Fiction Is Not a Waste of Time: Know Why?
For one of my writing projects, I was scouting through my bookshelves. I wanted non-fiction books and found they were few and peeking through the stacks of fiction pieces. So, what better time than to introspect why I like fiction over nonfiction.
In general terms, non-fiction is fact and fiction is ‘make belief’. You read non-fiction for various reasons, but fiction is mainly read for entertainment, even if it is a serious art.
There are some aspects where fiction scores over non-fiction and reading it is not a waste of time.
Fiction Means Fun
Fiction is about fun, even if you read literary fiction. There are some non-fiction books which are entertaining but the criterion for creating fiction is entertainment. Plots, characters, narration, all are intertwined to cater fun and entertainment.
It is not always about information; entertainment also has its place!
You always enjoy reading the adventures of Thomas Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, David Copperfield, Philip Marlowe, James Bond, Jack Reacher for their entertaining exploits.
The plot of Then There Were None, Shutter Island, The Big Sleep, The Maze Runner, My Sister Keepers will give you pure entertainment.
If we talk about excellent narration, then the novels like A Tale of Two Cities, Invisible Man, Midnight’s Children, Catch 22, etc. have no rivals.
Fiction Introspects the Truth
If non-fiction is about truth, fiction is about its introspection. A good story reveals truth better than an informative piece. So, there is something about a good story that cannot be tackled by non-fiction. In fact, the major part of “truth” has always been revealed in the story forms.
“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
New Testament, John 8:32.
"The one who speaks truth obtains the highest position in this world."
The Ramayana, Book 2, Chapter 109, Shloka 11.
The examples are numerous and supreme, the New Testaments, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Odyssey, etc.
Fiction Improves Imagination and Creativity
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.”
― Albert Einstein
Ours is a society where importance is given to the “real”. But, the life and the world are more than what we see. They are beyond our conception of reality and the practical world. Fiction sees the world beyond the realms of reality. It presents the world view of what it could be. Imagination and creativity play a vital role in shaping such a world view.
Fiction is written with a lot of imagination and the real world is often presented here in an imaginative way. When you read fiction, it enhances your imaginative faculty and stimulates the right side of our brain.
It also makes you a better writer if you are an aspiring author. You are exposed to different kinds of writing and can learn a lot in terms of the craft of writing.
The books like Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman are some of the fantastic pieces to expand your imagination to a new level.
We Are the Characters and We Have Our Stories
Biographies sell in a large number. There has always been a hook about the story of a human that inspires us. Our stories define us better than our resume.
Most fictions deal with the life and deeds of the central character and that makes them more interesting and identifiable with the reader. Fiction draws you in instantly and opens a window into the people of different world which we want to be. For a short time, the reader becomes ‘someone else’ dramatically removed from his own world and experience.
Great Fictions have great characters rarely seen in non-fiction. You don’t find Sherlock Holmes, Lolita, George Smiley, Romeo, Juliet, Jane Eyre in a nonfiction writing. Even if you see them mentioned there, it is for telling not showing the characters.
Fiction Appreciates Beauty and Elegance
Non-fiction can inform you about beauty, but fiction has an innate quality to show what is the best creation of the nature: beauty. There are many forms of art which manifest beauty. However, what the right blends of words, powerful imagery, metaphor, and a well-described scene in a fiction can achieve to display a beauty, no other forms possibly can. There is something about the written words and narration that beauty becomes more alive.
“The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars as daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven would through the airy region stream so bright that birds would sing, and think it were not night.”
― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
"The curves of your lips rewrite history."
— Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
Fiction Improves Your Language Skills
Fiction is not a linear writing like most of the non-fiction books are. The authors use the language in a different way when they write a piece. For different genres they may have a different set of techniques and ways to use language in a particular manner. It is because of this that aspiring authors are recommended to read a wider range of literary genres. This exposes them to different writing techniques from which they can learn the art of writing.
The first line of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is a representative example of what wonder an innovative use of language can achieve:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway has a straightforward and clear style of writing where he uses short sentences with a great effect. The language used in this novel is in contrast with what we can see in A Tale of Two Cities.
“Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.”
All these are effective if we read good literature. Cheap literature is the source of cheap thrill and has a minimal scope of learning. Good literature exposes us to the wealth of information and rich fun. To end, I can only remember the essence of all as:
“There are some subjects that can only be tackled in fiction.”
― John le Carre
© 2018 Prasun Parimal