Why do we love fiction? What is it about a colorful picture on a front page with a thought provoking title that beckons us closer? Why is it that I can open a book only to put it down hours later and though I had not moved an inch, feel as if I was a world away? The fact is, that for anyone with an even slightly engaging imagination, fiction holds the power to captivate us in a unique way that nothing else really can. So, why do we love fiction?
All week I have been running this seemingly simple question through my mind, there are many different answers and many well-known people who give them. Although, there is one answer I keep coming back to. One conclusion that leaves more satisfaction than the rest. It is this, we love fiction because we see ourselves through it. Fiction is like looking into a mirror. Through it, you see yourself as everything you have ever hoped you would become, doing everything you have dreamed you would do. A journey through a magical land full of dragons or a spaceship soaring through the nebula is not fascinating because it is so remote, so distant, so alien, no. It is so captivating not because it is so far away, but because it is so close.
This is only one reason, and there are more, which I will get to. But for now, let’s probe a little deeper. When you fall in love with a good fictitious account how do you act? How do you think? Do you find yourself emulating the central character in any ways? Do you find yourself wishing to be the central character in any ways? I should think so, for it is that way with me. One of my favorite trilogies is the Staff and Sword. In this epic quest, a young man is taken from a drunken sluggard and transformed into the savior of a kingdom. The author, Patrick W. Carr, takes a broken individual and redeems him by surrounding him with role models who show him the path to freedom. This young man learns how to wield a staff as a lethal weapon during these books and I found that after reading them I could just imagine swinging a staff the way he did. I had seen more than just a good story. I had seen myself in the story.
After spending a good week contemplating this supposedly simple question and digesting the various views presented in comment sections on hill country websites I have compiled some key observations which I will share now.
Fiction is an Escape:
This one is probably the biggest one I have ever heard, and the most well-known and understood reason. We run to fiction to escape the problems of our life. Our world is confusing, and frustrating, we need fiction because it offers clarity. I once heard (and agree) that no one will ever want to read a story that doesn’t make sense, not because it is too unrealistic, but because it is too realistic. That is, it is too similar to real life. This brings me to my second point.
Fiction makes sense:
In a world that seldom does, human beings need something that does. I would even go so far as to argue that a key ingredient of the very essence that we call fiction lies within the very fact that there is always resolution. We always get to know why life is so. Certainly, every good story will leave unanswered questions. To reveal all is to rob the reader of the mystery that makes a story good, and that is a terrible crime to commit. But if get to the end of a story and still don’t understand the why of the story, then it has failed as a work of fiction. We need the why not because we are so used to getting it, but because in this life we rarely, if ever, get it.
Fiction can sometimes serve as a call to action. It motivates us to get up and make something of our lives. After reading about a character finding their sense of purpose, slaying their own metaphorical (or literal) dragon, who hasn’t felt that surge of lion-like courage pump through their veins?
What would life be like if we couldn’t explore the other worlds our minds invent? How dull would life be if we never got a glimpse at those, “could haves, might ofs, and what ifs”? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you read fiction for a different reason? If so, let me know in the comments below. Next week, I will take a look at the particular appeal that the subgenre, Fantasy, has to offer.
https://pixabay.com/ -photo creds