If we look at the common definitions of “Fiction”, we find:
1. A literary work based on the imagination and not necessarily on fact
2. A deliberately false or improbable account
3. The creation of something in the mind
If we venture into the history of the word “Fiction”, we find meanings like: “something invented”, “dissimulation, ruse, invention”, “to shape, form, devise, feign”, and, ultimately, “to knead, form out of clay”.
The meaning of words depends, to a certain degree, on their history: #3 above is similar to “forming out of clay” but #2 is like “dissimulation, ruse”.
How do we decide which meaning of a word is the right one?
Where the word is used, or its context, is a strong determinant of what it means.
So is writing fiction all about just making things up?
Is there any need to adhere to reality when creating fiction?
Can fictional writing convey truth?
There was a man, important in American letters, who was an inspiration for Henry Thoreau and Walt Whitman.
That man was Ralph Waldo Emerson and it was said of him: “…the brilliant genius of Emerson rose in the winter nights, and hung over Boston, drawing the eyes of ingenuous young people to look up to that great new start, a beauty and a mystery, which charmed for the moment, while it gave also perennial inspiration, as it led them forward along new paths, and towards new hopes.”
Emerson didn’t write fiction but I think his statement about it might help resolve some of those definitions up there:
“Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.”
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