First, a small biography, C. S. Lewis was born in Ireland, in 1898. Throughout his life he wrote a variety of books and essays. The Chronicles of Narnia, which are the only books of his I’ve read. Science fiction as well as several books on Christianity. In addition to these, Lewis wrote some essays including this one, entitled On Stories.
Why do Readers Read?
In this essay, Lewis talks about the enjoyment the common man receives out of what he calls “romances”, or basically, fictional stories.
Instead of excitement being the primary factor of enjoyment, Lewis believed there was something else, deeper. The awakening of imagination.
Lewis didn’t want film to replace written fiction, because books allow, “The untrained its only access to the imaginative world”.
We need to write, “Story that can mediate imaginative life to the masses ….”
Imagination is powerful. I would often take characters from books or movies and expand on their adventures myself. Who knows, maybe this helped my writerly creativity. 😉
Without imagination, our lives would be much more boring and we writers have the responsibility and honor of nurturing this in our readers.
What is the Purpose of the Plot?
For Lewis, theme could be, “A state or quality ….” He said that theme is like a bird that the net of plot tries to catch.
“Different kind of dangers strike different chords in the imagination.” In The Return of the King, when Shelob appears, that fear is near to disgust. Contrast this with the fear of a mariner caught in a gale, whose fear might be, at least at first, akin to awe.
“A function of art is to present what the narrow and desperately practical perspectives of real life excludes.” So books allows us to see truths, or feelings, that normally are overshadowed by fear.
A recurring message in this and other essays can be summed up in this statement, “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally (and often far more) worth reading at the age of fifty—except, of course, books of information.”
Good books should be enjoyable for all ages.
(All excerpts taken from On Stories And Other Essays On Literature; Harcourt Brace & Company; copyright 1982, 1966 by C. S. Lewis PTE Ltd)
I hope that these points have been helpful to you. This is the first essay in a series of essays by C. S. Lewis, please subscribe if you want to read more. Or, if you have any questions or insights, please comment below.