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Fiction is any narrative work in which the events that take place are imaginary. Anything that fits within the parameters of this definition can generally be a work of fiction, no matter the format or genre. For example, a fantasy book can be fiction, and the same goes for a science fiction movie. Characteristics of fiction vary, depending on personal opinion, but the usual elements different people will list are character, plot and point of view. Setting, style and theme are additional characteristics of fiction.
A character is a figure in the story who can take a major or minor role. Characterization, the method by which the author shows who a character is, reveals him or her to be either static or flat, or dynamic or rounded. The plot is the action, or sequence of events, that makes up the story; main elements of a typical plot include conflict, climax and resolution. Point of view refers to how the author tells the story and from whose perspective. For example, a story might be told by the main character using a first-person point of view or by a narrator using a third-person point of view.
The setting is the time, place and social environment in which the story unfolds; it is the setting that provides a background for the characters and the plot to develop. Style refers to how the author uses language to tell the story. The author’s choice of words, or diction, as well as how he uses those words, or syntax, make up the style of writing and, therefore, the tone of the story. The theme is the story’s main idea or meaning; in general, it is the message that comes from the story. The idea of a theme can sometimes be hard to grasp and does not necessarily refer to morals; in addition, it should not be confused with the story’s plot or subject matter.
As fundamental as these main characteristics of fiction are, it is important to understand that works of fiction are not bound by them. Since fiction is either partially or wholly imagined by its author, and many other fictional works do step outside the boundaries. In addition, the value of certain characteristics of fiction over others is subjective. An author who does not see the importance of setting within the context of his story, for example, might de-emphasize it in favor of other characteristics.