The Economy of Fiction

In twenty-four hours of quiet reading we can finish a long novel covering a man’s entire life. In a traditional novel, the causes and effects most important to an author are expressed. We can see the results of characters’ actions on their lives. This is a prudent use of one of our most limited resources, time.

We have, in a novel, a case-study of a particular idea or emotion. If the novel is well-written we will see real people interacting with these ideas or emotions just the way we might expect to encounter them in our own lives.

Even a novel written in a post-modern style that experiments with uncertainty is having us reflect on life and how events can be connected in other ways than cause and effect.

If a novel does its job — and if we commit to reading — our lives are not lived as one life, but instead we have the depth and experience of individuals that have lived many lives.

Photo: Some rights reserved by Marcus Povey.


  1. Frances Brown (@gemwriter)

    Wow. This insn’t a blog, it’s poetry. How can you put so much into so little words? I am awed. Truth, distilled.

    1. Brandon Monk

      Thank you, Frances, for your kind words.

  2. Jennifer

    Beautiful, and true.

    1. Brandon Monk

      Thank you. Glad I hit on something a fellow reader sees, too.

  3. Anita

    This is a fairly good summary of well-read individuals: possessing “the depth and experience of individuals that have lived many lives.”

    1. Brandon Monk

      Thanks Anita. Reading is such an efficient way to come to understand the world.

  4. Chris Jean Ciolli

    This post perfectly expresses why I love fiction so much, although I think the same could be said about the economy of a story well-told, even if it’s nonfiction (biographies, etc).

    1. Brandon Monk

      Very fair point, Chris. Narrative non-fiction can be as compelling as the greatest novels. One of my favorites along those lines is Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers.

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