What Fuels Our Fictional Love Affairs?
“You’re never going to find a guy who’s exactly like you—first of all, because that guy never leaves his dorm room.” ~ Rainbow Rowell,
“There are other people on the Internet. It’s awesome. You get all the benefits of ‘other people’ without the body odor and the eye contact.” ~ Rainbow Rowell,
Do you remember your first fictional, teenybopper crush? I think mine was Zach Morris (Saved By the Bell), followed by all of NKOTB. And then, one day, it happened. My first book boyfriend. Damon Salvadore. I know, you’re thinking he’s a new fictional love muffin, you’re wrong. I read the first Vampire Diaries book way before it was cool to do so. And I developed a bad habit, a taste for bad boys. I loved him. Like, LOVE love. It was an ache in my prepubescent heart.
I have loved many a fictional character since then (and I still love Damon. Ian Somerhalder? Yum.) I have felt every range of emotion and attachment over the years with my fictional friends. And it begs a question….
What defines real?
Over the course of a book, or especially, a series, we come to know a character intimately. I can remember a time when someone said my online friends were not “real.” But what defines real? Who defines real for you? Of course book characters are fictional (I’m not crazy) but for a small span of time they are real for the reader if they are connecting with them. The world you create surrounds your reader and they submerge in it. In my writing, I strive to make my characters as real as my online friends. They may not be physically tangible to me but I certainly feel their existence.
How do we connect so deeply with characters?
Sympathy/Empathy: When they tug at our heartstrings with their awkward ways and mishaps we can’t help wanting to just hug them. And it seems, the deeper their despair the more they draw us in.When we watch a character go through something we’ve been through, it really solidifies our connection with them.[bctt tweet=”Who was your first book crush?” username=”OurWriteSide”]
Wish Fulfillment: Sometimes we see in a character what we long for ourselves. When we cheer them on we are cheering for a part of ourselves and when they succeed we share their triumph. On the other, we may see the type of partner we dream of having in our lives and we live vicariously through one character and grow attached to another.
The Last Page Crash
You feel it coming. You’ve been with this character through thick and thin. The pages in your left hand become greater than your right, and maybe, you subconsciously slow down. You know the end is coming but you aren’t ready. And then it happens. You close it and let the book hangover wash over you. Sometimes, you go days feeling like something is missing. You miss spending time with a particular character. And then you pick up another book and start the process over again!
For a great scientific take on the bonds we form with fictional characters, check out this article on Fandoms by Abby Norman. For great insight on writing characters readers will love, check out this post.
Until next time, scribe happy and stay sassy!