Metafiction is fiction in which the author consciously intrudes on the work of fiction and draws attention to himself and the fact that what you are reading is a work of art, artifice, and is, therefore…you guessed it, artificial.
Examples Of Metafiction
Some more contemporary examples include Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude which makes use of metafiction in a number of ways such as Gabriel García Márquez himself appearing as a character in the novel.
The novel, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, by Italo Calvino starts out with the sentence “You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler”. Obviously informing the reader that he is reading a metafictional or self referential work.
The narrator introduces himself and says he’s involved in a plot that he doesn’t understand and, just as things get interesting, the story is derailed due to an error with the book’s printing.
The story, not that story but a new story, continues with you, the reader, returning to the bookstore where you bought it.
As the novel progresses one story cuts off abruptly and becomes another story until you, the reader, go to the book’s publisher demanding an explanation.
In a nutshell, because you want to draw attention to the nature of reality.
For example, you might mention that reality is stranger than fiction and that, if you were characters in a book, no one would believe you in a conversation with friends. This is a common enough occurrence and I’m sure you’ve had this type of conversation before.
However, if a character in a novel makes mention of this, it takes on a whole other dimension as now the characters know they are characters in a novel. What does this say about us and our reality?
Schrödinger’s Cat is the name of a very famous thought experiment by the physicist Erwin Schrödinger. In it a cat is imagined as being enclosed in a box and, depending on the circumstances of the experiment, the cat is either dead or alive.
I won’t bore you with the details but, if you don’t believe me, Erwin Schrödinger won the Nobel Prize. So take your complaints up with the folks in Sweden.
In Robert Anton Wilson’s Novel Schrödinger’s Cat he uses this concept to talk about a society similar to ours. Here the Alpha males of the society are referred to as Alpha males(rather than generals, politicians etc).
They are portrayed performing their social duties as Alpha males of the pack rather than generals, politicians and other titles that our reality gives to the Alpha males of the pack.
In this way we are able to see our reality in a whole new light. It is a way that just telling a story traditionally would not have allowed us to.
So use this technique when you want to question the very nature of this thing we call reality, just like a fish might use it to question a substance called water that may or may not exist.