About Fiction

stack-of-booksI have an unusual New Year’s commitment for someone as widely-read as myself. It’s not to read more history, more biographies, or even more theologically-grounded books. It’s to read more fiction. I’ve thought through this. Since picking up a book is often a large commitment, I have discovered that this will do me (and possibly you) some good in a variety of different ways.

The first being my line of work as an author myself. I haven’t yet found that great biography to pen, but ideally, with every other writer, I would like to write the next great American novel. I study movies in a different light than most people (sometimes to the detriment of my wife), analyzing the pacing of plot-points, the story line, the character-development … but fictional books will serve me a lot better than movies will in this regard.

But how can fiction serve you? What good could it be? Isn’t fiction a waste of time? Well, I used to think that for many years, and yes, sometimes – many times – it can be. That’s why book recommendations should be taken with a grain of salt. In years past, if I was going to read fiction, it would just have to be classic American or British fiction. But now I’m slowly learning that contemporary fiction can do some good.

1) Fiction can help shape or break a worldview

Oftentimes an author will write about a certain topic because they’re passionate about it. And more often than not, that topic will be explored from every angle from a singular point of view. For instance, if you read the book Unwind by Shusterman, it may cause you to realize the horrors of abortion. The Jungle by Sinclair has been known to turn convince many people to become vegetarians.

2) Fiction can help you understand or acknowledge certain worldviews 

There are many belief-systems out there – hundreds that we’re not aware of, and authors tend to be the leading voices for these hidden beliefs. For Christians, be cautious seeking these systems, but become well-read for the purpose of getting to know the culture around you. We ought to know about the world we live in, so that we can engage in intelligent, thoughtful conversations with those around us who subscribe to the surrounding belief-systems.

3) Fiction can spark your imagination

This one seems obvious. But what is the first thing you thought of when you saw a book with the cover of a boy and a lion in a lifeboat in the middle of the sea? My thought, as an author myself, was, “Why didn’t I think of that!” Just look at what Lord of the Rings did for the fantasy world, and what Jurassic Park did for sci-fi and mainstream movies in general.

4) Contemporary fiction can help you write to today’s audiences

“I wrote exactly the kinds of stories I was reading,” says writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I think we all do that. When I only read classic literature, I wrote just like it (or tired to, anyway), but much to my detriment. I never found an audience that related to my style of writing. So with the help of popular fiction like The Hunger Games, I learned to write with a more popular and modern prose.

I realize this is a partial list, but since I’m, for the most part, a newcomer to contemporary fiction, I want to hear what fiction has done for you. Please leave your comments below about how this genre has affected you, for good or for bad. And feel free to recommend books as well to help us all develop a promising reading list for 2013.

Please purchase a copy of my debut novel, The Man in the Box for your bookshelf or Kindle here.

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About adoptingjames
My lovely wife and I are foster parents, dog owners, home owners, and Christians. I am a blogger, book editor, and author. On my blog you'll read about adoption, faith topics, inspirational thoughts, and a whole lotta Disney/Pixar lovin'! For the most exciting read ever, check out my suspense/adventure novel, The Man in the Box. You. Will. Love it.

15 Responses to About Fiction

  1. There’s nothing better than a good story – we’re wired for them!

  2. loustar02 says:

    Great stories are great escapes from reality but can also give you the tools you need to fix your own lives or give you a burst of enthusiasm for something new. I love fiction. There is no other way to put it.

  3. writingthebody says:

    This is close to me, I cannot even say how close. At one point I remember deciding (and I still do not regret this decision) that psychiatry would put me away or medicate me, and give diagnoses. But that where that kind of social science offered explanations, fiction and poetry would offer insight. A life-changing moment came when I read Dostoyevsky as a young person, but since then there has been much much more. I do not regret my choice at all. Fiction does all the things you say, and more. It puts you into worlds and lets you be a player in them. It lets you see yourself in a situation, and it allows you to criticise yourself in that situation. Without it, I think I would be dead now….thank you for the post, and I am glad you have made the same choice.

  4. Mike Limon says:

    Hi Andrew! I have friends that tell me I can’t do what you do, write. To which I ask them, you can tell a story, can’t you? They all respond with yes! Fiction is using our creative mind, and crafting a story to tell. I love reading other writer’s fiction. It says a lot about the human mind, and though process. That’s why Stephen King is always telling writer’s to read other’s work, and to study the craft, and last, but not least, to write everyday! Thank you for posting this. I’m glad to see that your opening yourself up to read works of fiction.

  5. kenstewart says:

    We do not live in theology (as an abstraction), nor in history (as a spectrum rather than a single moment in time), nor in biography (our life is being written, true, but for it to be a biography, or autobiography, would require outside perspective, analysis and selection, something we cannot do while living, just as we cannot analyze humor while laughing). Rather, we live in story. We identify through story. We empathize, we learn, we are moved to action by story. Jim Loehr, in THE POWER OF STORY, correctly deduces that we determine the course of our lives by the story we tell ourselves. We learn morality and ethics through stories–witness the enduring power of Aesop’s Fables.

    History, biography, theology, philosophy, the sciences–all come alive when told in story-format. Movies have become a powerful vehicle for story-telling because they are multi-sensory. The most effective and memorable motivational speakers are masterful story-tellers. Stories can even change the course of history–one of the best examples is UNCLE TOM’S CABIN: Abraham Lincoln called Harriett Beecher Stowe “the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.”

    So I love reading novels and short stories, not just for mere escape, but to understand life through the eyes of others, and to learn how to live life effectively. Just yesterday I heard the quote, “An intelligent person learns from his/her mistakes; a wise one learns from the mistakes of others.” In that respect, we can learn to be wisest by widening the scope of our reading. Charlie Tremendous Jones said, “The only difference between you now and you in 5 years’ time will be the people you meet and the books you read.”

    This past September 8, when I turned 60, I decided to keep a spreadsheet listing the books I read. So far I’ve read 27. Of those, 11 were fiction; 6 were the biography of one man, a well-told story; 2 were autobiographies, both also well-told stories; and 1 was 55 essays (essentially stories) of how books had changed the lives of well-known people. Even the 1 science book I read was told as a story!

  6. yarnspinnerr says:

    i heartily endorse your views and three cheers for fiction. :-)

  7. 12kilroy says:

    Sometimes fiction lets you see yourself more clearly. It can be a way to break out of the familiar – and get around the defense mechanisms we have to keep from too much self-awareness …

    It also can be fun.

  8. I attended poorly rated schools in a small town growing up, and fiction is what exposed me to a larger world! I love the idea of learning from fiction (it has a lot to teach us). I feel like fiction can actually be more informative than nonfiction because facts are easier to wrangle with than the spectrum of human emotion as it plays out across situations. I love this post!

  9. Hi I’ve nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. Check it out here.


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