Friday, August 10, 2012

Maybe Fiction Isn't a Waste After All...


I've often wondered why people read fiction.

I can count the number of fiction books I've read in my adult life on one hand. My reading appetite has always been a steady stream of non-fiction with a heavy emphasis on spirituality, self-help, biographies and cooking. Anything else has always felt like a waste of time -- something that wouldn't really apply to my life. Being the consummate time manager, my goals always center on something meaningful that I can use in everyday life.

Fiction to me, has always felt like an escape. My thought has been,"If I need to escape my life, I'll just read something that can help me get rid of whatever is so sucky it's making me want to escape my life..."

And that's pretty much how I lived until last year when my friend Rich Tatum was talking to me about reading fiction. He encouraged me very strongly that I needed to start reading it. Rich says that for me to go to the next level as a writer  I need to read more than non-fiction. So, I did what I always do when Rich tells me something...I do it. I'm sure his wife Jennifer would say, "oh my gosh -- SCARY!!" at this revelation that I do whatever Rich tells me to do.

Well, when it comes to writing, I trust him. He's taught me so much about writing and the industry. (Thanks, Rich!)

We've been on vacation since Sunday afternoon. Of course I brought plenty of reading material with me, including my Kindle. I've got so many books in the queue.  So many non-fiction titles, that is.
Inevitably I always seem to take non-fiction books and try to apply them toward my work life. So I decided at the last minute that on this vacation I was going to read absolutely no non-fiction except the Bible. This week I've been reading an older fiction book, The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan.

Today at Daytona Beach I went by myself with the book, and sat at the edge of the water, reading the book while the waves came up and washed over my toes. At one point in the book I found myself welling up with tears, relating to the experience of one of the characters. During another chapter I experienced an understanding of why I feel the way I do in one of my personal circumstances, seeing the same issue through the eyes of one the women in the book. Although the book is centered a lot on Chinese culture, and I am not Chinese, other aspects of the book have resonated with me.

Recently when reading The Hunger Games, after my kids begged me to, I came to the realization I loved the series most because one of the characters, Peeta, reminds me so much of my son Dustin.

I have discovered that people don't always read fiction as an escape. We can learn a lot about ourselves by observing the lives of fictional characters.

I am thinking it's probably best for some of us not to share what characters we relate to, in the books we read. :)


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