Why Fiction Matters




There are some strange folks out there who donít like fiction. Or rather, they donít understand its purpose.


Robert Mitchum--otherwise an actor I greatly admire--said he never read fiction because it wasnít true, so there was no point.


To any budding novelist this attitude is as heinous as it is incomprehensible. Unfortunately it is also surprisingly common.


My father for one thinks that novels are too hard to follow so he never bothers with them.


ĎIf itís any good, theyíll make a movie out of it,í is one of his favorite lines.


How many times have you heard this?


The implication here is obvious. To non-readers, itís not the writing thatís important. Itís the story.


Whilst great writing might profoundly impress you or I, most people just want the message, rather than the medium.


People like stories for 4 main reasons:


1.†† Entertainment


2.†† Enlightenment


3.†† Validation


4.†† To gain hope & salvation


These reasons have been the Ďpointí of telling and listening to stories since the beginning of time.


As a species, we need them.


They divert our attention from the mundane and take us out of ourselves for a while.


They can show us things we didnít know about ourselves and others. We may gain valuable new perspectives to help us to better understand our neighbors, foreigners, even our enemies.


We need stories to make us feel better about ourselves--as human beings, as well as personalities. Thatís why we like to identify with heroes and warriors--indeed, anyone who can show us how to overcome obstacles.


Finally we need stories to help us make sense of life and the world around us.


In real life, there are no beginnings and endings, just infinite sequences.


You know how it is. You listen to the news. Everything is a segment, a teaser, a sample of every day life. Nothing makes sense because thereís no structure.


Without the confines that fiction offers us, we are drowning in a bewildering sea of actions and feelings and urges with no meaning.


Stories Ďframeí real life into manageable chunks that have tangibility, involvement and purpose, whether for us individually or as a race.


Surely thatís what we were placed on this earth to do!


To make sense of who we are and why we are here.


THAT'S why fiction matters!



2003 robparnell