Benefits of writing fiction

Most of my writing is non-fiction. I have a friend who often tells me I really should write a fiction story. SOme of his arguments make sense. You can read more about benefits of writing fiction here, here, here, and here.

Improved learning by writing

We learn actively. Writing is an activity that forces us to be active. By integrating the material we learn into some sort of text we remember it better. Quite often we learn by teaching others, and writing is a great way to teach many. Even if nobody will eventually read what you write, your own learning experience will improve.

Memory uses multiple senses. What we learn sitting we will recall sitting. If we learn in bed and need to recall sitting, our recall will suffer. Writing activates us motorically. Since memory is connected to the motoric experience, next time we will be writing we will recall better the things we already wrote about.

Writing is slow. We will not use it for something we need to use right away. If we want to remember something for many years, we are faced with a choice between slow active memorization and quick memorization with frequent reviews. Both ways work, the choice is based on your personal preferences in each specific case. Some subjects are very well suited for a specific memorization method. Why not use it?

Storytelling as a mnemonic device

Typically we write down the main points of what we learn. This is good, but not stimulating. A good teacher often adds stories and anecdotes to make us remember. If we write down the story of what we learned, we will probably remember it very well. Most of the fiction stories are inspired by already existing storylines. We can research stories connected to the subject we need to learn, and then generate our own story about it.

A medical case is a good story. Legal precedents are great stories. History is a bit more story than we can handle, and we need to focus on specific people and events. Scientific discoveries are quite often great stories. Everything involving products and clients is an ongoing saga.

These stories even come with already available heroes, quests, and details. All you need to do is add some fun: passion, gamification, visual effects.

Visual writing

When we learn we need to remember many details. A good writer is capable of describing many details is accurate and emotionally stimulating form. You can easily encode the details into the text as object placement, conversation theme, subplot. It helps if your story is highly visual. You can easily speed up the visual part of the story when yo recall it.

Typically for short term memorization, we can visualize animation-like sequences of complex visual markers. When we write, we can reuse the same sequences making them more consistent, adding details, generating a storyline.

Mental palaces

Each time we use an advanced mental palace we also generate a story. Our movement within the mental palace is typically repetitive, but the objects we encounter can be surprising. Typically we generate a story of why we meet these objects in some particular order. Now you have the original story. Improve it and add associations to other materials by writing an engaging plot: a detective story would be very fit for such a search.

The quest rooms are very popular now. Any quest room is basically a physical embodiment of a mental palace with a storyline.

Learning to win arguments

Winning arguments is hard. There are several proven methods. Most of them can be integrated into a story. A great story will engage your audience, showcase the details, provide a stage where you can use mnemonic devices. Statistics and properly formulated questions will not generate an emotional response, a story will.

Usually, we do not learn things so we can know them, we learn things so we can achieve our goals. Typically we will need to win arguments, gather supporters and generate plans. Stortelling facilitates each of these tasks.

Teaching kids

Stories are great for every age. Kids can build and understand stories as well as we do. Kids are very good in generating fantastic stories. Geeks also love fantasy. Both groups need to learn a lot of material very fast, so fantasy might be helping.

Fantastic stories have many advantages:

  • It is easier to generate a story when not bound by rules of our regular existence.
  • Some heroes are readily available. There are many stories you can combine from, in order to build your own.
  • Exageration is a great mnemonic device. In fanatasy everything is exagureated.
  • You can use richer language, add elements of your construction and emphasize emotional experiences.
  • Fantastic stories are very colorful. Colors and textures help memorization

Research shows that learning from fantasy books rather than realistic materials, children build up the vocabulary faster, better learn animal behavior and cultural details, build better rhetoric devices and strategies.

You can teach kids through storytelling, you can ask kids create their own stories, and you can learn yourself by generating stories for children.

Dramatic question

Stories often have a dramatic question which guides the hero behavior. Quite often we have a hard time memorizing abstract legal and philosophical questions. If we reformulate the question into a dramatic question and build a story to showcase it, we will remember the question. Moreover, we will probably have a visual marker for the question as one of the scenes in our story. And when we need to use the question in the argument, we have the argument readily available as a story.

Story instills meaning through feeling. By writing stories we improve our intuition regarding the subject. We also need to be very creative doing this, so the part of the brain that knows this is a story will not interfere.

Therapeutic aspects

Writing has a strong therapeutic effect. It is easier to process hard experiences through fiction. When we write we have a full control over the situation, which we often do not have in our life. When writing, our stress levels are reduced and the dopamine reward systems in the brain are activated. This means we can focus easier and overcome our barriers.

Expressive writing is linked to improved mood, relief from depression and procrastination, improved emotional intelligence. It makes sense even to write regularly to enjoy these effects.

Why am I not storytelling?

Writing fiction improves our long-term memory, allows us to demonstrate abstract questions, benefits our well-being.
With all the good things in fiction, why am I writing non-fiction?

  • We write for ourselves and for our audience. Not every audience will appreciate fiction. Not every subject can be encoded into fiction. Quite frankly, I think that if I wrote a fiction I would lose half of my audience.
  • Non-fiction can include stories as well. These stories tend to be very short, but still fun to work with.
  • It takes a specific experience to write fiction. Typically we do not learn proper fiction writing at school or at work. It is hard to write fiction unless we get that experience.
  • People are very sensitive to the quality of fiction. Writing good fiction is time-consuming.

I do use fiction at home for my own amusement, I do not feel I am skilled enough to write for you just yet….

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4 Replies to “Benefits of writing fiction”

  1. Hi. Do you thing that learning math can be better performed using some fictional stories ? I read once, I do not remember where, that many mathematicians have discovered beautiful theorems based on their own emotional experiences. It is like reading someone life stories by just analysing some complex mathematical expressions. It will be helpful if you could provide me some websites/books references that could support what I have said 😉

    1. Usually, I do not think math and fiction mix, but there are exceptions.I have some examples in my book for physics and statistics, e.g. formulas.

    1. It takes some time to acquire the skill. If you take a couple of writing courses and fail consistently, writing is probably not for you. If you never really tried to learn writing systematically, maybe it is too early to tell.

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