This is a topic I kinda sorta touched on in an earlier post, but I think it could use some fleshing out.
I have a handful of Facebook friends who have taken to posting images, memes (what have you) likening literature and the stories they read to take them away from their harsh, depressing reality. Something kinda like this:
This is, at its core, the purpose of Escapism; the use of literature and stories as a means to break free of reality and, if but for a moment, be something other than the plain old, boring or oppressed person we are stuck in as real life. It’s a perfectly valid interpretation of literature; and for what its worth, it’s not necessarily a “good” or “bad” one (Lewis Carroll is one of the most famed Escapist authors in English literature… but I don’t think too many people would consider much of his work particularly uplifting).
However… I find such stories to not be worth my time as an author.
Why? You may ask. Or not, because you know I’m going to explain anyway.
Escapist literature is the storytelling equivalent of Pixie Sticks; pure sugar… good for a nice endorphin rush that makes you feel good for a short while, but not much else. Hell, the crash that follows often isn’t worth the high you get. Whether you don’t want the real world means little. Whether you’re ready for it not… the real world doesn’t care. That’s what you’re going to get whether you like it or not, and your blissful escapism hasn’t helped you prepare for it in the slightest. Running away from reality never helps.
I prefer stories that give you something you can actually use in real life, lessons that you can apply when things go bad for no reason. Stories that don’t always give you the best outcome, but give you something that can help you persevere. Escapism can’t give you that; when you detach yourself from what actually happens in the world around you, there is nothing to learn. You are metaphysically malnourished.
That doesn’t mean that the setting has to be “modern-day”, of course… but the struggles and the conflicts, the failings and tribulations, need to be something that the characters and the audience can relate to, and yes, sometimes fail to overcome… because it is not through our success that we grow; it is through our failures. That is also how I want to inspire my audience, by showing them that it’s not falling down… but whether or not you get back up.
I’m sure this is a dreadfully meandering rant. Forgive me, it’s 2:40 am and I’m suffering from a bout of insomnia.