I've heard people refer to their love of reading fiction as a "guilty pleasure." They're only half joking. In the constant hustle of our wealth-seeking, have-it-all, do-it-all culture, to immerse oneself in a good story can sometimes feel like an indulgence worthy of the guillotine.But can you imagine a life without stories?
People love a good story, and not without reason. We aren't robots. We aren't simply data-collecting entities that suck in information and spit out productivity. We're human, which means we're relational. We love to hear about other humans, and we love to hear it as a story rather than an enumerated list of dates and times and facts. We want the details. We want to be drawn in. We want to become a part of a story that isn't ours. We want to feel, to smell, to touch, to taste, and to hear another world, another time.
A couple of years ago, a Starbucks barrista handed me the soy vanilla latte that I'd ordered. The cardboard sleeve wrapped around it read, "Stories are gifts. SHARE." I still have that sleeve on the bulletin board above my writing desk. It reminds me that what I do, when creating a fictitious childhood world, isn't an enabling of guilty pleasures at an early age. It isn't frivolous. Stories are as necessary to life as flowers, birdsong, art, and music. These things enrich our lives. They are all gifts.
Fiction makes life and truth palatable and understandable. Even Jesus used figurative speech and told stories, and whether an author intends to make a particular point or not, points are made and lessons are taught in every piece of fiction. Whether it's encouragement to embrace change (as in The Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy) or the ever-popular good-triumphs-over-evil (as in Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, Fablehaven, etc. etc. etc.), novels make their points, regardless of however silly or sinister the plot and characters might be. They teach and encourage, and they make it fun.
So, keep reading! Keep writing! You'll make yourself and our world a better place.