That’s what fiction is for. It’s for getting at the truth when the truth isn’t sufficient for the truth. – Tim O’Brien
I recently read The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. I had no idea what I was getting into, but it had been on my to-read list for a long time, and it was available at the library when I was looking for things to check out. It was fantastic. Clever and intelligent and interesting – and some parts even more so because the English version is a translation.
My favorite part about it is that it’s an intriguing exploration of the relationship between fiction and reality, the first half especially. I can’t explain it completely – you would have to read the book – but have this snippet of a conversation between a human boy and a character in the book he was reading, which he found himself literally drawn into:
“Every human who has been here has learned something that could be learned only here, and returned to his world a changed person. Because he has seen you creatures in your true form, he was able to see his own world and his fellow humans with new eyes. Where he had seen only dull, everyday reality, he now discovered wonders and mysteries.”
Stories often make truth click in a way that explanations do not; they give it depth. Jesus was very aware of this and used stories all the time. Obviously this can be done badly, and trying to make the moral of your story obvious in the story usually just annoys people and does no one any good. But if you do your job well and leave readers to draw their own conclusions, they usually will, and they’ll find things you didn’t intentionally include. And often they will point these things out to each other.
To sum up: Fiction is valuable.