Sunday, November 16, 2014

Holding up the Mirror: Wars and Why Fiction Matters

Posted by: Shawna Reppert

Sometimes people ask you why you write.  The answer, I’m sure, is different for each writer, probably different for any given writer on any given day.  Society as a whole sometimes asks why writing is important.  Why, given all the pain and wars and death and prejudice, all the children orphaned and all the men forever scarred in body and soul, why should we care about words on a page, on the triumphs and failures of people who don’t exist outside the realm of imagination?

Fiction matters because of all the wars and the hatred and the anger.  Fiction matters for the hope of honor and beauty and peace.   I write because of songs like Willie McBride and River and There Were Roses that have made me cry for all the pain in our world that we humans inflict on each other.  I truly believe that there are young men and women who read Harry Potter as boys and girls and are more likely to recognize the beginnings of fascism before it’s too late, just as I as a child read To Kill a Mockingbird and learned the importance of standing up for what you believe in, read The Lord of the Rings  and saw that true heroes do not cast aside their principles when they go to war.

One of the purposes of fiction is to, in the words of Shakespeare, “hold as 'twere the mirror up to nature: to show virtue her feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.”   I would argue that things in the mirror are seen more clearly.  Studies have shown that reading fiction increases compassion and empathy, and that we are more likely to have positive feelings toward people of other races, creeds, genders and orientations after having read books in which a member of that group is a POV character.

If even one person out there reads my novel The Stolen Luck and starts thinking about where they draw their own moral lines they will not cross, reads Ravensblood and learns to believe that it’s never too late to find a conscience, reads my upcoming novel Where Light Meets Shadow and begins to question their own prejudices and take a hard look at what is and isn’t worth killing for, than I feel like I’ve done something to make this world a better place for all of us. 

While I salute all of those who have risked life and limb in defense of their people and their principles, the best way to honor veterans is to find a way to avoid the next war.

Links to the songs I mentioned in this post.  Warning: If these songs don’t make you cry, you have no soul. 
Willie McBride (AKA the Green Fields of France)

River by Susan Mckeown, performed by Hanz Araki and Kathryn Claire mislabeled here as Blackwater (Not the best resolution/sound, but I was at this concert and couldn’t resist linking here)

There Were Roses

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