I’m an avid reader. I read both non-fiction and fiction, but it’s fiction that interests me for this post.
When I think about the fact that so many of us love to read stories that other people have made up… the idea sounds extraordinary.
Of course, yes, we’ve been reading make-believe stories for thousands of years (go ahead, look it up). Nevertheless, I do wonder about why we do. I find the idea intriguing.
Why do we so enjoy reading stories about made up people and events? Why do we read stories imagined and written by people who, most likely, we don’t know? Think about it. We spend hours and hours reading ‘literary work based on the imagination and not necessarily on fact’; ‘a deliberately false or improbable account’. Why?
Well, I can give you a few reasons why I do:
I’ll start with the fact that I enjoy journeying along with the character or characters in a good work of fiction, vicariously living their failures and triumphs… and discovering a whole new world in the pages of a well-written book. And when the writing is so good that everything else falls away, when my world shrinks down to the words and phrases on the page, it’s as if I’ve become a part of the story, a character of sorts… whose only job is to observe every detail, and feel every emotion and gesture. I become so invested imagining the movements, seeing the sights, hearing the sounds, feeling the moods… that, momentarily, my own life becomes a gentle vibration in the background. I’ll eventually return to the beat of my own world. Until then, I’ll remain happily immersed in the world that the author has created.
Another enjoyable consequence of reading great fiction is the ability to reread an expertly written phrase or even a whole paragraph or two.
And when this happens, it inspires me to make improvements to my own writing. I’m happily studying the author’s choices… curious and learning… encouraged and motivated.
Sometimes, and usually surprising myself when this happens, when the words and phrasing perfectly emote a wholly relatable experience, I find myself outwardly expressing the emotion, laughing or crying… wholly engaged, taken aback by the richness of the words.
And most gratifyingly, when a fictional story teaches me something profound, something that changes me for the better, I cannot help but sit in the awe of that moment.
The power of outstanding fiction is extraordinary.
Just consider the fact that reading provides infinite opportunities to gain knowledge… about anything and everything. How exciting is that? Yes, there’s a lot to learn from fiction. Good writers do their research. They take time to get the details right, about a myriad of places and people, things, events and eras. And I’m the type of reader who stops to look up an unfamiliar word or person or phrase or whatever might interest me to know more about. I’m definitely a reader who has gained knowledge from many a good work of fiction… and I consider this a satisfying bonus.
To become thoroughly engrossed in a good book is a wonderful use of time. And like so many of us who choose to read fiction, I too feel that funny sense of loss that comes with reading the last page of a really good story. A pile of books nearby and waiting to be read, is the fix.
So, there we have it… a little contemplation about why I, like so many of us, love to read stories other people have made up. It seems it’s a pretty straightforward idea after all.