Wednesday 24 April 2013

The Purpose of Fiction

I love television. I do. I don't understand how people can just watch a show - or not watch t.v. at all - it's a piece of fiction. It's entertainment. More than that, it's escape. And I know a lot of you are thinking "oh books are so much better than television" and you know what, you're right. There is nothing like picking up a paperback novel and staring at that front cover for the first time. But there is merit to sitting and watching a story play out before your eyes: they're both about the writer aren't they? But for the purpose of this I needed a segue into fiction in general which is what I'm talking about.

This is about why we as a society need fiction.

In my mind fiction has two main purposes: to explain reality and to escape reality.

People interact with fiction under the assumption that they will find at least one character to connect to and through that character they will find parallels and try to understand what's going on around them. It also helps to associate with a social/political/economical (etc.) situation and find not necessarily answers but ways of understanding what's happening. Death and Sex are the first two that come to mind but it's really everything around you. That's one of the many reasons I love New Adult. It directly addresses change in a way that YA and Adult might not be able to. It's about careers and relationships and education and making the big life changes at a relatively young age. But every genre has their situations that parallel reality that need to be explained away in order to escape.

Escaping fiction is the idea that I like coming back to. The concept is so simple: it's taking a look at the world and deciding "I'm going to step back for a bit and be a pirate, or be a princess, or be whatever I want to be because in fiction, I'm whoever I choose to be." While you can certainly take those principles with you into the real world, everything starts in the world of imagination. And that's what fiction is; one person's fantasy shared with the world so others can jump into their head for a little while and escape whatever is chasing them in the real world. And there are no limits to the journeys and the worlds and even the dark situations that can be explored.

Fiction is all about possibilities: one way of looking at reality.

And every book - every time you read that book - is a new way to escape reality or explore why the world might work this way.

Read a book like Heat Wave by Richard Castle that has so many elements of the world it's based upon that it can be taken as a study - a testament - of why people do the things they do. Or a series like Between by Cyndi Tefft that has elements of both fantasy and reality so it becomes an idealized world of darkness and love. Or a book like Into Fire by Brittany Westerberg that is pure fantasy and yet introduces recognizable characters as a reminder that even the most incredible places have rings of truth and accountability to them. No book is without basis in the real world - that's why we love them. No matter how far away the books take you, you still get to come back to earth and apply what you learned.

The world of fiction is no different from reality in that it's all a matter of perspective. It's how a person handles a situation and presents themselves and interacts with others. It's how one individual perceives the world. No matter what is happening in the world we need fiction to help explain why and to escape into the unknown. There might not be answers but you don't have to answer all the questions because you are swinging through the trees with Tarzan, or hoping your foot fits the glass slipper, or you're an ordinary girl with problems that can be explained away. Those pieces of fiction can define a lifetime.

Fiction fuels imagination which seeps into reality. Reading a book requires risk taking and dreaming - a deadly combination - because fiction is the inspiration for reality. And that's why we need fiction to understand and let go of the world around us in favor of the one we imagine can be.

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