This past week, the thing that stuck out the most of all the things that I had to do as an assignment, was to define fiction. Knowing my professor, I knew that it wasn't going to be a simple task, that most definitions weren't going to fit.
Most people, including Plato in his piece "Republic" divide literature into two categories: true and untrue, or fiction and nonfiction. However, this distinction doesn't really do us any good, because as I noted in my Critical Theories class, this is working under the pretense that there is such a thing as "true".
We could all read a nonfiction story, take it to be true, but we will never really know if it was or wasn't. Only the author will. Same goes for fiction. We could take any one of our favorite stories, and maybe the main character is real, but just holds a different name. We can never know.
So, then how do you go on to define these things? We were asked to write a 250 word response to that question, and I felt like I was just going in circles.
How could I not define the very thing that I wrote?
My stories are fiction. Some parts of them are true, but the whole isn't. But, does that really matter enough to define an entire genre?
I kept going back to believe that the definition of these two was just something created by publishers to help market. But, they also use the true and false definitions.
All of the wondering and frustration just lead me back to what I had always originally believed: that literature, all kinds of it is art.
And the definition of art is to convey a truth that had always been inexplicable before.
Because there really is no difference between fiction and nonfiction, besides our attitude towards it. Our expectations differ from when someone hands us a YA novel or a biography on Teddy Roosevelt. We expect different things. But, to our knowledge the YA book could be 100% true. Roosevelt's could be false.
All of art is just a recount of something that has happened, whether to the artist or not, and no one can have a 100% truthful memory of anything, because the second it happens, we react to it in only the way we can.
This is why my definition always suited me. Art is created to show a truth, any truth. It does not have to be intentional, because an author's or artist's or painter's intention does not matter. Because intention never matters. Only results do.
Whatever you take from a piece of art is your truth, and that is the definition of it. So, maybe there is no such thing as nonfiction, because we all lie a bit, most of all to ourselves. But, it doesn't matter in the end really, because even if those characters are fake, or they're real, or if they take you to some far away magical kingdom, you still closed that book having experienced something you never had before. You took some kind of truth away with it.
And, that is what really matters.