Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Why Read Fiction?

Photo: SCY via Pixabay
Last Friday, I featured an article that focused on five benefits of reading fiction. Although those of us who love to read don't need to be convinced, we can always use a juicy rationalization, especially when it's well-written.

In addition to being a fun read, the article got me thinking. As a writer, do I feel as though writing fiction provides any of those same benefits?

Enhanced reasoning skills? Check! Having to figure out how to get my characters into -- and out of -- a variety of situations definitely requires reasoning skills. Then, once I've done this, I need to decide whether or not my readers will find all of this believable, which requires me to reason from the other side of the equation.

Understanding of complex problems? Creating complications is one of the most fun parts of writing fiction, and this is the part where my characters tend to chime in. Determining the answer to the question, "what if this happened?" is a key element in the construction of plot, and is usually guaranteed to make things more complex.

Empathy? Last week, I wrote about how writers need to be able to imagine and defend people who are different from them, which is an important part of empathy. Doing this for characters we love is easy; doing it for characters with few redeeming qualities is definitely a stretch -- one that can move us from sympathy to empathy.

Stress relief? Only when I'm finished! Actually, when writing is going well (usually when I'm writing dialogue), it's a great, stress-free feeling. Overcoming the obstacles between me and the keyboard, or between me and the characters, or between me and the blank page is definitely more stress-inducing than stress-relieving.

Photo: Dariusz Sankowski via Pixabay
Strong role models? Sometimes. Some characters make good role models, while others are more like cautionary tales. But even antagonists have to rise to the occasion sometimes, proving that most of us have the capacity to be role models when we choose to be.

Clearly, the fundamental things apply, whether reading a book or writing one.

Read it again, Sam.

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