That is a cool word. The technical definition essentially states, that it is a work of fiction that the author alludes or draws attention to the work's status as an artifact.
To boil it down, it is fiction about fiction. Plain and simple.
Here are a few of my favorite examples (some may consider some of these spoilers, if you haven't read them yet, so be warned):
-A story within a story- Or in the case of Hamlet, a play within a play.
-Breaking the fourth wall- Classic Deadpool from Marvel Comics
-Characters becoming aware that their actions are being directed by a narrator- Stranger Than Fiction
-A character reading a book that becomes reality- The Neverending Story
-Characters meeting the author of their story- The Dark Tower
These are a very sparse example of metafiction techniques used in works of fiction, but average readers are usually remember the examples that bend the rules of the fictional universe and have the characters questioning the line between fiction and reality. It's those stories that I'd like to talk about today. My upcoming novel, Lighthouse at the Edge of Forever will incorporate metafictive techniques, so this is also a shameless plug for my next project.
Why do we love to read stories like this? What is it that draws us in and captivates us about these types of tales?
In his book Epic, John Eldredge talks about how humanity is drawn to fiction because we subconsciously we desire to be part of a greater story, we are all part of a great epic.
Pursuing that train of thought, I would ask, why in post modern literature, has the metafictive technique become more widespread? Especially the extreme cases in which the line between fiction and reality are bent. Why are we as readers and writers desiring to blend that line between reality and fiction.
I would like to springboard from Eldredge's concept and say that the same train of thought applies to metafiction. I believe that not only do we desire to be part of a greater story, I believe that deep down we know that we are part of a great epic. I believe the each of us knows subconsciously that we are a cog in the great narrative of the universe. I believe our desire to read about stories that bend the rules and break the fourth wall stem, from this knowledge that we exist in a story.
Now this all may just be a result of me taking too many Lit classes beating ideas into my addled brain or a result of my Christianity and my belief that the universe is a love letter to humanity, but I believe that this goes beyond beliefs and religions. I believe that metafiction is a result of a cry from the human heart. It is our desire to be part of the grand epic, the ultimate narrative.
We write and read metafiction because it taps into that part of our consciousness. The Collective Uncsiousness, as Carl Jung stated.
Like calls out to like. Art is imitating life. Or if you want to get really meta about it, just think that we are characters in a book and all the metafiction being written is just because that's the way we are being written.
Thanks for bearing with me through this.
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Oh and here's Keanu, as promised-