The Value of Fiction in a Random World

Photo by Steve Leisher on Unsplash

Few things irk me more than pious pronouncements that whatever transpires must be “God’s will” or “God’s plan.” I invariably want to scream, “Are you kidding me?” Evidence abounds that painful and challenging things happen to people all the time that surely no loving God would allow, or worse,  would have planned.

Take my writing friend who’d just sent our critique group three gorgeous poems and was enthusiastic about her burgeoning writing career. No sooner did I begin reading her latest work than I got the news that she’d suffered a stroke. This is a person who regularly exercised, ate nutritious food, and did everything she could to avoid serious health issues. As my younger son often says about the randomness of life: “Go figure.”

Then there’s the media news flooding our screens 24-7. Was it really God’s plan that innocent people should be ruthlessly attacked and thousands  should lose their lives and suffer incredible losses in conflicts around the world?

Closer to home, can it really be that a narcissistic misogynist, racist, and crooked con man has taken over one of our two major political parties and may yet return to the presidency? Whatever happened to the importance of character and integrity—and oh yeah, democracy?

I don ‘t know who said, “Fiction is the writer’s revenge on reality,” but I’m convinced it’s true. As an avid fiction writer and reader, I treasure the fact that fiction brings some semblance of order to life. Yes, our characters go through terrible ordeals and challenges, but in the end, there’s generally a morsel of hope that things can or will get better, thanks to the proactive efforts of our protagonists.

Hope matters. And our efforts toward building a more just and empathetic community matter. The wonderful author Gayle Forman calls young adult novels “empathy-delivery devices.” I think fiction for every age has the potential to increase our capacity for empathy, something we so desperately need as we work toward a more hopeful future, despite the randomness of real life.






  1. Marty Stiffler on June 10, 2024 at 10:56 am

    I appreciate the writer’s willingness to approach difficult subjects. She writes about them passionately and effectively. Without a doubt, hope and empathy — especially when they’re depicted in stories that teach — are an antidote we sorely need. Kudos to the author for thoughtfully describing troubling life events and times along with how to deal with them.

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