Whether you’re reading fiction or writing it, fiction is an escape from reality. However, unlike other escapes, this a healthy one. In this case, the break from reality is good for you. Jesus once said that the man who loses his life will find it and the man seeking to save his life will lose it. Now, I know he was talking about something very different, but I think the principle still applies to works of fiction.
Fiction, done properly, is a work of creation for both the reader and the writer. The writer creates a world, a crisis, and characters to play the parts. The reader fills in the rest from the pictures he creates in his own mind. That’s why reading the book is so much better than the movie. When you read, the writer is the director, but you, the reader, play all the parts. You can be the hero and the villain…without the consequences that would incur in real life.
Reading fiction is a kind of waking dream where we are free to try out things we may never dare otherwise. Like David, we can battle the giant without fear or rise from obscurity to become king. We can do anything, go anywhere, and be anybody. In so doing, we learn to put our real-life into perspective.
We weight out the things we value…it’s a bit like trying on a new suit. If we like the way it looks and feels, we make alterations in our present circumstances to create a new look for our life. In his book Total Recall, Piers Anthony came up with a futuristic shop where you could get the memory of a vacation without leaving home. We can all do that today by opening the cover of a book and stepping inside for awhile.
Whether we step out beaming over a happy ending, we feel refreshed. If we come away mad as hell about social injustice or heartbroken over betrayal, we just might be moved enough to do something about it in our community. Either way, we win.
So, treat yourself to a vacation from reality, a library card is free. Lose your life in a book for an hour or two and you just might find it all over again.