I've always loved fiction. I can read nonfiction, but it doesn't generally have the same draw for me that fiction does.
Perhaps it has to do with the writing. Nonfiction, if not handled well, can end up reading like a textbook. And unless you're Hermione Granger, you probably don't read textbooks for leisure. People who write textbooks may be very gifted in their fields, but that doesn't mean they're good writers.
But I digress. This isn't meant to be a diss on nonfiction or even textbooks. It's about fiction, which is frequently treated like the poor orphaned child who, like Oliver Twist, pleads, "Please, Sir, I want some more."
Some more what?
Some more credibility. Some recognition that people who like to read fiction aren't merely wasting their time, escaping from the real world. That fiction is junk food for the brain.
So, I found Ms. Paul's article particularly refreshing.
Brain scans are revealing what happens in our heads when we read a detailed description, an evocative metaphor or an emotional exchange between characters. Stories, this research is showing, stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life . . .
The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated. Keith Oatley, an emeritus professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto (and a published novelist), has proposed that reading produces a vivid simulation of reality, one that “runs on minds of readers just as computer simulations run on computers.” Fiction — with its redolent details, imaginative metaphors and attentive descriptions of people and their actions — offers an especially rich replica. Indeed, in one respect novels go beyond simulating reality to give readers an experience unavailable off the page: the opportunity to enter fully into other people’s thoughts and feelings.
. . . there was substantial overlap in the brain networks used to understand stories and the networks used to navigate interactions with other individuals — in particular, interactions in which we’re trying to figure out the thoughts and feelings of others.
I would also suggest that what they're finding out about fiction and its power to influence the minds of its reader is profound. Note that I used the word power, power to influence. Influence for what?
What kinds of underlying messages do your stories bring to your readers?