No, really. Sure, embarking on a land that exists completely in the writer’s head can be great. Fantasy worlds and people. Made up lands and problems. Fiction does a great job of reflecting the times, but nonfiction is where the authentic experience lies.
The imagination is ripe with creativity. But I have found, that the lives of real people— the memoirs and biographies and interviews and journalistic pieces— are just as fascinating. Sometimes more. Why? Because real life has just as many twists and turns as a good fiction piece. Here are a few reasons nonfiction is just as good as fiction:
1.Unbelievable things happen in real life
How about Joan Didion when she lost her husband and daughter just a short time apart from one another? Or Ishamel Beah who lived as a boy soldier in the midst of mass war Sierra Leone? Or Malala getting shot in the head by the Taliban, or Elizabeth Gilbert travelling the globe to find her self or the life and mind of Steve Jobs? I could go on. I really could. The lives of real people can be just as heart wrenching, entertaining, and crazy as a work of fiction, and the best part about it? The stories are real, which brings me to my next point…
2. Our emotional response is stronger
When we open a story of non-fiction, our sub-conscious registers that this is a true story. This person exist. This situation really happened. As a result, we are more apt to connect with the story. We are more inclined to show empathy to the sufferer or applaud triumphs. In the same right, we are quicker to dislike an unlikable character. Knowing that the story is real, even if it’s a subconscious knowing, provides us an immediate connection.
3. Nonfiction tells the truth and we like that
There’s something to be said for knowing that a real person experienced everything you’re reading about. It gives us strength. It gives us courage. When we read something and we know that a real persona actually went through these things and actually made it out on the other side (usually stronger, wiser), we find strength. Not only do we feel compassion, but many times, we find a renewed sense of hope, or comfort, or awe. As human beings, we strive to know the truth, and these true stories help us get a little closer to the truth.
I love fiction as much as the next person, but nonfiction— whether it be journalism or memoir or the creative variety— holds a special place in my heart. It takes great courage to tell the truth and be vulnerable, and I commend the people willing to write their stories (or have their stories written for them).
Do you have a favorite nonfiction book or piece? Share it in the comments below!
Photo credit: flickr user gfpeck