A writer friend of mine is struggling to write a scene that hits too close to something she herself has experienced. It turns out she has never dealt with the incident; she found it too traumatizing. Yet, she is about to incorporate it in her novel. She insists that it must be there for the sake of the plot. I say, you can start a tale anywhere you want and by making it backstory, you don't need to delve as deeply. But, she holds fast to using it authentically. Why? Perhaps, it is time to work through her own anxiety. I think writers have that marvelous and unique opportunity to work personal things out through their stories.
I believe this is true for readers too. Many fictional novels mimic real life events, both on a large scale and on the miniscule level of daily human existence. They make us laugh, they make us angry, and, sometimes, they scare the bejesus out of us. More importantly, they allow us to explore hurt and sorrow, recreating moments that may have caused profound pain in our own lives—letting us weep, wrapped in the comfort and safety of their pages. It can be cathartic.
Other fiction provides delightful diversion as well. Escaping into the other worlds provided by SciFi and Fantasy allows us to leave this one. Thrillers, Mysteries and Adventures keep our adrenalin high and we become heroes for a brief time. Romance is probably the epitome of escapism. There is a reason that Romance novels are among the top-selling genres in the industry. They too can provide emotional release and all of the elements listed above, but they come with a positive caveat not given by any other genre. They guarantee a happy-ever-after.
In light of the ongoing turmoil in the world, I crave comfort. I think I'll grab a romance and curl up this afternoon. At least, for a few hours, I can be assured of a happy ending.