What is Faction?

What is Faction?

No, I did not misspell the word fiction.

Faction:  Webster

1: a party or group (as within a government) that is often contentious or self-seeking: clique

2: party spirit especially when marked by dissension.

I know, in literary terms, that tells the reader nothing.

Wikipedia, while not always the most reliable dictionary, often explains the definition of contemporary word usages that might not have become acceptable standards.

Faction: Wikipedia

  1:  Faction (literature), a type of historical novel rooted in fact.

A faction is a non-fiction novel.

The non-fiction novel is a literary genre which, broadly speaking, depicts real historical figures and actual events woven together with fictitious allegations and using the storytelling techniques of fiction. The non-fiction novel is an otherwise loosely defined and flexible genre. The genre is sometimes referred to as or faction, a portmanteau of “fact” and “fiction”.

Historical fiction, by definition, is a fictional story that is written about a time before the author’s birth.

All fiction, to some degree, is based on the author’s real life experiences as well as imagination and creativity. Fiction writers have often  been called the world’s greatest liars. 🙂 A non-fiction novel can be written about a historical event or real events in a person’s life or in the character’s lives. A non-fiction novel is less of a lie.

In the 1970s non-fiction novels were all the rage. Since the ’70s, the non-fiction novel has somewhat fallen out of favor. However, forms such as the extended essay, the memoir, and the biography (and autobiography) can explore similar territory.  I would like to see a resurgence in popularity of the non-fiction novel as I have always been fond of “true stories” and the storytelling experience.

Norman Mailer‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning Armies of the Night is perhaps the most critically appreciated non-fiction novel, a narrative which is split into a history and a novel, and which autobiographically recounts the March on the Pentagon in 1967 from the third person.

In contrast, Non-fiction (or nonfiction) is the form of any narrativeaccount, or other communicative work whose assertions and descriptions are understood to be empirically factual. Some non-fiction may include elements of unverified suppositiondeduction, or imagination for the purpose of smoothing out a narrative, but the inclusion of open falsehoods would discredit it as a work of non-fiction. Some fiction may include non-fictional elements

The first line of my novel’s dedications and disclaimers page causes people to do a double take.   This sentence states, “Inasmuch as this is a work of fiction based on a true story, references to real people, events, establishments, organizations or locales are intended only to provide the reader a sense of authenticity and are used fictitiously.”  How can it be fiction and be true?facebook-header6.jpg

My novel, Red Clay and Roses, is a non-fiction novel.  The novel is faction.  It is a fictional account of a true story.  It is not historical fiction, by definition, because much of it occurred after the time of my birth.  (Hey, I am not THAT old!)  It is; however, a historical account of a true story which is written in the style and manner of fiction.  Facts regarding what actually occurred have been imaginatively woven into the story.  The events in the story are true events and the people are real people.  Embellishments came in the form of dialog and additional narrative concerning people who are no longer living or people who were telling me about other people (ie. I could not ask them what they were thinking when this or that event occurred or how they would have reacted.  I only had the storyteller’s information as it was related to me either years ago or through a third party.)

It is not an essay, a memoir or an autobiography.  It is a story about the lives of real people during a time in history when the world was going through very dramatic changes.  During this time, blacks (or any people of color) and women in the South had much fewer opportunities and suffered serious oppressions.  Non-white men were seen as the enemy.  This was the general undertone, although there were individual exceptions. Unconstitutional laws were repealed, but it took society a long time to respect the new law and to enforce it due to generations of indoctrination.  In many ways, we still are not there yet.  Times were even more drastically different in the 1950-60s and early 1970s.

jim_crow2Photo credit: Mr. Nussbaum.com

Jim Crow Law not only allowed for discrimination, it encouraged the bigotry in society.  Blacks could not dine in the same restaurants as whites, drink from the same water fountains, utilize public transportation the same way, and attend white schools, or frequent public libraries or swimming pools. It was not simply discouraged for blacks and whites to mingle, it was against the law. It is difficult to imagine such times as these now.

Women were expected to be domestic, to stay home and cook, clean sew and serve.images (2)  Although WWII brought many women into the workforce, by the early fifties women were back into their traditional roles.  Men had little involvement in the actual child-rearing process. Women also carried the brunt of reproductive rights and responsibilities, as they do for the most part today, Orders to pay child support were not enforced.

The book is set in small town USA, in a very real place, where the events truly did occur.  The dialog and story narrative have been fabricated to some extent to allow for the fictional sense and feel of the read.  There are embellishments to the extent that much of the story was based on old interviews, the stories of a few people, and the diaries of one individual.Render 2

I don’t know if my mini research paper has clarified or confused the reader further, but it is the best explanation I can come up with for my literary work and its design.  The paperback with a slight revision of the first chapter will be available soon. ~ S. K. Nicholls

24 thoughts on “What is Faction?

  1. This reminds me of an article and essay writing class I had with Wendy Bishop in the early 1990s. We talked about whether a work could be solely fiction or solely fact. The word faction was new to us at the time, but it was intriguing because both of us were writing “nonfiction” stuff that had fictional elements as well as factual (i.e., nonfiction) elements. Recently I completed Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, a novel of natural realism. I wonder if it could also be described as “faction”: the plot is based on a true story as well as Dreiser’s own upbringing and the landscape is of a place I know very well. Lycurgus is a fictional town, but Fonda is not. It only happens to be the town across the river from where I went to high school. Part of the appeal of the novel (in my humble opinion) is that it seems so factual, like you are reading a true crime story, except so much of it is/has to be fictionalized. And I found these same similarities with your novel: a great deal of factual detail which adds to the story’s realism, but also the fictionalized parts (dialogues, etc.) which make it more of a story. This is all very intriguing, S.K. Very interesting post!

    • Thank you for your thoughtfulness. I really do enjoy stories that cite a lot of factual detail as well as real locations. I agree that adds so much more realism even to a fictional work and I don’t think authors do enough of it. I love Randy Wayne White and Carl Hiaasen. They make Florida seem like Florida really is.

  2. This was a great post. I love the way you applied well-researched info to your own book, which was also well-researched:>) If I ever heard the term faction used that way, I must have lost it in this soggy brain:>) Thank you for this.

      • I love research also. I was a college addict for many years, because I love learning new things. Just before Paul was diagnosed, I went back and got a cert for social services. I think grief did something to my brain though. I just can’t retain what I used to and my memory is shot. Maybe it is just age…

  3. This is a truly fine exposition, SK. Thus, I have come to the conclusion that my writing is faction too, a fictional account of a true story. The part of the definition I like writing most is the “embellishments,” which come out in inventive dialogues, some of which my sisters dispute. Ha!

    I look forward to the paperback version of Red Clay and Roses, a work of faction. Right!

    • That’s cute. Our sisters never quite viewed the world quite like we did. My older sister (even when I told the truth, usually on her) always called me a liar. I guess I got off to a good start on being a writer.

    • Thanks lady friend. Probably one of the reasons it doesn’t is because non-fictional novels were a 70s fad…lol….I’m hoping to change that 🙂 Maybe we can bring back bell bottoms and platform shoes.

        • I was on Amazon today and looking at categories. They don’t give you at KDP the same categories that Amazon uses to sell books. I think that is wrong. If they have a category to sell a book, it should also be available for the author to choose as a category for their work. Also, they only permit you to choose two categories. that really is limiting when you have a book that crosses genre. Key words for tags in search engines just aren’t the same exposure.

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