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What is metafiction?

Metafiction is a literary style that invites readers to step into a world where the lines between reality and fiction blur. In this self-conscious narrative approach, the narrator and characters are keenly aware of their existence within a work of fiction. As a result, metafiction often departs from traditional storytelling conventions, offering a unique reading experience that prompts introspection about the nature of storytelling itself.


Breaking the fourth wall

 Metafiction boldly shatters the fourth wall that typically separates the creator of a story from its audience. This literary technique involves direct interactions with the reader, with the narrator or characters openly acknowledging their role in a fictional world. This blurring of boundaries invites readers to question the authenticity of the narrative and their own position within it.


A hallmark of metafiction is its self-reflexivity. Authors employ this technique to draw attention away from the storyline and toward the very process of storytelling. By doing so, they encourage readers to contemplate the construction of the text itself. This self-awareness can manifest in various ways, from characters questioning the nature of their existence to authors commenting on their creative process within the narrative.


• The Canterbury Tales (1387) by Geoffrey Chaucer is an early example of metafiction, using interconnected stories to parody conventional fiction elements. He addresses the audience directly, adding a metafictional layer to the narrative.

• Don Quixote (1605) by Miguel de Cervantes explores the relationship between fiction and reality as the protagonist, Don Quixote, embarks on a quest influenced by his reading. The book invites readers to reflect on the impact of stories on our lives.

Metafiction also appears in children’s literature. Here are a few examples:

The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales (1992) by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by Lane Smith: This picture book playfully twists classic fairy tales, with characters interacting and the narrator intervening for humour and self-awareness.

• We Are in a Book! (2010) by Mo Willems: Part of the Elephant & Piggie series, this book features characters realising they’re in a book, engaging in a humorous, metafictional conversation that introduces young readers to interactive storytelling.

Through humour, wordplay, and interactive elements, such books make reading an engaging and thought-provoking experience.

Picture Credit: Google

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