A 2012 article from the New York Times gives us fiction writers a boost of satisfaction for what we do: “Your Brain on Fiction” explains how reading something in a novel causes you to simulate the same action or sensation in your brain, as if you were doing it or feeling it yourself. This concept also explains why you like a book best when it’s about something important to you—you get almost the same fulfillment from reading a story about horses, for example, as you would if you were with the real animal. The video “How Fiction Makes Our Brains Better” adds great insights to this scientific phenomenon as well, mentioning how learning through a story is more effective than learning via facts. Since fiction is by definition about someone other than you, one of the biggest benefits it gives its readers is greater empathy for others. I can’t tell you how many times reading about a character in a novel has helped me understand, or at least judge graciously, someone who puzzles me.
We’ve all learned so much from good novels that we probably wouldn’t be the same people we are today without them. And that’s also why it is so vital to read good books—books that build your character or draw you closer to the Lord and not away from Him.
As writers, we have the opportunity to touch other people’s brains—and, even further, the way they live their lives. We can breathe into their souls love and hatred, faith and fear, joy and sorrow. I can track this inspiration in my own self as I read, and so I’m sure that my writing does the same as other books. That’s why my motto for writing is Philippians 4:8—“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
This isn’t to say your story characters have to be perfect or never go through something unpleasant; your story has to be realistic to readers in order to uplift them. But, I encourage you to make it your goal to leave readers with a message, whether subtle or strong, that they can identify and that will either reinforce their good morals or change their lives for the better, however small.
What is a novel or short story that has impacted you recently? This is a powerful short story that I just read: Coffee Cake Days.
Kelsey Bryant is an author, blogger, and copy editor who loves the Lord. She revels in many things: the beauty of God's Word, the music of English, the wonder of nature, the joy of creativity, the freedom of motion, the richness of literature, the intrigue of history ... and much more. To learn more about her, visit her website or blog.