Reading Fiction Study Guide: GED Language Arts, Reading
Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:
What Is Fiction?
First, here are a few very general definitions to help you understand the different types or genres of literature. The word fiction refers to stories that are not literal accounts of factual incidents or people. History, for example, is different from fiction because a historical book describes real people and actual events—and does so as accurately and truthfully as possible.
Fiction, of course, might also be based upon actual events and real people. Mark Twain, for instance, wrote a novel about the life of Joan of Arc. She was a real person, and the major events in Twain's novel actually did take place. Yet the book is still a fictional account of Joan of Arc's life, because the author invented other characters and events and conversations that did not occur in real life.
Fiction is also generally written in prose. Prose refers to normal language; it is not poetry nor is it arranged the way that text is written in drama. We generally speak in prose; newspapers and magazines are written in prose; while poetry is written in lines and stanzas that may also rhyme and have meter. You will learn more about these things in a later chapter.
For now, it is enough to understand that fiction is an invented story that is written in prose—normal everyday language.
Types of Fiction
There are many different types of fiction, but for the purpose of the GED, you need concern yourself only with the largest overall definitions, such as novel and fable. There are, of course, many different types of novels—detective stories, gothic romances, humor, and so forth—but again, you do not need to worry about these finer points for your GED preparation.
Novels and Short Stories
Novels are prose stories that are long enough to fill an entire book. Short stories, on the other hand, are just that: shorter stories that might be anywhere from a few pages to 35 or so pages in length, but not long enough to fill an entire book.
Length is essentially the major difference between short stories and novels. An author can create similar stories, dealing with similar issues and creating similar characters, in either a short story or a longer novel. The only real difference is that, in a novel, the author has more time and space to develop ideas and characters and so forth than would be possible in a short story.
You will find excerpts from both novels and short stories on the GED, but for the purposes of the test, it will make little difference.
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