Why Do Novels Matter?

There’s truth in fiction. Sometimes more than we want to admit. But it’s a safe way to learn and experience truth about ourselves, our struggles, and our faith.

Nonfiction gives it to the reader straight, a great approach to subjects and themes relating to the human soul. Still, confronting a subject head-on is something we don’t like, especially if it’s unpleasant or downright horrible truths about ourselves.

Enter fiction. We step back and watch someone who’s more real than our next door neighbor and recognize bits and pieces of our own heart in action. We see ourselves from a safe distance.

Cancer, loss of job, car accidents. What good can come of the trials and troubles beating our already weary bodies back into the dirt from which we came? In the midst of crisis, a direct message or true to life story draws too real of a comparison with our own situation. The pain deepens with the continual burn of “why?”

Enter fiction. The more realistic, the better, yet it still lets us hold the pages away from our wounds while applying a salve we didn’t know it contained. We evaluate our agony from a safe distance.

What of faith—or lack of? Who is God? What’s His place or power in your life? How can He restore a heart as broken and reeking of garbage as ours? Why so many questions? Do I really want to know the answers?

Enter fiction. Hiding behind the words of a make believe world, we peek out at the interactions between a Father and child. We watch and wonder. We may even pray, because our questions about God were asked and answered from a safe distance.

When we see things from a distance, it suddenly feels safe to take a closer look at ourselves, our troubles, our God. All through the safety of fiction woven in the fabric of truth. That’s the power of a novel, and why the novel matters.


Why do novels matter to you? I’d love to chat about it in the comments.


For Him,

Sarah Elisabeth


Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer is an award-winning inspirational author, speaker and Choctaw storyteller of traditional and fictional tales based on the lives of her people. Get a free e-copy of her first book, "Touch My Tears: Tales from the Trail of Tears": Free e-book

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8 comments on “Why Do Novels Matter?
  1. I have no words. You said them all. Excellent!

    • Sarah Elisabeth says:

      I knew all this in my heart, felt good to get it out in a fairly comprehensive manner.

  2. WOW! You’ve put into words why I love good fiction. When I first read “real” Christian fiction (not the happy, pristine, surface kind with an obvious lesson) but the real nitty gritty kind with characters that had flaws and trials like me- I was blown away and hooked! I hadn’t realized until you said it, “it’s a safe way to learn and experience truth about ourselves, our struggles, and our faith.” Bravo! hugs Sarah
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    • Sarah Elisabeth says:

      Thanks, Cindy. I’d never really put it in words before, but this is the essence of my passion. And I didn’t tie it into this article, but really, this is basically what Jesus did with parables. He was the master storyteller!

  3. Kathy Staton says:

    Sarah, this article answers my “Why?” I wondered why someone in my life couldn’t teach me what I needed to know. He comes on strong and direct; and I would respond by pulling away. When someone else teaches me by less direct means, I get it. I am dealing with the hurts of my past, and sometimes it takes a gentler soul to reach me and lead me in the right way. Books have always been like a teacher to me, helping me learn things I couldn’t learn otherwise. It helped me through school; and now I have a 4 year college degree; and they continue teaching me about life and love and God.

    • Sarah Elisabeth says:

      And that’s why the novel – and all books – matter. It’s just an issue of whether they point toward God, or away from Him. As Loren Cunnigham said, “We need more Christian writers.” I believe I’m going the direction God’s called me to.

      Congrats on your degree! Never stop learning.

  4. Sarah Lorain says:

    Awesome! I also think Novels matter because in every single moment a millions things are happening. But moments pass instantly and with them goes so many of those details that were never able to be considered and analyzed and yes, learned from. But a moment in a story is like a moment that is bottled. You can look at it from every angle for as long as you like (:

    • Sarah Elisabeth says:

      Oh so true, Sarah! It’s like snapping a photo, but with a photo, you can only imagine what was happening in the scene, what was said that made the person laugh, or cry, or throw up their hands in praise.

      The great thing about fiction is you can take the moments from your life and weave them in, and nobody knows you’re really talking about yourself. At least you hope they don’t 😉

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