The Magic Of Books

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Not all introverts like books.

I know, pretty unthinkable

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I know, pretty unthinkable.

And extroverts can like books, too, they don't all find reading boring. There are plenty of extroverted writers here on wattpad, I've talked to them, read their stories.

Yet books are loved by so many people, young and old alike. Stories entertain us, move us, excite us, make us think. Fiction can tell us truths we might not otherwise be aware of. They hold up a mirror to our own selves.

I know I'm preaching to the converted; you wouldn't be on wattpad if you didn't love stories. I guess you'll enjoy this chapter, then, as I explore what's so good about reading, and the benefits we can get from it.

I've always loved books because they are an escape from reality

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I've always loved books because they are an escape from reality. I love fantasy, I love reading about characters whose lives are nothing like my own.

The very best books not only help us escape into fantasy, but also reflect the truth about human emotions or society - that's how we associate with characters, that's how we empathise with them.

For example, Terry Pratchett's Discworld books are set in a fantasy world with wizards, trolls and dwarves. But they are also satirical comedy that reflects the troubles of our very real society. Racism is explored through the prejudice aimed at goblins, slavery is reflected in the use of golems.

Fiction shows us truths. Along the way, it encourages us to see things from another's perspective. It's been proven that children who read have greater levels of empathy than children who watch tv and don't read. This is because when we watch tv, we are watching something happen to someone else. We are passive. When we read a book we imagine being in a character's shoes, the narrative tells us what they think and feel both physically and emotionally. We become involved when we read, we have to use our imagination in ways we don't when watching a tv screen. We are part of the story, using words to paint a picture in our heads rather than being shown a picture. It takes more mental effort to read than to watch.

Telling a story is an equal cooperation between writer and reader.

This use of imagination means that reading is a very individual process. Two people might read the exact same words but imagine a character differently from each other. That doesn't happen with TV, we all see the same. That's what is so unique about books.

We each bring our own experiences to a story, which influences our opinions of characters and whether we sympathise with them or not.

The very best writers can encourage readers to think a certain way, and then reveal something opposite in an unexpected twist. You can do the same thing visually with film, but a writer has the luxury of being able to relate thoughts and emotions directly from a character. A story can even have an unreliable narrator, whose biases and opinions are mistaken for truths.

If you write in 1st person pov, the reader only gets the story as the character sees it, rather than how it actually is. I used that technique writing Rogue Rewritten, so that the reader sees the world through Sarah's eyes, complete with her fears and prejudice. It's not easy writing like this yet also trying to make sure the reader *does* get the truth, that they begin to realise Sarah is biased. It's subtle and it's done slowly. And takes alot of work and self doubt, believe me.

Another beautiful thing about books, is that quite often, an author pours their own soul into a story. We might not even intend it, or realise we are doing it until the story is finished, and maybe not even then. A writer's fears, worries, hopes and beliefs shape the story. I have never been through the traumatic events Sarah Jane has been through, but I know anxiety, I know how it's used to protect yourself (over protect yourself) and how it limits your life and happiness. That personal experience shaped Sarah's story even though I did not plan it, or know I was doing it. Ernest Hemingway said that an author "sits at a typewriter and bleeds". He wasn't wrong.

Which is why writing is so personal. Writers are sharing their vulnerabilities, their personal fears and hopes with every one of their readers. J K Rowling used her experience with depression to inspire the Dementors in Harry Potter. How amazing is it that as readers we can see so much of an author by reading their story? How wonderful is it that as writers we can share so much of ourselves with readers, people we will never know and likely never meet?

It has its downsides. It can make sharing your story difficult. What will the readers think? How will they react to our characters? Will they judge them? Therefore it feels like they are judging us personally, since we've poured our souls into them.

It's important to remember that not all behaviour and opinions expressed by characters are those of the author. I can write cruel, prejudiced people without having that cruelty myself. But with even the most wicked villains there is a spark of truth. Maybe their villainy stems from fear, being hurt in the past, or jealousy. We've all felt those things, so to connect to a villain also teaches us empathy.

Stories can embolden us, can show us that adversity can be overcome. They can inspire us, enlighten us. It's cool to sneer at Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code for being badly written but I learned from that book. Before I read it, I had never heard of the theory about the holy grail being a bloodline rather than a physical cup. I didn't know that some people believe Jesus Christ had children. It intrigued me, so I now know more about it and the historical data it's based on. It's influenced my own beliefs. So I have Dan Brown to thank for that.

If a book teaches us something it has to be a good thing. It can open our eyes to a different view.

Reading is also good for our health. Exercise might be important but reading has its part to play. Reading is calming, it releases chemicals in our brains that help us relax and be happy. It also exercises the brain, which is good for our mental capability.

So it's vitally important that we encourage children to read. In a world of phones and the internet, reading has become a bit uncool, a bit old fashioned. Since reading increases empathy and is physically good for us, all children should read a book, or have one read to them, every day.

My parents read to me every night at bedtime. When I'd just learned to speak one of my first words was "magazine". There's a photo of me as a toddler holding a magazine upside down, but at least I was trying!

I fell in love with books as soon as I learnt to read and have been passionate about stories ever since. I've wanted to be an author as long as I can remember and have been writing stories since I was 12. I yearn to be a published author one day, and it's my dream. Writing feeds my soul, that's the only way I can describe it. It makes me happier than anything else I could do. I get such happiness and fulfillment from writing. Sharing my soul with readers, in a society where I never express myself, often feel misunderstood and keep my thoughts and feelings inside, is magic I can't describe. I'm welling up just writing this. I honestly live to write. And to read.

"Words, in my not so humble opinion, are our most inexhaustible source of magic." - Albus Dumbledore

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How old were you when you fell in love with books? When did you first start writing stories?

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