If you’re not sure what meta-fiction is, I’ll boil it down for you. Simply put, meta-fiction is any story that is aware of itself, or of the role of fiction. Maybe that wasn’t very clear. Let me try some examples to better clarify:
A story about a writer writing a story
A story within a story
A self-aware story (or character that is aware that he/she is a character within a story).
A fictional autobiography
Tim O’Brien does this quite a bit, to great success. You can see several stories that fit these descriptions in his collected short stories, The Things They Carried, considered one of the greatest Vietnam books written. But your meta-fiction stories need not be world-changers.
Think of the movie Stranger than Fiction with Will Ferrell. In it, he plays a character who audibly hears the voice of his narrator. Much of the movie hinges on the trite cliché, “Little did he know,” which, in itself, makes a story quasi-meta-fiction.
In Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut goes so far as to put himself into his fictional story, all the while referring to himself as the writer. He even has a Doberman Pinscher chase him over a fence.
Can you think of any other examples of meta-fiction? How might you use meta-fiction in your work? Can you imagine writing a story about a character who refuses to do what the author demands? Or how about a character writing a story about you, the author? Never mind—don’t think too long about that one. I may have to use it.