching "Boston Legal" which aired from '04 to '08. Repeat after me;

      James Spader can do NO wrong.

      My husband was highly trained in his career. Nothing turns him away faster from a movie or TV show than to have the basics wrongly presented. On that same note, I find it hard to believe that this same man can watch re-runs of Green Acres and laugh his ass off at Arnold the Pig, the 'son' of Fred and Doris Ziffel.

      Brad presented a very good question, but I don't see where that had anything to do with Elvis or Arnold the Pig. Really, Bill?

      You should not mislead your readers. :-)

      And, she's back..........

      DJ.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Bill! I don't think there is any definitive answer, but it was fun to pose the question. :) Enjoy your weekend, my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      DJ, I'm howling. Welcome back, wherever you've been. I've missed your serious comments. You'll have to excuse me for cutting this short. I need to go to the ER and have my ribs checked. Seems I laughed too hard at your snappy remarks.

      James Spader? Who is he?????

      Have a great weekend, DJ!

    • Michael-Milec profile image

      Michael-Milec 2 years ago

      Hello Bill.

      They appears to me without distinctive line between an end or beginning. Both of them germinate at actual existing objectivity. The one takes direction closer following real dream's potentiality helping readers to fly occasionally touching surface below; the other exceeding a dream's capability of being true, yet cleverly implementing author's imagination takes readers soaring short distance maintaining sense of reality .

      Unimaginable haw effective is your help spreading my wings ; (stupefying) I will be back ...

      Voted up and interesting.

      Have blessed weekend my friend.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Going by my experience as an English student, librarian, and antiquarian bookseller, my understanding is that all in classifying prose stories, all fantasy is fiction and some fiction is fantasy. Fantasy as a contemporary book marketing genre is another matter. Works that I would shelve as fantasy -- ALICE IN WONDERLAND, GULLIVER'S TRAVELS, WIND IN THE WILLOWS, LE MORTE D'ARTHUR, DANDELION WINE, THE CIRCUS OF DR. LAO, etc., given a realistic fiction or fantasy fiction option, mostly would not fit into the fantasy genre, I don't think. And then there is magic realism.

      Something interesting about realism is that sometimes readers accept as real something conceived in a writer's fantasy and reject as implausible historical truth. My brother John discovered that when writing his civil war books and miniseries. Garp's insight re "the world according to" is magnified when comparing how reality is viewed in different historical periods. So, in both fiction and theater, for achieving realism, what counts is the illusion of reality, not whether what is described or shown is really real. What counts in fantasy is a consistent "reality" within that fantasy universe.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      Some of the most unbelievable things that occur are, in fact, real. A there certainly is a blending.

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 2 years ago from australia

      This is certainly confusing - I'm not much into fantasy genre although I recently read, Alice in Wonderland and pondered on the caterpillar smoking his hookah and advising Alice to munch mushrooms, clearly halluciogenic, sorry of topic slightly.

      I'm thinking of fantasy as beyond reality, fiction as believable even though it stretches boundaries. Clearly, I have no idea.

      I also have problems with memoir and fiction - my attempt at memoir was boring so I elaborated and invented things. I suppose now it's fiction but on the whole it is fact, non fiction. I think you covered this in one of your mail bags. Some short stories I adapted from this did ok but only as memoir - albeit a lying one.

      I leave you totally confused and will now eat all the chocolate I had banned.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 2 years ago from london

      Well, Genres are financial tools, and would be geared to suit the market. Only last night I had an interpretation of the romantic poet vs the classical poet. This was more inclusive, and yet different from the one I had on Tuesday night.

      So they are all financial base. Some say that if you can imagine something, then it ultimately lies within the realm of possibility. Still, you will know that this won't put the money in your pocket. He he. I'm like you, Bill.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Well you say this hub is about writing? Seems to me as I float through my day that I stumble upon both genres both in myself and in others. If we could answer this question in the reality of our lives then maybe we could determine it in the world of writing.

    • profile image

      Michael Milec 2 years ago

      Wow. These three comments, ( B. Leekly, Flourish Anyway, travmay,) following Michael Milec's in essence are in agreement with his.

      As Ericdierker says ' if we could answer this questionin the reality of our lives then maybe we could determine it in the world of writing."

    • Old Poolman profile image

      Mike 2 years ago from Rural Arizona

      Bill - It is interesting that James Lee Burke is one of your favorite authors. Thanks to another hubber, I recently started reading his books and have to agree with you. His writing style is one to be truly admired and he is a master of the art.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Very true, Michael my friend. I love your description.

