I’ve always wondered how reading affects one’s character. Naturally, for non-fiction books, there’s a noticeable shift in how we look at things. But for fiction, for tales and epics beyond our imagination, do those things affect how we act?
With a hundred and more books read in my lifetime, I can say that the answer is ‘Yes.’ I’m saying this because of my observations and experience (And it’s not only me. Here’s a clip that also talks about the effects of reading on our brain). It’ll be interesting to find out scientifically what happens to the brain. But here are three points about how reading fiction changes the way we think and act.
Subtext is where one character does one thing but means another thing or wants to imply something. A simple example is when a character says he’s fine but goes to crossing his arms and furrowing his brows. In some cases, the author shows the readers how the character’s intention differs from his actions, but there are also cases where it’s up to the readers to discern the subtext.
In real life, I usually sense the subtext when dealing with people. Those unspoken thoughts or silent mood. Reading may not just be the sole cause for this, but it teaches me how to read people.
When reading books or watching movies, have you ever felt at one point that something was about to go wrong? Then a few scenes in, your prediction was correct. The main character’s world was turned upside down.
You were able to predict it because it was designed that way.
Stories follow a certain pattern. The three-act structure is the most general, but there are still variations depending on the genre. There’s an article that talks about the different shapes of stories.
Connecting this to real life, if learning about subtext helps identify what someone may mean presently, pattern recognition helps me profile a person. The way we live depends on the story we tell ourselves. For me, recognizing the shape and pattern of a person means developing a meaningful relationship, thus knowing about their stories.
With the skills unlocked above by reading, the next level would be empathy. Reading books allow us to be attuned to the feelings of others. This may result from journeying beside the lives and struggles of fictional characters. Even if they are fictional, they represent what life is. Inevitably, we bring what we read to the real world.
I wonder what else I would discover as I continue devouring fictional worlds. It sounds like a far-fetched idea when I think about how reading can change a person, but these stories and fictional worlds, are in fact, metaphors of the author’s life experiences. Applying what we read to real-life might just be the logical next step.
If you need more reason to read, I’m giving you this. Go read and be superhuman.