People say fiction is only make-believe and those who read it want to escape life. Nonfiction is reality, they say; fiction isn’t. Why waste your time?
It’s true that non-fiction describes life accurately. But fiction shows us truth in a special way.
In story, we enter the world of the tale through words on the page. We use our imagination to understand. We see, hear, taste, touch, and smell what the characters do, and when we do, the narrative comes alive.
Studies have shown that as we read, our brains react as if we are doing the action ourselves. We run on a treadmill at the gym, but if we read a story where the character runs for their life, our brain thinks we are running for our life. Physiologically, we become the character.
As we live the character’s life, we learn. We encounter difficulties, see the world in a new way. Through the story, we understand things about life we hadn’t known.
Fiction can also heal the reader as a character overcomes wounds, mistakes, their past. Story is a safe place–not to escape the world but to make sense of it.
When a child grows up in a chaotic home, he can, in a story, find a bigger world to give him hope. Reading books is a gift for the future.
Fiction lets us know we are not alone; it is a place to find answers we hadn’t thought of, a place where make-believe becomes the best truth of all.