      Spread those wings and I'll see you on your next flight. :)

      blessings always

      Bill

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Perfectly stated, Brian. There is clarity in your description for sure. Thank you, sir! You taught the teacher something this morning and I am appreciative.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      My feelings exactly, Flourish! Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      LOL....Maj, you may have left me confused but also laughing loudly. Enjoy that chocolate. It is the perfect solution for confusing moments.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Manatita, money makes the world go round, or so they say, so I can live with your explanation. :) Have a great weekend, my friend, and thank you.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Oh, Eric, that may be the best comment yet. I love it. There have been quite a few days when I have thought I was living a fantasy life. Right on, my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Michael my friend, it is a wonderful feeling when people agree with us, isn't it? :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks, Mike, and welcome to the world of James Lee Burke. I think the man is amazing, and hopefully one day I'll grow up to be like him as a writer. :)

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 2 years ago from South Africa

      One of my novels was once rejected because it was too real - reality experienced by fictive characters.

      And here I am writing the very same thing again. Real life, real issues, real challenges, and only the characters are fictive, representing real people.

      So, what am I writing - a fictive biography?

      I think we should write what we want to write. Let the reader choose whatever they want to read. Personally I prefer biographies and historical novels. Like Leon Urus' novels about Israel, Palestine, Ireland, etc. And what about Shindler's List?

      So, I guess it is okay to write the truth when it belongs to the past, but not when it belongs to the present?

      Back to my suggestion - let the reader read what they want to read, and let the writer write what they want to write.

      Thought-provoking hub!

    • social thoughts profile image

      social thoughts 2 years ago from New Jersey

      I never thought a lot about the difference between fiction and fantasy, but I always felt they had the fine line you write about, here, and yet it blurs. What a great topic to discuss. I think a lot of us are like Brad. Some of us are hard to please because we're too stuck in reality. It's why I haven't been able to write fiction, without a pressing college class deadline, in years! I admire your ability to continue writing fiction!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is an interesting hub and analysis, Bill. Whenever I write fiction, it always turns into fantasy. Fantasy for me is something that is very different from our experience of life and is highly unlikely to ever happen. I don't consider the possibility to be zero, though, considering our lack of understanding of the nature of reality.

    • Sandra Eastman profile image

      Sandra Joy Eastman 2 years ago from Robbinsdale MN

      Bill enjoyed your hub as always. I have always taken the stance that life is actually stranger than fiction. When I wrote my memoir about my fight to win over my medical and emotional issue a great many people didn't actually believe it to be fact yet every word was just that. When I wrote the 4 part Rubies Saga now soon to completed one reviewer told me book one contained things that were too far fetched to have happened yet that first book in the series is actually based 80% complete truth.

      I then determined that fiction is somewhat based on facts but embellished to create a compelling story but when reference is made to historical places or events the book be accurate to prevent being caterized as fantasy. For example when writing Rubies with a Duluth Minnesota location I had to be very careful that the saga taking place in the 50's and the saga continuing into the 90's that the historical facts matched Duluth in each of those respective time slots. This made the fictional story seem real. If I had described Betty's Pies as it is today in a story placed in 1970 it would have been complete fantasy and noted as such from any reader..

      Well I've rambled on long enough so I'll end it here. When a fiction story is so well written that it becomes reality in the reader's mind then it is exceptional fiction whether it is based upon real people. Enjoy.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 2 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Book genres are a real issue when it comes to filling in ebook and book forms before uploading the files. Under fiction you have romance,historical,teen-fiction crime fiction....and so on. The same applies to the Fantasy genres. Then you have biographies and historical novels, science-fiction and medical fictional drama's. All made up by the author, but based on research or and personal experiences.

      My novels fall under visionary fiction, a very unknown genre, but I feel that often fiction can be more true that fact. I like to read adventure or a good science fiction drama, but now and then a good crime story can also be enjoyable. Nice hub.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 2 years ago from Northern California, USA

      This is interesting. I have to admit that in all of my life I have never contemplated the difference between fiction or fantasy. I now know there is a difference and can see how important it is for classification. I know a lot of the CSI-type shows are fiction, but parts of the show are clearly fantasy, especially some of the solutions they use to solve crimes.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Martie, I'll be laughing about that all week long. Rejected for being too real??? Well, I have now heard everything.

      Thanks for sharing that painful experience. :)

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Kailey! It really is a fascinating topic. I don't know if there is a definitive answer, but it's fun to think about. As for fiction....what can I tell you? I love creating. Non-fiction bores me to tears. :) I think I got my fill of it during college.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Alicia, nice thoughts on it. I like your angle and reflections. Thanks for sharing with us.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sandra, thank you for those examples, and you raise excellent points. I especially like and agree with your final statement....exceptional fiction for sure.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Nadine. It's always good to get the perspective of one who is in the publishing business. I appreciate that.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Exactly, Marlene, and I think that's a great example of why Brad has so much trouble with those shows and/or books. I enjoy fiction and I appreciate the fact that reality is being suspended, but I can see where Brad is coming from as well.

