G.K. Chesterton’s famous quote: “Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity”, resonates deeply with some people, but is frowned upon by many others. It isn’t uncommon to see negative connotations being made about fiction. But is it really that bad?
Fiction is generally referred to a plot, settings, and characters created from the imagination. Most times people end up focusing on the “imagination” aspect of fiction, disregarding its importance and the role it plays in day to day life.
There have been many studies highlighting the positive effects of fictional literature on people. One such neuroscientific research mentions that reading literary fiction helps a person in developing empathy, critical thinking and theory of mind. While reading non-fiction can help a person increase their knowledge, reading fiction helps in developing a person’s EQ with a sharper ability to comprehend other humans’ motivations.
A Harvard Business Review article explains that fiction helps readers in working through sensitive and nuanced issues with an open and honest mind. While non-fiction books provide the readers with already set and researched facts and no room to object, fiction books help the readers think and analyse the topics that are being discussed by understanding and responding to several points of view. Reportedly, the practice of analysing scenarios with an open mind also builds one’s decision making skill.
Another study – When Fiction Is Just as Real as Fact: No Differences in Reading Behavior between Stories Believed to be Based on True or Fictional Events’ – conducted a research to compare memory retention while reading fiction and facts. It was found that reading texts of fiction helped in improving memory and recall exact words and expressions as readers often spend more time reading the fiction than facts.
Fiction is often regarded to be useless by many non-readers. While it is true that it is usually based on a plot and character formed in the author’s imagination, it shouldn’t be disregarded that the settings and characteristics are often inspired by real life people and events. A college student, Aadya T. mentions that fiction doesn’t only entail otherworldly stories. “Fiction stories can be set in the real world, with real problems, maybe even based on or inspired from real people. Many such fiction stories can actually prove to be more relatable than non-fiction ones,” she says.
Literature forms a significant part of a person’s development and fiction can play an integral role in it. So the next time you watch such a movie or read a book, pause and think – are you willing to gather more fiction based content because it provides an escape, or because it opens new possibilities and thinking patterns for you?