Module One: Fact & Fiction
This lesson seeks to identify the elements of fiction, especially that published by e-bshop whose aim is to produce quality, wholesome literature for a wide readership.
In this first module, we focus on the difference between fact and fiction. We look at the purpose of both types of communication and outline their similarities. We also see that there is a great deal of fact contained in fiction.
We are told that fact is stranger than fiction. This may well be true. The fiction writer is limited as he/she must be careful to make each incident credible. For example, coincidences should be used carefully. If two characters need to meet up, it is better that they have something in common which brings them both to the same place at the same time.
Much of what a novelist writes is from first-hand experience; therefore, a proportion of fiction is autobiographical. Although biography is completely factual, it should have the same impact as fiction and be subject to the same rules. When the word ‘fiction’ is used, understand this to include biography.
The course shows how fiction can be used as a media for teaching or the dissemination of ideologies (e.g. ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell) as well as having entertainment value. As part of this module, we assess the value of entertainment and identify its constructive aspects.
In view of the above, it is important that every fiction writer considers what thoughts, values, attitudes or assumptions are being conveyed by their work. To be able to convey sentiments, which are burning on the heart or to avoid those which could be considered detrimental, an author needs to understand how to communicate the attitudes, truths and values that are desired.
Fact and Fiction – Basic differences
Fact – informs
Fiction – entertains
Throughout a novel, fact and fiction are skilfully interwoven. However, due to its entertainment value and the fact that its construction originates in the mind of the author, the novel is classed as fiction and the facts can be moulded to the writer’s will. The questions below, are intended to stimulate thought and dialogue.
Comment on why you would read an article, report or a factual book. What would you expect to receive from it?
Explain why you would read a novel and what you would expect to gain from that.
Fiction can be used to teach
This teaching is never direct and therefore, has more potential for impact on the individual. The parables of Jesus are examples of fiction used in this way. Political points can be made in the form of fiction. ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell is an example of this.
Q.2) Choose either a parable of Jesus, or a novel, or short story which communicates teaching, political propaganda or ideology, then:
Identify the fictional element;
Identify how much of this was probably derived from a factual incident that the author had observed.
What does this fictional story/circumstance teach?
Requirements of entertainment:
Q.3) Are there any more benefits which can be gained from entertainment? Suggest others, assessing the value of each. How can fiction provide the reader with each of these aspects?
Q.4) The sentiment, expressed in the phrase, The pen is mightier than the sword, highlights the way in which writing can influence society. It is difficult to ascertain whether society can be moulded by popular fiction, or popular fiction reflects the values of society. However, it is certainly true that we influence our readers by what we write.
Comment on the following:
- What sort of attitudes might a person develop from modern fiction?
- What attitudes would you wish to communicate to your readers?
- How would you set about doing this?
Q.5) Choose a fictional book, by an author who sought to comment on the values of society or religion. Charles Dickens and C S Lewis are examples of such authors. Make a list of the social or spiritual comments they made.