Fiction vs. Fantasy — What's the Difference?
By Tayyaba Rehman — Updated on October 27, 2023
Fiction is imaginative storytelling not constrained by reality, while fantasy specifically involves supernatural or magical elements.
Difference Between Fiction and Fantasy
Table of Contents
Fiction is a broad literary genre encompassing any work of narrative literature that is created from the imagination, rather than based strictly on history or fact. Fantasy, on the other hand, is a subgenre of fiction that delves into supernatural, magical, or otherworldly elements.
While all fantasy is fiction, not all fiction is fantasy. Fiction can span a variety of genres, including realism, historical, science fiction, and more, with stories grounded in a variety of settings. Fantasy specifically introduces elements that are impossible or unexplainable within the known laws of the universe.
The realm of fiction is vast and can include anything from mundane, everyday life to exaggerated and improbable scenarios. Fantasy, by contrast, actively incorporates mythical creatures, magical powers, or other fantastical elements, creating a universe where the extraordinary is possible.
Fiction, as a whole, allows for a wide spectrum of creativity, from stories that closely mimic real life to those that bend the rules of reality. Fantasy, in its essence, requires a departure from reality, creating worlds and situations that defy logical explanation.
In summary, while fiction represents the broader category of imaginative storytelling, fantasy specifies a genre where magic and the supernatural are central to the plot, setting, or characters.
Narrative based on imagination, not reality.
Subgenre of fiction with magical elements.
Can be realistic or imaginative.
Involves supernatural or otherworldly elements.
Any, including real-world locations.
Often in imaginary worlds or alternate realities.
Limited by human experience and reality.
No limits, embraces the impossible.
Includes many genres (e.g., mystery, romance).
A distinct genre focusing on magic and myth.
Compare with Definitions
Any creative writing, especially novels or short stories, not based on actual events.
She won an award for her outstanding work in fiction.
A genre of fiction involving magical or supernatural elements.
The fantasy novel featured dragons and wizards.
A literary work whose content is produced by the imagination.
The book club's focus this month is on contemporary fiction.
Fiction characterized by imaginative and otherworldly settings or characters.
Her favorite fantasy stories include mystical creatures.
A narrative form that tells stories not grounded in fact.
His fiction is known for its complex characters and plots.
Fictional works that often feature mythical beings and enchantments.
She is renowned for her contributions to fantasy literature.
Literature created from the imagination, not presented as fact.
Her fiction often blurs the line between reality and fantasy.
Fantasy is a genre of speculative fiction set in a fictional universe, often inspired by real world myth and folklore. Its roots are in oral traditions, which then became fantasy literature and drama.
Imaginative prose about people, events, or places that are not real.
The novel's fictional town felt incredibly lifelike.
The faculty or activity of imagining impossible or improbable things
His researches had moved into the realms of fantasy
A fantasy world
Fiction is any creative work (chiefly, any narrative work) consisting of people, events, or places that are imaginary—in other words, not based strictly on history or fact. In its most narrow usage, fiction refers to written narratives in prose and often specifically novels, though also novellas and short stories.
Literature in the form of prose, especially novels, that describes imaginary events and people.
Imagine the occurrence of; fantasize about
It is ludicrous to fantasy ‘disinventing’ the hydrogen bomb
Something that is invented or untrue
They were supposed to be keeping up the fiction that they were happily married
The creative imagination; unrestrained fancy.
The category of literature, drama, film, or other creative work whose content is imagined and is not necessarily based on fact.
Something, such as an invention, that is a creation of the fancy.
Works in this category
The fiction of Virginia Woolf.
A capricious or fantastic idea; a conceit.
A work within this category
The shorter fictions of Faulkner.
A genre of fiction or other artistic work characterized by fanciful or supernatural elements.
Narrative, explanatory material, or belief that is not true or has been imagined or fabricated
The notion that he was at the scene of the crime is pure fiction.
A work of this genre.
A narrative, explanation, or belief that may seem true but is false or fabricated
"Neutrality is a fiction in an unneutral world" (Howard Zinn).
An imagined event or sequence of mental images, such as a daydream, usually fulfilling a wish or psychological need.
(Law) A verbal contrivance that is in some sense inaccurate but that accomplishes a purpose, as in the treatment of husband and wife as one person or a corporation as an entity.
