It's Not Fiction by Claire Merchant

It’s Not Just Fiction

By Claire Merchant

I was talking to someone recently, and we were discussing the movie portrayals of books. Naturally, as a reader and a writer, I was expressing that details in books are important and should be kept when translated into film. The someone I was speaking to said that it didn’t matter what anyone changed, just as long as it looked good and it made a lot of money. The conversation came to an abrupt end when they said to me, “Who cares, Claire? It’s fiction.”

Who cares? Well, I care. A lot. Anyone who knows me well enough can probably tell you that I literally get more upset when things go wrong in fiction for the mere fact that it is fiction. Reality, sure, I expect things to go pear-shaped, but fiction is my safe-haven. My fictional friends let me in and completely trust me with their world. They understand me and we support each other, even if I get frustrated at some of the decisions they make (here’s looking at you, Tris). The world of fiction is more real to me than reality.

So this all got me thinking about this idea of fiction, and the fact that some people think that just because something didn’t happen to someone specific that the stories don’t have as much weight as non-fiction—that it’s “just” fiction. I cannot tell you how many times people have rolled their eyes when I’m upset about something that happened to a character and muttered something like: “For goodness sake, Claire, I thought that something actually serious had happened.” (IT DID! Gahhhh!!!) How can I put this in plain terms for these fiction atheists? Well, as a believer that words and stories can make a difference, regardless of whether they are factual or not, here are three reasons why fiction is not just fiction…

Fiction is real. It is real because I feel it and live it as if it was happening to me. Who is to say that just because I can’t see something that it does not exist? I don’t see the wind, but I see the effects of it being there, just like I don’t see every novel that I read represented in a visual medium, but I feel the impact that the words have had on me. As Dumbledore profoundly said to Harry in Deathly Hallows, “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” Why indeed, Dumbledore. Why indeed.

Fiction is important. It is important because we learn by experience, and by reading, we experience things that the characters do and learn some pretty important life lessons. Naturally, some lessons are more applicable than others, like, I totally know how to swish and flick and, you know, I could probably lead a revolution if it came to it, but I have also learnt how to face my fears and keep going after experiencing inconceivable heart ache. Fiction may be make-believe, but it has helped me grow and develop as a person. Words have changed me.

Fiction is enlightening. It is enlightening because it reveals you to a world and a point of view that you otherwise wouldn’t have known. Sometimes it is amazing and sometimes it’s uncomfortable. I mean, I’m still getting over the events from The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and the Divergent Series. But do you know what? I’m glad that I experienced it all, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am stronger having read these stories, and I am more aware of the real world due to seeing it represented in a way that I can engage with. I can see more readily from other people’s point of views because I have experienced the world from different viewpoints. When else would I otherwise get the chance?

Reading fiction opens you up to a bigger world and lets you experience more of it. Who cares if the places that it takes you are not places that you can point to on a map?

Who cares about fiction? Me, I do. I care about it a lot—because it’s not just fiction. It is real and it is important and it is enlightening. It is something that transcends reality but somehow makes reality easier to live in.

Fiction, real or not real?

I believe it. Always. Forever. Until the very end. True. Okay? Okay.



Claire Merchant is the author of South Coast Son, Forever Ruby, Knowing Nora, Mistry by Moonlight, Midnight Mistry, Mistry at Dawn, and Foresight. We are anxiously looking forward to Claire’s next book.