Confession: I’m not drawn to reading fiction like some people are. My reading interests trend towards history, political science, business, and, of course, faith-related issues. Not to mention Dilbert.
But over the last few years I’ve made myself read more fiction. Why? I believe I need to. Allow me to explain …
As one tasked with the responsibility of communicating on a regular basis, I have found that reading fiction improves my ability to practice creative imagination. In two ways: in preparation and in delivery. Much of the Biblical text is narrative, or stories. Stories that involve human drama and emotions. Yet the Bible doesn’t tell us that the stone David slung at Goliath “whizzed” through the air or produced a loud “thud” upon impact, but it probably did.
Or, what was it like to be Moses and to be standing alongside two towering walls of water when God parted the Red Sea? What did it smell like on the Ark? What were Lazarus’ first thoughts when he was brought back from the dead?
It’s not the purpose of the Bible to delve into all of these kinds of details. But when I’m preparing a message based on a story, I try to step into that story — placing myself in the midst of the army marching around Jericho or sitting on the hillside enjoying a free lunch courtesy of Jesus.
That helps the story come alive when it’s being communicated in a class or in a sermon.
What does all of this have to do with reading fiction?
I want to discover how good storytellers tell stories. I want to get a sense of how they develop their characters and describe their emotions. What word pictures do they use to paint uncertainty or fear or remorse? How do they make a fictional character seem like a real person I’ve actually met. Because I want to do the same for historical characters and my modern listeners.
Should a communicator only read fiction? Absolutely not. But if you’re not reading any … you’re missing a great way to develop and hone your skills.