“Fiction seems to be more effective at changing beliefs than nonfiction.” I found this statement in this long, but worthwhile article at boston.com: Why Fiction is Good for You.
This is what I have always thought and why I wrote my first book, Pieces of You in the fiction genre. As helpful as non-fiction can be, we typically buy non-fiction to support what we already know or to learn about things we’re already interested in.
Now a good story; it can take you by surprise. For example, I recently read Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto in which several people are held captive for many days by a group of terrorists. As the story progressed, I began to love several characters, captives and terrorists. Even though the ending seemed predestined, I didn’t want it to end that way! Patchett didn’t spell out what she wanted readers to consider about terrorist behavior; the characters taught me by revealing their character in extraordinary circumstances. They taught me not to prejudge what I haven’t experienced.
Now some fiction authors are so afraid that we, the readers, won’t get the message that they preach to us. That is so much less persuasive than Patchett’s way! I did that in my first draft of Peaces of You. I used the pages as my soapbox to shout my perceptions on three social justice issues. Shortly after completing that draft, I squirmed through a review by a published author who asked if my purpose was to enthrall or to lecture readers. I made major revisions.
Now back to the boston.com article: In a study of television viewers by the Austrian psychologist Marcus Appel, Appel points out that, for a society to function properly, people have to believe in justice. “They have to believe that there are rewards for doing right and punishments for doing wrong. And, indeed, people generally do believe that life punishes the vicious and rewards the virtuous. But one class of people appear to believe these things in particular: those who consume a lot of fiction.”
So if you want people to choose to act justly, write fiction!