Why fiction is necessary

Fiction is as necessary and important as non-fiction.  Just the facts m’am?  Nope.  Step beyond reality and reap the rewards.

photo by kevindooley

photo by kevindooley

Facts without fiction won’t work.  In most instances, fiction has elements of truth in it and non-fiction can still be crammed with stories (and even fabrications!).

Make the most of all angles.  For a few months, I hadn’t been reading any novels or short stories.  Big mistake.  I really missed the ride and I won’t make the same mistake again quickly.  I felt my own imagination flagging.

Imagination was recently discussed in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

“Surely we would be better off pursuing more adaptive activities—eating and drinking and fornicating, establishing relationships, building shelter, and teaching our children. Instead, 2-year-olds pretend to be lions, graduate students stay up all night playing video games, young parents hide from their offspring to read novels, and many men spend more time viewing Internet pornography than interacting with real women. One psychologist gets the puzzle exactly right when she states on her Web site: ‘I am interested in when and why individuals might choose to watch the television show Friends rather than spending time with actual friends.'”

We love stories.  Even when looking for truth or reading a textbook, some of the best lessons come from stories.  As I’ve said before, storytelling is powerful.  Just as we can inspire by telling stories, we’re suckers for the things ourselves!

Hard facts and dry recounting of events are enough to put casual readers off.  This is probably why “many people seek out certain types of fiction (historical novels, for example) because they want a painless way of learning about reality”.

Yet it goes further than learning.  Amazing philosophical thoughts and questions come out in fiction.  Your life can change for the better when you’re inspired by a character that doesn’t even exist.  A fictional success may be an advantage in the real world…In your world:

“Often we experience ourselves as the agent, the main character, of an imaginary event. To use a term favored by psychologists who work in this area, we get transported. This is how daydreams and fantasies typically work; you imagine winning the prize, not watching yourself winning the prize.”

The drama and the condensed nature of fictional situations give us a more intense excitement.  No wonder we revel in the activities of imaginary characters and put ourselves in their place.  The fiction is necessary to inspire, to open our eyes, to discover heroes to aspire to.

We all need heroes in order to get our own chance at saving the world.  Who says our heroes have to be physical beings?


  1. Hurrah! Yes, yes and yes. I think a lot of people feel that fiction is somehow a waste of time … when in fact, like you say, novels can be life-changing.

    We’re hard-wired for story, and stories *stick*. Great characters struggling against the odds and winning is always gonna be inspiring to us.

    Plus, fiction is one of the best escapes I know. Novels are always going to be more engaging than TV because you have to put your brain into the reading; you get to imagine how everything looks, turning those little black marks on the page into images in your mind. And the novel is the only form of literature which gives you an insight into the inside of other people’s heads.

    If anyone’s reading this who thinks fiction is “not them” … you’ve just not found the right fiction yet. Keep searching until you do. And don’t eschew the classics just because of a bad experience in school — many novels (and plays and short stories) have endured for decades and centuries for a reason.

    1. Indeed, not everyone finds the right fiction for them straight away, but the continued search is worthwhile.

      I know someone who hated reading fiction because it was all about “romance and boring stuff”. Luckily, he discovered horror writing. 🙂
      Not only has that person taken to reading fiction so enthusiastically, but he also used horror as a springboard to other genres (thriller, crime, and so on). It took an initial breakthrough to remove the block that stopped him seeing the wealth of creativity out there.

      I’m currently reading “A Fraction of the Whole” by Steve Toltz. It was shortlisted for the Booker in 2008 and I’ve finally started reading after having bought the book just after it was released…Better late than never!

  2. That’s another way of saying you must think of you achieving your dream in order for you to really achieve it – whether or not you relate it to someone or something you found in your real life.

    It reminds me of the motivational video I watched a few months before. A documentary-like called the Secret.

    Pretty amazing 🙂

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