I like stories, always have. I like to imagine incidents, create stories behind pictures. A simple newspaper article tends to run like a screenplay in my head, with characters, aesthetic details, dialogues and adverbs. I have always loved fiction, from Enid Blyton to Tolstoy - novels, short stories, novellas, plays.
"I read fiction to escape reality." I have heard people say this so many times and it always confuses me. It may make sense, if they were only talking about fantasy fiction: but even then, I always tend to draw parallels between stories and real life and that's what I enjoy the most about fiction. It brings me closer to real life.
For me, fiction is the best way to send across a message or to present theories, philosophies, ideas. The way I see it, fiction is information set into a pattern that we can easily recognize and relate to. It's like the examples given following every explanation in my textbooks. I have managed to learn a lot more about the practices of magic, the spirits and occult and such from all the tonnes of fantasy fiction I've read, than I did from books like A General Theory of Magic or The Three Books of Occult Philosophy. I learnt a lot about the world around me through fiction, science from science fiction and history from historical fiction, politics, economics - not to mention, discovered the way people think and act, right and wrong, morals, beliefs and ideals and what not from "mere story books".
Real life is so much like fiction, I wonder which one is based on which. I see things and people as characters I've read about. (I've been thinking a lot about Peter Pan and the whole "not wanting to grow up" since my last birthday.) Strangely, for me, reading any kind of fiction offers some sort of comfort, actual joy or hope or simply a feeling of catharsis. It provides me with a new perspective on things that I am used to considering in a specific way, opens up my mind, allows me to imagine a better real life, helps me form opinions, makes me think.
So many people say that fiction leaves them feeling like it wasn't worth their time or that they didn't learn anything new. Consider this: I place myself in the shoes of every character (every protagonist, at least) in every story I read, imagine how I would act (what I would think) in the situations he faces. Fiction may not always provide me with a list of ten facts to remember, but I think, overtime, I gain as much by idly mulling over fictional accounts as I would by gulping down non-fiction.
Lastly, of course, fiction is imaginative, it shows instead of telling, it paints pictures, doesn't preach and it is certainly entertaining. I do enjoy a good non-fiction from time to time, but at the end of the day I always find myself returning to a nice little novel.