This is a post I’ve written before in a few ways, but the question does keep coming up. “Why do you read fiction? Isn’t it a waste of time? Isn’t the ‘real world’ interesting enough?”
As I grow older, I’ve been more drawn to non-fiction. Not sure why, and I honestly don’t spend much time wondering why. I read what I read and then I read whatever’s next. I still read a lot of fiction, and I think it will always matter, because stories will always matter to me.
Suppose you tell me an inspiring story. “I need to tell you about something that happened to me.” And it galvanizes me.
I mean that it actually gets me to do something useful, or to make a change, or think about the world in a healthier way. My life improves because I take action.
A couple of weeks later you make a confession. “I made that story up.” Or maybe, “That’s something I read.” Or “It happened to someone else.” Or, gasp, “I read that story in a novel.” I wouldn’t pat you on the back for lying, but what I got out of the story wouldn’t change simply because it was an invented story. Results are results. If they are results I am happy about I couldn’t care less where they come from.
If you react to a story, the story can teach you something. If you react, there is something to learn from your reaction. Maybe it’s an epiphany, maybe it’s a mundane observation. But! Whether it is found in a novel, a novella, a short horror story, or the latest Pulitzer prize winning book of non-fiction, is largely irrelevant.