Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Magic of Fiction

(Eliza Knight, today's guest blogger, is our chat guest on December 5. Remember, comments are very welcome!)

I want to thank The Writer’s Chatroom for inviting me to blog with you today, and to visit your chatroom on Sunday, Dec. 5th. I’m really looking forward to talking with all of you about writing, reading, and my own tales. I write romance, time travel and historical fiction. I love to create worlds and I like to think I specialize in escapism. When I was thinking about what to write today, I kept coming back to one thing—how much fiction is and isn’t a part of our lives.

When we are younger we are taught to read. We sit on the circle carpet in the classroom and listen to the teacher or librarian read us stories. Our teachers ask us questions about the stories, we learn how to make a plot web, characterization charts, and write our own stories. So much energy is put into creating fictional stories and reading fiction when we are younger, and then it slowly fades away.

We enter high school where reading the classics and poetry is in the curriculum, but more emphasis is placed on research papers and essays and dissecting the creative works of great literary talents. And I truly mean dissecting. We aren’t able to enjoy the pieces because we’re too busy tearing them apart. I didn’t LOVE reading Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, until a few years ago when I picked it up and just read it. I didn’t dissect, just enjoyed it.

The same goes when we enter college and take the core classes, lots of papers to right, lots of reading—but textbooks, resources, journals, etc… The enjoyment of reading is somehow lost.

When we finally graduate from college, our reading consists of work related items, and then because we’ve spent the whole day staring at a computer, journal, reports, etc… we veg out in front of the television.

What happens to the magic of fiction as we grow up? How is it some people retain the essence that is exploring a fictional world and some people do not?

I have three young children myself. They love to read. We take weekly (sometimes more than once a week) trips to the library. We create stories. I’ve read to them since they were infants. My husband loves to read, and obviously I do too. But I hadn’t realized until speaking with a friend the other day that this—children reading—isn’t the norm. Not all children love to read. My friend asked me, “How do you get your kids to love reading?” I stared at her blankly because it had never been any other way. I didn’t try to make them like it, it just is.

But what’s the difference?

I’ve always loved to read and I’ve always loved to write. And there have been times (see the college experience and day job experience above…) where I’ve not been able to read too much fiction, but I’ve always been drawn back to it. Since my husband is also a natural reader, is that why our children love to read? Because it is inherent in our house which is filled with close to a thousand books? Is it genetic? My parents love to read. And come to think of it, my husband’s parents also read.

Fiction is magical, it is escapism, it is world-building. When we read we imagine ourselves in the book, we imagine going through what the characters go through. We make a connection. We enjoy the journey. We like to see good triumph evil. We like to see people happy. A problem solved. A good scare. The genre you read doesn’t matter—but the act of doing so gives you satisfaction. We learn from reading—whether we realize it or not. There are several studies that have proven mental stimulation (reading, games, crosswords, researching, etc…) boosts brain power.

So if reading is good for us, makes us smarter, gives us pleasure, takes us away to another world—the world the author has created—why don’t more people do it?

Why do you enjoy reading fiction?


At 12:10 PM, Blogger Cecelia Dowdy said...

I have always LOVED reading novels. Ever since I was a little kid it's one of the things that I've enjoyed that's remained a constant in my life. Reading takes me away to great places and I love getting involved with characters who are like real people to me. Reading is a lovely pleasure and I'd simply die if I had to stop!

At 12:59 PM, Blogger Chicks of Characterization said...

I too have always been a huge reader. From the time I was able to be left at the local library alone I have spent countless hours with a book in my hand. I am known for doing everything, vacumming, cooking, dusting, whatever with a book in one hand. I can't get enough. My boys loved to read when they were younger but as they've gotten older they like to read less. Their lives are filled up with their latest girlfriend, or soccer match- their likes/dislikes have changed. I hope they joy of reading comes back for them! For me reading is a way to escape, to go back and experiance life as it was, or to learn how other people deal with problems or just to relate to someone else. I love, it- as Thomas Jefferson once said, "I cannot live without books." And I can't.

Thanks so much for sharing Eliza!!

