Bryan Caplan: As a rule, I don’t care for “hard sci-fi.” In fact, artistically speaking, I normally dislike true stories of any kind. And I barely care about continuity errors. When I read novels or watch movies, I crave what I call “emotional truth.” .. “it’s the idea of becoming someone else for a little while. Being inside another skin. Moving differently, thinking differently, feeling differently.” .. When creators spend a lot of mental energy on the accuracy of their physics or the historical sequence of events, they tend to lose sight of their characters’ inner lives. A well-told story is designed to maximize the audiences’ identification with the characters .. you know a creator has succeeded when you temporarily lose yourself in the story.
Your comment is right on.. Another example is that we tell the story that we care for others just like the protagonists in the novels we read. In real life there is no caring.
Perhaps one way to explain this is to say that the compelling stories are "lifelike" not in being like life, but in being like the stories we tell ourselves about our own lives. Just as fiction differs systematically from reality, a person's own ideas of his life as a somewhat coherent narrative with coherent purposes and so on also differ systematically from reality.
A simple example: in order to feel "lifelike," a character cares about justice more than real people do. But the readers also think that they personally care about justice more than they actually do. So the story differs from reality in a manner analagous to how the readers' self assessments differ from reality.
Related: Katja Grace's enjoyable and insightful contrast of system vs story thought.
"If you see a black cat cross your path, story thought says further dark things may cross your metaphoric path, while system thought might say animals in general can probably cross many approximately flat surfaces."