Thursday, August 9, 2012

Why Fiction Matters

I made the video below this week - as part of Write On. Robyn thought it was so good, I should upload it separately. Enjoy! 

Why Fiction Matters

Rob Parnell

There are some strange folks out there who don’t like fiction. Or rather, they say they don't like it - which suggests to me three things.

Either they're just not crazy about reading - or they have no need for an active imagination - or that they just don’t understand the purpose of fiction.

Of course there will always be those who don't empathize with fictional characters. 

Some people don't like watching movies - although they're clearly a minority - and may be psychotic!

Some people say they never read fiction because it's not true, so there's no point.

To any budding novelist this attitude is as heinous as it is incomprehensible. 

My dad for one thinks that novels are too hard to follow so he never bothers with them. Never has. I bought him a book once for Christmas and Mum told me never to do that again. 

He struggled with reading.

‘If it’s any good, they’ll make a movie out of it,’ is one of his favorite lines.

Once when I showed him one of my own books he pretended to read the first page until he gave up and said, 'Just tell me what happens, alright?'

Many non-readers are dismissive of writing but still ask, 'What's it about?'

The implication here is obvious. To non-readers, it’s not the writing that’s important. It’s the story.

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

As far as I can tell, people like stories for 4 main reasons:

1. Entertainment

2. Enlightenment

3. Validation

4. Salvation

These reasons have been the ‘point’ 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.

Stories can show us things we didn’t 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. That’s why we like to identify with heroes and warriors - indeed, any character who can show us how to overcome obstacles.

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 sound byte, a tiny sample of every day life.

Nothing makes sense because there’s no apparent 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 ‘frame’ real life into manageable chunks that have tangibility, involvement and purpose, whether for us individually or as a race.

Surely that’s 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!

Keep writing!
 rob at home


"The less you know, the more you believe."
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