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      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      Well, Bill, it just depends on whether you are talking about fantacizing about something you wish might happen but you know it won't, like a date with Jennifer Anniston. That is a perfectly good use of the word as defined in the English language. One of my fantasies came true, I met and shook hands with a real astronaut. But I thought we were talking about the GENRE of fantasy. My fantasy of meeting an astronaut certainly would not meet the definition of fantasy in genre. That is different, and perhaps writers need to read up on the different genre's before they speculate, especially if they are going to go pro. Parts of CSI may be imagination, but they are not of the fantasy genre. I think people are getting these mixed up. Just trying to be helpful.

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      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Bill

      When I saw the question the other day I knew I'd have to look up the hub it was going to come up in. Why? I'm a fan of shows like "The Blacklist" for the simple reason that Brad is right it does seem like it's written by a College frat party!

      James Spader's character comes over as amoral, but at times I think there's a glimpse of a moral compass (though severely damaged) I love the escapism of the show.

      For me there are at least two types of fiction. The ones where reality is suspended (and how good it is rests solely on the writer) and those who take a real event and ask the question "What if"

      To me a classic writer in this area is Frederick Forsyth. His books are all based on stuff that was happening at the time asks the question "What if"

      A classic on this was his 1991 book called "Fist of God" That took the invasion of Kuwait and Saddam's quest for Nuclear technology and asked "what would happen if he actually developed the Bomb?"

      What makes good fiction to me isn't whether its real so much as how well written is the story?

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      MizB, this was written simply to discuss Brad's question....call it a forum if you will. I appreciate your input and you are right of course.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Lawrence, thank you for a great addition to the conversation. I found the definitions interesting. Strictly speaking, and taking the definitions literally, almost all fiction is fantasy. I agree with your observations.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      I suppose it is really. But fantasy tends to be where we leave reality behind and venture forward

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Lawrence....I guess it also depends on whether you have a literal or figurative definition of reality. :)

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      Personally I don't mind a smooth, seamless blend of fantasy with otherwise hard fiction. My favorite writer John Steinbeck was fond of doing this in several of his more whimsical novels, such as Cannery Row, my personal favorite. In this book a gopher was one of the characters, and there was some kind of strange apparition of an ancient Chinese man that would walk into and out of the sea on occasion, without explanation. Perhaps because I'm kind of a wingnut myself, I don't mind mixing in strange scenarios like this on occasion, but they must conform to certain rules and not be completely anachronistic. Great hub, and great food for thought.

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      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Your article whetted my appetite to know more about the difference. I like the article on differencebetween.net (Difference Between Fiction and Fantasy). You illustrate some of the points they make. Thanks for the lesson.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Mel, thanks for sharing your thoughts on fiction and fantasy. I admit, I've seen some pretty "far out" plots and at times I didn't mind them at all...but for the most part, I'm a pretty linear viewer.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Dora. I may never know the answer to this question, and perhaps that is all right that I don't.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Intriguing title, Bill, and subject. When a story or script is dependent on realism and too often departs from everyday life, the strain on credibility can flatten the entire story. But what is fiction versus fantasy? It’s an interesting question. I don’t watch a lot of television (too much junk) because we are asked to “suspend our credibility” far too often. Then, we become insulted as we ask ourselves if the creators assume all of their viewers have double-digit IQ’s. But this issue is at the far end of the spectrum. An excellent novel may find itself in the midst of trying to define itself, although I think your superb writing is fiction – not fantasy. Then again, more genre labels abound as you have pointed out: Is it a mystery or a thriller? In any event, as long as it is well-written, I’m there. :-)

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I am too, Genna. Thanks for your thoughts. It is an interesting question. i wouldn't even bother with it but it's crucial to pick the right genre when describing one's book to an agent or publisher.

      Anyway, I hope you had a wonderful Easter.

      Bill

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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      There can be a very fine line between fantasy and fiction. Of course if it is blatantly unreal, that is another story, but there are many odd things that DO happen. It is up to the individual to decide.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Very true, Deb. The only problem that arises is when we pitch the book to a publisher. Then we better choose fiction or fantasy and not sit on the fence about it.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 2 years ago

      I'm just very glad I don't have to make that decision with the things I write about! Interesting question.....

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Glimmer. It really only comes into play when querying agents and publishers.

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