At 3:33 PM, Blogger Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

When I was young I loved reading - 'My Friend Flicka' and "Heidi" were two of my favorites. I got away from reading for years. One day the secretary who worked for attorneys in the office next to the one I worked in asked me what I was reading. "Reading?" I said. It hadn't even occured to me that while my future husband was away in Vietnam it would be a great way to pass the time. Luckily for me, I picked up Kathleen Woodiwiss's Shanna and my world of reading and writing began. It hasn't stopped since. Reading is such a great escape and look at how many places you travel to and how many people you learn about.

At 4:13 PM, Blogger Eliza Knight said...

Thank you ladies for commenting! I see one thing in common between all lovers of reading--they are passionate about it. They love the escapism of reading--the travel to another world, the fantasy of it. Keep reading ladies!

At 4:47 PM, Blogger Loni Lynne said...

I have always loved to read. The mention of sitting in a circle and listening to teachers and librarians read took me back. I can remember listening to my first grade teacher reading "The Boxcar Children" and loved the adventures they had. Soon I moved on to Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys (before they were TV shows--wow dates me). Then of course the world of teenage angst with Judy Blume. But through it all was the chance to escape for a few minutes from whatever I was dealing with at the time. I still find time in reading and writing to use that as my destressing, escapism into something else. It either takes me into someplace I want to be or makes me thankful that I'm not in the same peril the fictional characters are--depends.

At 6:56 PM, Blogger Eliza Knight said...

Thanks for your comment Loni! My oldest daughter has been reading the Boxcar Children! She's actually developed her own Boxcar mini-series, its pretty good!

At 9:57 PM, Blogger J Q Rose said...

I enjoy words. I love to read beautiful words that tell a fabulous story. Words and spinning a well-crafted story allow me to escape to a different world and stretch my mind and imagination.

At 7:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A couple of famous people have left us quotes to the effect that we don't have to be content with just one life -- if we read. As for myself, I feel I have learned more about human nature and just how to "be" from books than from my over-sheltered childhood ever allowed. An erudite friend once described reading as furnishing your mind. I'd feel much impoverished and sparsely furnished without fiction and all those fictional friends in my head. Gretchen Craig www.gretchencraig.com

At 8:55 PM, Blogger Lizzie Walker said...

I have always loved to write but I didn't always love to read. I guess I went backwards. My sister is the person that got me into reading and creating really. She would create these worlds and tell me her own stories and then she would ask me to interject into the storyline. I was so fascinated by her and in awe of her. I still am especially when I read her writing.

I agree with Eliza that tearing about great literary works leaves no time for you to just enjoy. If I ever had kids I would be doing the same things. Just reading to them like my sister and creating whole world that instill that desire in them to dream.

At 9:07 PM, Blogger Eliza Knight said...

Me too, JQ! Stretching the imagination is important to do at any age, not just when we're kids.

Gretchen, I totally agree! I love that you can travel anywhere and be almost anything, in a book!

Lizzie, how wonderful that you can share that with your sister! And you're write, instilling the desire to dream is so important. Think about how many great people have become monumental legends and left legacies in society because they dared to dream.

Thank you all so much for stopping by!

At 9:07 PM, Blogger Eliza Knight said...

I just saw that I wrote, "you're write" lol, I meant, "you're right!" I must have writing on the brain...

At 10:35 PM, Anonymous Michelle Rasey said...

I love books. I always feel as though I go on a mini vacation after reading one. I tried my hand at writing and currently have my book listed with Amazon. If you like fiction check it out. It was fun to write and I am hoping others will gain as much enjoyment from my book as I have from others.

A Wrong To Right [Kindle Edition]


At 11:59 PM, Blogger Mireille said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 12:03 AM, Anonymous Mireille Chester said...

Books are definitely an escape. My husband laughs at me because I'll run the tub, grab whatever book I'm reading at the moment and dissapear into the bathroom. He'll come check on me a couple of hours later, the water will be freezing, but I'll still be lost in my own little world.

I also make sure to read to my three kids every night. They are 2, 4, and 6. We read a kids book and then read two pages of The Hobbit. I've had a few people tell me they're a bit young for a book like that, but I remember my dad reading it to me at that age and it is still one of my favorite books to this day. Kids have a fantastic imagination. Don't put anything past them.

I am now finding a new way to escape through books and that is through writing them. With my first book published and the second about to launch in May, I find myself able to sit at night once the kids are in bed and get lost in a world I get to make up as I go along.

I was asked once why I read as much as I did... my answer, "A good book is like any good movie. All you have to do is turn the page and go along for the ride." :)


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