I’m writing this just after completing my previous blog post – Loneliness Deep. As a writer of fiction I have to confess to enjoying the process of losing myself in fictional worlds. Is this wrong when the real world is so much more real? Should I not be out there experiencing reality? Should I not be giving my energy to making the world a better place for others?
The fictional worlds I create are less real maybe, but they are bigger. They are as vast as my imagination. It is as if my mind has access to an infinite number of alternate realities and other dimensions where I can make things happen with a mere thought. Are they less real? Their actuality lies in the words that I produce. I am the one who must put together the bones of the world and enable the reader to add skin, blood and soul.
I have always loved the Christian story of the nativity. It’s perfect. It may not be real in that it may not have happened but it is essential. There is so much meaning in the story. It is a universe in itself and despite the fact that it is, most likely, imagined, it truly helps me to understand the meaning of existence. It wraps me up in a sense of purpose.
Fiction reaches areas reality does not. Fiction enables us to explore regions of our inner being that reality will probably never reach. Unless of course we have such a varied and extraordinary life that we get to experience every emotion, situation and event possible. You see, our lives are controlled by our desire to be safe, to suffer less and to cry as little as possible. This is good. But it’s difficult to establish depth of character on security and happiness alone.
Fiction can act as a magnifying glass, enlarging the moments of heartbreak and misfortune we might experience, enabling us to explore them more fully. So long as we engage with the narrative of the fictional world, we can learn about ourselves. The experiences of the characters we encounter in the story, become our own experiences enabling us to learn about how we might fare in the trials the characters have to endure. This is true for realist novels but also, and maybe especially so, for all fantasy genres of fiction.
So, to answer the questions I posed at the beginning of this post – and you are welcome to add to these – it’s not wrong to become absorbed in a fictional world. Living extraordinary events in our imaginations, will help us better understand our experience of the real world. Maybe, some of us are needed to go into the imagination and pull out stories, to help make the world a more interesting, if not a better place, for everyone.