What is the Difference Between Fiction and Poetry

The main difference between fiction and poetry is that fiction is literature in the form of prose, which describes imaginary events and people whereas poetry is literature that uses aesthetic and often rhythmic qualities of language.

“Fiction” is literature born from the imagination of the writer: science fiction, fantasy, romance, fantasy, mysteries, crime thrillers, etc. In poetry, language, meaning, sound and rhythm are all used by poets to bring out an imaginative awareness of experience or a particular emotional response.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Fiction  
     – Definition, Features, Types
2. What is Poetry
     – Definition, Features, Types
3. Similarities Between Fiction and Poetry
     – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Fiction and Poetry
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Fiction, Poetry

Difference Between Fiction and Poetry - Comparison Summary

What is Fiction

Generally, fiction is born as a result of an author’s imagination. Fiction consists of a story, characters, a plot or storyline, dialogues, and a setting. A fictional work usually exposes the readers to experiences which they might never experience firsthand in their real life and let them meet different types of people they might never otherwise come across and allows them to visit places they may never visit physically otherwise. In brief, fiction helps the reader to perceive the world and life in different, new, and more interesting ways.

Fiction vs Poetry

We can categorize fiction into three main categories: short stories, novellas, and novels. As stated by a well-known short story writer Edgar Allan Poe, a short story is a piece of writing that can be read in one sitting. Due to the limited length of a short story, it usually focuses on a single principal plot or a storyline with a limited number of characters. In contrast, novellas are longer in length in comparison to short stories and typically include a relatively complex plot and more characters. In addition, a novel is a work of fiction that is even more complex than a novella, as a novel frequently includes more than a single plot and more well-developed characters.

What is Poetry

Poetry is a variety of literature that includes the interplay of rhythm and language. Poetry quite often deals with rhyme and meter. There are many genres of poetry that have developed over decades: Romantic poetry, War poetry, Performance poetry, Odes, Ballads, etc. However, no matter which genre you come across, all these categories have some common features: in poetry, words are usually placed together to form sounds, imagery, and ideas that would be too complicated or abstract to bring out directly. Therefore, the language of a poet is most often ambiguous and is full of poetic techniques.

Compare Fiction and Poetry

Centuries back, especially during the Elizabethan and Augustan periods, poetry was written following strict rules of meter and rhyme and in a language that was above the comprehension of the common man.  Although these classical forms of poetry are still in practice today, modern poets have adapted their poetry into more simple structures and use less complex language styles, making poetry more accessible to the common man.

In brief, poets try to make their work unique and beautiful through rhythmic quality and through the employment of words. Fiction, in contrast to poetry, runs without line breaks or rhythm.

Similarities Between Fiction and Poetry

  • Fiction and poetry are important parts of any literature
  • Both allow the reader to live experiences that he or she cannot come across firsthand in the real life.

Difference Between Fiction and Poetry


Fiction is literature in the form of prose, which describes imaginary events and people whereas poetry is literature that uses aesthetic and often rhythmic qualities of language.


Moreover, fiction mainly involves prose while poetry involves poetic language.


Poetry uses meter and rhythm while fiction does not involve meter and rhythm.


The three main genres of fiction are short fiction, novella, and novel whereas there are many genres of poetry.


The main difference between fiction and poetry is that poetry uses rhythmic qualities of language while fiction does not. However, whether it is fiction or poetry, if you are a great fan of literature, you cannot help but enjoy both.


1. “Poetry 101: Learn about Poetry, Different Types of Poems, and Poetic Devices with Examples.” MasterClass.
2. Bloom, Ester. “Fiction vs. Literature.” Barnes & Noble Reads, Barnes & Noble Reads, 12 Feb. 2014.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Book, poem, poetry, read, paper, text, library, books, poems, publication” (CC0) via Pxfuel
2. “Books on a Shelf” (CC0) via Pxhere

About the Author: Anuradha

Anuradha has a BA degree in English, French, and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Master's degree in Teaching English Literature in a Second Language Context. Her areas of interests include Arts and Literature, Language and Education, Nature and Animals, Cultures and Civilizations, Food, and Fashion.

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