Escape in a Good Story

Occasionally I’ll find myself explaining to someone why I love reading good fictional novels, or playing a video game with a really good storyline. Inevitably, I’d find myself describing some form of finding an escape. And this kind of puzzled me.

Why did I feel the need to escape into a good story? Was there something wrong with my real life? Maybe you’ve felt something similar.

I recently read something that put into words an explanation to this that more than satisfies the question I had.

“…we should note that it’s not what readers are escaping from but what they are escaping into that counts most. Most of us do not find fictional worlds appealing because we find our own lives despicable, though censorious people often make that assumption. Auden once wrote that “there must always be … escape-art, for man needs escape as he needs food and deep sleep.” The sleeper does not disdain consciousness.”

source: The Pleasures of Reading in An Age of Distraction

I love that analogy. We all long for a good nights rest, but that doesn’t mean that we hate being awake. It’s just that the rest offers us something different that completes the time that we are awake. And that is why I love a good story.

Whether it’s a RPG (role playing game) on the Xbox, or C.S. Lewis’ land of Narnia, a good storyline captures the imagination and taps into something deep inside of us.

When is the last time you enjoyed a good story?

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Jeremy Jernigan

This is the personal blog of Jeremy Jernigan husband, father, executive pastor, and student of truth

15 Comments

Sonia

about 3 years ago

I love this post! my husband and I have had this conversation in the past many times and this explains it perfectly. He does not read fiction at all. I've been reading the Hobbit lately, but haven't had much time to finish it.

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jeremy

about 3 years ago

Good for you Sonia! I have felt recently that I need to go back and reread the Tolkien series, but I'm afraid that the movies will cloud my imagination.

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manny

about 3 years ago

I am currently reading Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. Great escape into the vampire world without reading twilight.

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jeremy

about 3 years ago

Haha, I agree Manny!

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John

about 3 years ago

That totally explains you love for "Fantasy" sports!

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jeremy

about 3 years ago

Ummm... I think you are still missing it John!

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peter

about 3 years ago

J - you need to read On Writing by Stephen King. He talks about this very topic. He likens it to time travel, since he's writing something that we will share yet we won't read it until the future. King is one of the greats in my book, but he gets a bad wrap. Most people don't know that he wrote beloved stories like: Shawshank, Green Mile and Stand By Me. But this isn't about King. Though he would agree with you - Story is king! Dialogue and description are over rated. McCarthy, Hiaasen, Leonard and even Martin (as in Steve) know this. Shop Girl is a great read. Thanks for the post. Let's not forget the incredible stories like Esther, Joshua, Daniel, etc... okay well, the OT and the NT.

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jeremy

about 3 years ago

That's interesting, thanks for the recommendation Peter!

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Gomer

about 3 years ago

That is am awesome explanation. I love that. Just finished a classic fiction called "pillars of the earth." Excellent story!!

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jeremy

about 3 years ago

Thanks for the suggestion!

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Landon Anderson

about 3 years ago

I love the escape. In fact sometimes I think I love it too much. :) Even though I really enjoy fiction (I have recently started reading John Grisham for the first time ever) - I really enjoy the story element of non-fiction history books. I love the journey of going somewhere in time and experiencing a moment from history. David McCullough does this better than most as an author. I love being able to walk through the time period and see things and even "feel things" as the people maybe did themselves. Whats unique to your commentary, is (in my opinion) reading does something that other forms of entertainment do not. I think all other forms of entertainment, though as their names suggests are entertaining, do not capture one's imagination quite like words on paper.

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jeremy

about 3 years ago

I agree wholeheartedly!

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Steve

about 1 year ago

I get your point Jeremy, but for me it is a little different as i have aged ( at least on the conscious level it is ),I read fiction because you can always see both impure motives and acts of altruisim in the story - and the best way for me to comprehend and retain that information is to be forced into having to imagine the settings and scenarios, i'm not saying that i don't also enjoy the entertainment part of it, just that i get more out of what i read if it is an infusion of entertainment/escapisim and information. And then also there is the fact that sometimes fiction can have the effect of leading you down a slightly different path of thought and you end up adding perspective to your repitoire of thought - not changing your train of thought - just seeing another perspective and recieving the added bonus of understanding a different line of thinking.

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