Graphic by Nate Barton
A few professors in the Creative Writing department start their first class meetings with a very important question: “Why does fiction matter?” People might understand that fiction is important, but it is harder to pinpoint exactly why it is so significant. Fiction strengthens people’s worlds by distributing information, common understanding and topics that bring people closer.
Fiction teaches people about the world and themselves. “Each time we read such a work, we learn and in learning, we grow in understanding ourselves and the world around us,” wrote Thomas Ehrlich and Ernestine Fu in their article “Why Read Fiction?,” published June 14, 2015 by Forbes. People expose themselves to new ideas, worlds and facts that they might have never known without fictional stories. Even within fictional stories, non-fictional truths play a role and tie authors’ inventions back to what is real.
Reading fiction makes people more empathetic to others. “Virtually all storytelling, regardless of genre, increases society’s fund of empathy and reinforces an ethic of decency that is deeper than politics,” says Jonathan Gottschall in “Why fiction is good for you,” published April 29, 2012 by the Boston Globe. Some writers use fiction in order to educate others about their political views or perspectives on social issues.
As readers or movie watchers engage the world through other people’s eyes, they understand views and opinions presented that might not align with their own. With these experiences in the back of their mind, they are more likely to interact with strangers, friends, coworkers and family members with more compassion, now more able to see the world through other people’s perspectives.
Fiction brings people together. Whether through books, movies or games, fiction gives people something to talk about with each other. Families bond watching “Star Wars” or “NCIS.” People form book clubs so they can discuss stories and bring their own views to the table. Elementary kids can bond over the shows they watch on PBS Kids, the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon.
Fiction gives people information, increased empathy and common ground for human interaction. Without fiction, the world would be devoid of so many movies, books, games, shows, plays and poetry that people love. Stories can leave lasting impressions. When people come across fiction in any form, they should take the time to really experience the story and appreciate how it has shaped, or will shape, the world.
Follow the Pepperdine Graphic on Twitter: @peppgraphic