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Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Power of Fiction

Most days, I struggle with nonfiction, whether it is academic papers, nonfiction, or even blogging. Sometimes, I’ll just stare at that silly little curser for ten minutes wondering what in the blazes do I write?  
 
But I have just the opposite problem with stories. Sure, I’ve had my times of writers block, but it rarely comes from a lack of ideas. In fact, I find that when I’m trying the hardest to focus on strict facts or basic opinions that a little story idea pops up in the back of my mind and won’t leave me alone until I at least write the basic idea down. Then, the idea will either leave me alone to focus on the “important stuff” or it will develop into a full-fleshed outline by the next week (*cough* exaggeration! *cough*).

Either way, I am plagued by stories. I cannot escape them. Even when I take a vacation, I get the nagging feeling that I should be writing something, even if I just finished a major project and have earned a break. This happened recently when I went on a C.S. Lewis trip to Oxford with several other students. I set aside writing for a full 10 days (okay, I took notes and did a bit of editing and journaling, but I didn’t write a story).
 
Walking along the Thames River just outside Oxford.
How could a view like this not be inspirational!
During this time, I had the great opportunity to see Magdalen College where Lewis taught for a time, visit his house The Kiln’s, eat at The Eagle and Child where he and the other Inklings met, and visit his gravesite and church.

Not only did I learn a lot about Lewis and his books, but I also heard a theme reoccur throughout the trip: while Lewis may have written many apologetically works discussing the Christian faith, he also wrote works of fiction, which have the capacity to leave an impact on a person’s heart. And 50+ years later, people are still reading his books. Thus is the power of fiction.

Not only does fiction present itself when I’m doing something boring (like laundry), but it also affects readers drastically. Have you ever laughed with/at a character? Shouted at him/her? Cried while reading a book or wanted to throw it against the wall?
 
No reader comes away from a book without a new thought, feeling, or experience. Have you ever heard of somebody who read a book that elicited no emotion? I haven’t. Even dull books fill readers with boredom or dream-filled naps. Those who claim something is “just fiction” and cannot influence them in any way are simply declaring nonsense.
 
But what does this mean for us? Fiction is powerful. So what?
 
So, dear writers, let’s use that power granted to us for a time. Let’s tell stories to make people laugh when they need uplifting or to share experiences and create empathy. Let’s use themes to declare a message only you can tell that way. Even Jesus told parables.
 
As for you, dear readers, do not just pass up fiction as something false. Even fiction can contain seeds of truth. And may fiction inspire you to dream and achieve your goals.
 
I couldn’t put it in better words than Lewis himself:
“Why did one find it so hard to feel as one was told one ought to feel about God or about the sufferings of Christ? I  thought the chief reason was that one was told one ought to. An obligation to feel can freeze feelings … But supposing that by casting all these things into an imaginary world, stripping them of their stained-glass and Sunday school associations, one could make them for the first time appear in their real potency? Could one not thus steal past those watchful dragons?” –C.S. Lewis, “Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s To Be Said”
For further reading, I'd suggest the entire essay cited above.
 
Tell me your thoughts. In what ways has fiction influenced your life? What stories have done so?
 
In the mood for reading some fiction? Check out my latest short story “Blue Ribbon” if you haven’t already!

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