There are some people who believe that fiction is a throw away genre; that only non-fiction can teach us about the world we live in. There are some who believe that my shelves of fiction books are not as important as my reference library. But why must we choose?
Stories were passed down the generations from the times we lived in caves, and have not always been grounded in reality. They existed to teach us important lessons. Often, the characters learning the lessons were animals rather than people, and this was often done to put some distance between us and the lesson, to make it easier to see.
This is exactly what fiction does today. Reading fiction provides us with the platform to delve deeply into the psychological and social questions of our time. When a work claims to be fiction, readers can more critically analyse the flaws of a character and accept the not-so-pretty sides of their choices and reality.
As writers, we can also use the first-person point of view which we are denied in non-fiction. By looking at the world through the eyes of a character, we can gain a deeper understanding of another’s thoughts, and practice empathy. Fiction allows us the room to test new ways of live, new personas and new outcomes. If something doesn’t work in fiction, we can change it. It something doesn’t seem authentic, we can alter the course of events. It is through this experimentation that we can gain a better understanding of the human experience.
So, why fiction? For me, a psychological degree was not enough to explain why people do the things they do. I am constantly baffled by the reactions and intentions of others and feel the need to write through the eyes of others in order to better understand the creatures that inhabit this world.
A good way to look at the distinction between fiction and non-fiction would be to say; that non-fiction deals with facts. It is black and white. What happened is what is told (in an ideal world) without embellishment. Whereas fiction, deals with people and the delicate complexity of their interpersonal relationships.
Both genres are interesting and necessary within society. So I will keep my two libraries and flit between the two at my own discretion.