Fiction, to me, is something that is always changing. I don’t see it as having a specific definition. How can anyone lock down something so broad to just a few simple words? (Unless you want to define it as “something someone made up”.)
I’ve always envisioned fiction as glass. Sometimes it’s clear, sometimes it’s smoked, or mirrored, or a one-way mirror. Other times it magnifies things, bringing us closer to them, and other times it pulls us back – further away from what we’re looking at – and gives us perspective. It can be stained, coloured, polarized (or polarizing, as good books often are), or even warped – playing tricks on our eyes and minds. Put enough energy into it and you can shape it anyway you want. And like a piece of blown glass, no two pieces of fiction are exactly the same (barring complete and total plagiarism).
Basically, it is a window, or lens, through which we can view the world. The best part though, it’s not just our world. It can show us worlds that don’t exist, that will never exist, and also those that no longer exist. Past, present, future, real or imagined, fiction takes us to places we may not normally and get to see and introduces us to characters we would never meet. And what of those characters? They can be anyone or anything. We immerse ourselves into their lives – as a viewer, participant or even as the character themselves.
And they are no different from ourselves. Sure they may not be human, they may have superpowers or a destiny to save/destroy the world, they may be ultra-sauve spies or damaged anti-heroes. But they have our strengths, our flaws, our weaknesses and vulnerabilities. They share our happiness, our sorrows, even our dreams. They are a window into our own lives, a mirror for us to reflect upon. A powerful piece of fiction can change a person’s life.
And if not, it looks good on a shelf and gives us a break from our lives, if only for a little while.