Sometimes, just because something never happened doesn’t mean it wasn’t real. Even if the persons in a book are fictional, they may live just as real lives as the rest of us. When we read books, we accept the stories as our own. Though we can learn from experience, we learn from others’ experiences too. Books gives us those foreign experiences like memories implanted into our brains overnight. We share emotions: terror, joy, grief, fear. Characters live through traumatic lows and ecstatic highs, and we experience some of these things– many of which we will never be able to experience.
Here is a quote from George R.R. Martin’s newest addition to the Song of Ice and Fire Series:
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” said Jojen. “The man who never reads lives only one.”
It is an interesting concept, that by reading we see lives we may have never before seen. There are obvious examples of this such as fighting dragons and driving spacecrafts through asteroid fields. We have neither magic or the technology required for casual space travel, so some of the things we experience are in fact impossible.
Otherwise, we might experience something we could hypothetically do but choose not to. Murder, for example, is not something many people readily admit to having on their bucket list. Fiction about gruesome killings, psychotic serial killers, and the hardened detectives that track them down sell extremely well because people are fascinated by these things. While they may not want to kill anyone, perhaps they want to imagine how it would feel. Books offer that possibility.
Not long ago I blogged about books concerning madness and drugs and their links. Well, not every person will readily try drugs, but sure, there is a fascination with what drugs will do to a person. What madness might do. Books offer people the choice to delve into the gritty regions of life they dare not go within the confines of their personal reality; in books, however, we can live life without regrets.
Writers as well as readers live through their stories. I once went to see Sue Monk Kidd (author of The Secret Life of Bees) talk at USCA. During the talk, she mentioned a book she had written (The Mermaid Chair) about a middle-aged woman who had a secret relationship with a priest. She mentioned that as a writer she could live in a book as she never could in real life. I feel exactly the same way sometimes.
If you have been reading this blog a long time, you will know that I wrote another novel (several, actually) before the one I’m working on now. I scrapped it because it wasn’t selling; agents and publishers found it too gory, too long, and too complicated. It was about a serial killer named Sebastian Martinelli, and I wrote it because I was immensely interested in the Psychotic mind. Check out my newest project, and you’ll find the subject material is a bit closer to my heart. But even in that, I get to write from perspectives I’ve never had.
Also, I’m not all too worried about starting over. I’ll blog about that decision another day. It became very difficult to let something go I felt wasn’t good enough to be my first published full-volume novel. That agents and publishers obviously didn’t feel was good, either. So of course I am going to try again because I want to do better.
Whether it is as simple as writing from a female POV or writing from the POV of a heroin addict, we experience many different things when we write. We lend these stories to the people who read them. Who feel bullets tear through their flesh, feel the pain of a friend’s death, who feel triumphant when good trumps evil.
How do you feel about books? Do you think those who do read books live more fulfilling lives than those who don’t? Or are we just pale recluse losers?