An unrealistic or improbable supposition.
(literature) Literary type using invented or imaginative writing, instead of real facts, usually written as prose.
I am a great reader of fiction.
The fiction section of the library
(Music) See fantasia.
A verbal or written account that is not based on actual events (often intended to mislead).
The company’s accounts contained a number of blatant fictions.
The butler’s account of the crime was pure fiction.
Separate the fact from the fiction
A coin issued especially by a questionable authority and not intended for use as currency.
(legal) A legal fiction.
(Obsolete) A hallucination.
The act of feigning, inventing, or imagining; as, by a mere fiction of the mind.
Relating to or being a game in which participants act as owners of imaginary sports teams whose personnel consists of actual players selected from a professional sports league and team performance is determined by the combined statistics of the players.
That which is feigned, invented, or imagined; especially, a feigned or invented story, whether oral or written. Hence: A story told in order to deceive; a fabrication; - opposed to fact, or reality.
The fiction of those golden apples kept by a dragon.
When it could no longer be denied that her flight had been voluntary, numerous fictions were invented to account for it.
To imagine; visualize.
Fictitious literature; comprehensively, all works of imagination; specifically, novels and romances.
The office of fiction as a vehicle of instruction and moral elevation has been recognized by most if not all great educators.
That which comes from one's imagination.
An assumption of a possible thing as a fact, irrespective of the question of its truth.
(literature) The literary genre generally dealing with themes of magic and the supernatural, imaginary worlds and creatures, etc.
Any like assumption made for convenience, as for passing more rapidly over what is not disputed, and arriving at points really at issue.
A fantastical design.
A literary work based on the imagination and not necessarily on fact
(slang) The drug gamma-hydroxybutyric acid.
A deliberately false or improbable account
To fantasize (about).
(obsolete) To have a fancy for; to be pleased with; to like.
(transitive) To imagine; to conceive mentally.
Fancy; imagination; especially, a whimsical or fanciful conception; a vagary of the imagination; whim; caprice; humor.
Is not this something more than fantasy ?
A thousand fantasiesBegin to throng into my memory.
Embroidered with fantasies and flourishes of gold thread.
To have a fancy for; to be pleased with; to like; to fancy.
Which he doth most fantasy.
Imagination unrestricted by reality;
A schoolgirl fantasy
Fiction with a large amount of fantasy in it;
She made a lot of money writing romantic fantasies
Something many people believe that is false;
They have the illusion that I am very wealthy
Literature that creates worlds and events beyond the bounds of reality.
His latest fantasy book explores a universe where time travel is possible.
A type of fiction where magic is a primary element of plot, theme, or setting.
The film adapted from the fantasy series was visually stunning.
Can fiction be based on real events?
Yes, fiction can be inspired by real events but is ultimately a product of imagination.
Are science fiction and fantasy the same?
No, they are different genres. Science fiction often involves technology and the future, while fantasy typically involves magic and mythical elements.
Is fantasy always set in imaginary worlds?
Often, but not always. Fantasy elements can also exist in the real world.
What is fiction?
Fiction is literature based on imagination and not necessarily on fact.
Is fantasy limited to literature?
No, fantasy extends to movies, TV shows, games, and other media.
Are all novels considered fiction?
Yes, novels are a form of fiction, though they can contain factual elements.
Are fairy tales considered fantasy?
Yes, they typically include magical elements, which categorize them as fantasy.
Can fiction have a moral or lesson?
Absolutely, many fictional works convey themes, morals, or lessons.
Can a story be both fiction and fantasy?
Yes, all fantasy is fiction, but not all fiction is fantasy.
Do fictional works always include made-up characters?
Usually, but they can also include real people in imagined scenarios.
What is fantasy?
Fantasy is a genre of fiction that involves magical or supernatural elements.
Can fantasy include elements of other genres?
Yes, fantasy can blend with genres like romance, horror, or mystery.
Is world-building important in fantasy?
Yes, creating a convincing and immersive world is often key in fantasy storytelling.
How is fiction different from non-fiction?
Fiction is created from imagination, while non-fiction is based on facts and reality.
Do fantasy stories always have happy endings?
Not necessarily, fantasy stories can have a range of endings, from happy to tragic.
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Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.