For several centures now, readers have appreciated this magicianlike ability of writers to get us inside characters and at certain truth. We have looked to writers from Shakespeare to Tolstoy for moral and philosophical guidance, and for critical evaluations of ourselves and our societies. Jonathan Swift, Charles Dickens, Emile Zola, John Steinbeck, and Upton Sinclair are among many authors whose fiction has changed the way we view social injustice, for example; a few books have even changed laws. Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, James Baldwin, Samuel Beckett–these and a multitude of others have held up mirrors to the human soul that have altered our thinking and the way we see and create our art. Until this era, novelists have held a respected role as examiners of society and investigators of the human psyche, as thinkers from whom we learn certain kinds of truths and honesty that no other form of writing can offer.

~ Helen Benedict, “Fiction vs. Nonfiction: Wherein Lies the Truth?”, in The Practical Writer: From Inspiration to Publication (Penguin Books, 2004)


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