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  • Writer's picturetrevorcarterva .

The Power of Reading Fiction

Reading fiction is more than just a form of entertainment. It has been an integral part of human culture for centuries, often used to promote morals and ethics, and to open the mind to new possibilities. It shapes our perspectives, enriches our understanding of the world, and provides an avenue for emotional and intellectual growth. It engages the imagination and evokes wonder. It provokes us to ask questions and, sometimes, provides us with possible answers to those questions, about ourselves and the world we live in.

As an avid reader, I often find myself gravitating toward certain characters in a story. In a sense, I become that character and through them, I gain insights into human nature. I experience a character’s hopes and fears, their triumphs and failures and most importantly, their ability to empathize. We may experience a connection with a certain character and their plight. Perhaps, in the story, they find a resolution to a problem that opens up our minds to new possibilities for resolving some conflict in our own life. Our ability to empathize with others can be cultivated by the experience of being immersed in a fictional story. We get to see the world through the eyes of a fictional character, which helps us relate to and appreciate the perspectives of others.

An example of learning to empathize from reading fiction comes from Harper Lee’s, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The story takes us to the racially charged American South in the 1930s. The story portrays, quite vividly, the racial injustices of the time through the eyes of the protagonist, Scout Finch.

Another aspect of fiction involves escapism and stress relief. It offers an escape from the demands of daily life. It provides a sanctuary where we can lose ourselves in different worlds, where we can live vicariously through the lives of the characters in the story. We find relief from the complex problems we face in the ‘real world.’ Whether the story is some fantastical tale involving a magical world, like the world in the Harry Potter books, or a world that closely resembles our own, where issues are resolved without the use of magical potions or wands, we can escape into that world and, for a time, forget about our problems.

Reading fiction can also take us back in time. We can experience life as the characters in the distant past. This provides us with some contrast as to how life must have been in that time compared to our current way of life. We may find ourselves transported back to the time when the Egyptian empire flourished or back even further to a time when our early ancestors walked the Earth. We might learn new historical facts while immersed in the fictional tale, facts that we would have never known otherwise. This can be both educational and illuminating.

Fiction has the ability to bring people together. Through the shared experience of reading a work of fiction, people often exchange ideas about different aspects of the story, which fosters community and sharing. It can lead to new connections with other people as has happened to me on more than one occasion. This type of interaction, where multiple people are giving their perspective concerning a story, helps one appreciate different views. It can also be an enlightening experience as the perspective of others helps us gain insight about the story that we can relate to our own lives.

For me, the most significant takeaway from reading fiction is its ability to expand my imagination. As a writer, I value imagination more than anything else. It is the foundation of my writing. And with the imagination, I can sprout wings and fly away from my problems. I can live free for a time. That is until the story ends. But, I do not fret, because I know there's always another story out there waiting to pull me in.

Happy writing and happy reading!

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