Fiction vs. Fact

What is better: A true story, or a fictional story? I think the logical answer is that it depends on the story itself.  Why do we tell stories? Perhaps it’s because we are social, intelligent animals. We like knowing there’s hope when there seems to be none; we like knowing we are not alone; we like knowing we can defeat the giant though we are small.

Stories, true or fiction, are of the past (or at least written like they already occurred), and they tell our subconscious that we can make anything we want happen, because it happened to this or that character. We can get the girl we want, we can go from rags to riches, we can survive the illness. We’re social creatures, not calculating creatures. Animals, not machines. We get our hope from stories, not equations. A machine would submit to the odds if they knew the odds were against them; whereas we humans can still choose to fight the odds in spite of knowing they’re against us.

I love the story of Jesus, even though I am an atheist. I was raised Christian. I was immersed in all things Christianity since childhood. I may have stopped believing any of it is true, but that didn’t stop me from loving the story. There was a short period of time, when I transitioned from Christian to atheist, when I went around asking my religious friends/family whether or not it even mattered if the story of Jesus was true. I asked them, “Why must it be true to want to follow that example?”

Sure, Jesus taught that eternal fire awaits anyone who doesn’t follow him, but he also taught that it is better to love than to hate. We shouldn’t seek retribution against those who steal from us, but instead give them something else to take. Masters should wipe their servants’ feet. We should forgive all, even if they torture us and hang us up on a post to die. An example I try to follow, even though I know I could never be that loving or forgiving.

The character in a story doesn’t have to be real in order for them to be real to you.

I love my own characters as if they are my own children, the good ones and less-good ones alike. I wrote my Remnant series solely from the perspectives of the characters. I made them real to me, even if they have never had flesh and bone outside of the pages. It’s my experience in writing stories that I encourage everyone to try it for themselves sometime. It doesn’t detach you from reality; I think writing stories actually makes you more aware of reality. Stories can teach us all things, even if we are the ones writing them.

So, in the end, there’s no objective right or wrong answer to the question. True stories help, of course, because there’s the added benefit of knowing, well, that these events really happened (unless it’s a Hollywood ‘true’ story). But fiction can have just as much of an impact. I prefer true stories and stories that at least could happen, even if they did not. What are your thoughts?

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