Fiction, on the other hand, gives the lesson through the story. It is not so direct that the reader automatically feels pinned by the author’s moral, but naturally draws him into the story and makes him feel the moral.
For example, if Harriet Beecher Stowe had written that slavery was the greatest evil of her day, only people who supported her conclusion would pick up the book and read it. Those who disagreed with her would know to put down the book after the first page. But when she chose a story, she made readers on both sides of the issue feel the anguish of slavery and weep for the characters and all that they represented.
Fiction is absorbed emotionally, and therefore is more memorable.
Let me put it this way: Nonfiction appeals to the intellect, while fiction appeals to the emotions. It is much easier to forget or discard an intellectual thought than it is to discard something that has moved you.
Consider this: How many nonfiction books do you remember from your childhood years? Honestly, I can’t think of a single one, other than my school textbooks, and I already forget what they were about. How many stories do you remember from your childhood? I remember dozens, some which were extremely influential.
Fiction presents a familiar concept in an unfamiliar way.
A final thought...
The very strengths that lend fiction its effectiveness are also the things that could make it extremely dangerous if the wrong lessons are taught. Fiction that glorifies risky or immoral behavior, or diminishes honorable or moral behavior, becomes a weapon against the reader and against society.
It behooves the author to be extremely conscientious about what lessons are being taught through his stories.
But, some may ask, must every story have a lesson? Can’t a story simply be entertaining? In answer to that, I would recommend that you read my post “Your Writing Reflects Your Worldview and Your Values.”
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