How to Differentiate between Fantasy and Fiction


In this article, we will describe how to differentiate between fantasy and fiction. Often, we think of the two ideas to be the same. However, both these concepts are distinct from each other. During the initial reading, the two concepts seem quite similar. But these are actually two different words having entirely different meanings. We might often confuse fiction and fantasy with one another since they relate to a non-truth concept. At times, the readers might even believe fiction due to its unique characteristics. However, fantasy is often not believed to be true.

How to differentiate between fantasy and fiction
Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

The two differ in their nature-based on certain concepts. For instance, if a person talks about fairies, wizards, or the dragons, these concepts shall relate to fantasy. In contrast to this, when one talks about aliens, this shall relate to fiction.

The two ideas which we often confuse to be identical have been described in detail below so as to clear the ambiguity between them.


Fiction belongs to both art and literature. An ordinary or usual meaning of fiction which we can sometimes even find in the dictionary defines it in terms of, “An invented narrative” or “Something based on imagination”. Fictional work includes novels, films, plays and stories. It demands imagination and creative abilities.

Fiction relates to the concept of pretence. It makes the readers believe that whatever has been written by the writer is true. However, for this, the audience should understand the intentions of the writer and ‘pretend’ that it is true. In the case of fictional work, a concept which is not known, such as that of aliens, it is still treated as a thing that should be believed or understood.


For example, in the novel, “Kite Runner” by Khaled Hussaini, the reader would cry when Hassan is shot dead. The readers may even feel dejected while reaching the end of the novel where the rivals brutally beat Amir. These aspects of fictional works affect the insights or emotions of the readers. Thus, provoking them to react to whatever happens in a certain piece of fictional work.

The fiction involves our part of imagination. For instance, a fictional novel such as “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen which is not true, still the readers believe it to be true. Thus, we can say that fiction is comparatively true as compared to fantasy. This is because fiction usually relates to things which make sense. For example, time-travelling or super-intelligent robots come under fictional concepts. But, to think that animals would interact with humans in their language is a fantasy. Therefore, the closeness of fiction to facts makes it most likely to be true. Although, it is not.

So, now that you know what fiction is, let us take a look at fantasy and see how to differentiate between the two.


The concept of fantasy is based on a mystical, in other words, the supernatural, magical, or mythical worlds. It describes an ideal world which may or may not be possible, unlike the fictional world.

Although fantasy is not believed to be true, the unknown elements such as fairies or princesses are to be cherished. These unknown elements are applauded due to their strange, yet unique nature.

Fantasy is often speculated. And we can say that fantasy arose to popularity due to oral narrations. This mostly happened during the medieval era. It was such a time when logic and science were not so common among the people. It usually includes works that relate to ancient myths and legends.


The two concepts are greatly disparate from each other. For instance, fantasy includes characters possessing unbelievable supernatural powers, such as we have either watched or read in the Harry Potter series. It also involves the solution of problems or conflicts by merely the magical powers. Which people do not actually believe because they cannot relate to such concepts.

Fantasy escapes reality. It narrates stories, plays or dramas which are not based on reality. Although fiction too does not relate to reality, however, it portrays the ideas in a logical manner which makes the readers believe it.


Both concepts differ based on their setting as well. Often, fantasy relates to something in the past, such as wizards or the dragons. Since most of the characteristics of fantasy relate to a previous timeline, it is often that we consider unknown past events to be fantasies. In contrary, fiction includes concepts which may or may not relate to the past, but they can be applied in future. Such as events or stories related to space or other forms of life like aliens.

Where fiction utilizes a more scientific or analytical discourse, fantasy is different. Unlike fiction, fantasy does not focus on technology. Nor does it provide any logical grounds or descriptions for us to believe it as true in nature. In contrast, fiction characterizes the world as it might end up being one day.

So, this is how we can differentiate between fantasy and fiction. Check out this article about the difference between a novel and novella.

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