Once upon a time, there lived a great truth-teller. Have you heard this one?
Growing up, I loved story. I would read all kinds of things, but I was particularly drawn to fiction. Books like Green Eggs and Ham and To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street captured my young imagination long after I’d put the book down.
Some book lovers are die-hard fiction fans. Others are solidly non-fiction only readers. But both have value.
Non-fiction relates through logic. It involves the brain and invites the reader to follow a path of argument or assumptions. It blatantly challenges us to learn and to change. Its value is easy to see.
But fiction? Don’t discount it so quickly. Even books written for pure entertainment can teach you something that you may not easily learn any other way.
WHY READ FICTION?
When a reader accepts the invitation of a writer, picks up a book, and begins to read, the writer has an opportunity to speak truth. ~Carrie Daws, Teen Writing Course
I love non-fiction. Learning is one of my strengths and a high priority in my daily life. It is very rare that a day goes by without me picking up a non-fiction book to read at least a couple of pages. Like a moth to a flame, I cannot help myself.
But fiction also teaches, albeit often more subtly.
Remember that truth-teller I mentioned at the top of this post? He’s one of my favorite storytellers. He knew story could reveal deep truths, truths people often did not want to look at for themselves. So He chose to put those truths into tales, which not only got the people listening but also remembering.
His name? Jesus.
THE PARABLES OF THE BIBLE
If you look closely at the parables of the Bible, you’ll see that Jesus rarely mentions God or the Temple. His stories are filled with ordinary people going on about their ordinary lives.
And so, Jesus’s listeners paused to hear Him; they stopped to enjoy His stories. It was only after the truth was in their heads that they realized what they’d just experienced was more than they previously thought.
It was potentially life-changing fiction.
THE PROGRESSION OF LIFE-CHANGING FICTION
That’s why fiction is important!
1. FIRST, fiction invites the reader to involve their heart.
And the heart doesn’t easily forget. Think of all the good (and bad) experiences you’ve had. I bet they all include a level of emotion that makes the memory more poignant (or can still irritate you).
2. SECOND, truth sneaks in through the heart to the brain.
When our emotions get involved, our brain will jump on board. As our heart relives the emotions, our brain has the opportunity to look deeper and discover why we’re so affected.
3. THIRD, our brain can change the heart.
As we process through the story or scene we can’t forget and we analyze why it affects us, we begin to see truth. We either like what we’ve found and seek more of it, or we realize that change needs to happen.
Good writing is about affecting and moving the heart ~Ted Dekker
Green Eggs and Ham was life-changing fiction to me because the lessons stick with me to this day. When I consider daring to try something new, something I’m not sure I’ll like or something that scares me, I think of the words of Sam-I-am.
You do not like them.
So you say.
Try them! Try them!
And you may.
Try them and you may, I say.
Simple truth, first read to me as a small child. And yet it still guides me more than forty years later.
And so I challenge you, fiction lovers and non-fiction lovers alike. The question should never be Why read fiction?. Instead, once we consider the change we can affect, the question should be Why not read fiction?.
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So, you have a reluctant writer. Or you don’t know the first thing about creative writing. Or you don’t see the importance of fiction but have a child who loves it.
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