Fiction: In the broadest sense of the word, any writing that represents imagined characters and occurrences rather than real ones. Defined more narrowly, fiction refers to prose narratives (specifically the short story and the novel), rather than to verse or nonnarrative prose.

The boundary between fiction and nonfiction is porous, as the movie Capote (2005) suggests by referencing Truman Capote’s description of his book In Cold Blood (1965), about the murder of a Kansas family, as “nonfiction fiction.” Autobiographical fiction, in which the author passes off as inventions events that actually occurred, and the historical novel, in which the author makes use of real people or events in an invented plot, are types of fiction that border on fact. Conversely, nonfictional works such as creative nonfiction and the nonfiction novel make extensive use of techniques associated with fiction. The term faction, a portmanteau word often credited to American writer Norman Mailer, refers to works that blur the boundary between fact and fiction. For example, Frances Sherwood’s Vindication (1993), which Sherwood characterized as a “biographical novel,” is a heavily researched but fictionalized account of the life of Mary Wollstonecraft, author of the groundbreaking work A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792).