Saturday morning, I got up, grabbed a bowl of cereal, and sat down in front of the computer. A webcomic I follow had updated, and I was ready for it. I thought. Below is a halfway decent transcript of my reaction, probably missing a few wails.
Oh wow. Nice music.
What are you doing?
Is he… he is… he’s…. chewing… oh my god. Um…
No. Wait. What are you –
Hey. You. What are you doing? Get out of there. You’re not supposed to be there ye- WHAT THE HELL
Oh my god. No nonononononon.
They’re already dead what are you -FFFFFFFFFFF
No no no no no no.
What’s he going to do? This is going to be –
Oh my god. No.
This is not good.
Thus is my reaction to fictional events. It was so bad my mother came over to see what was wrong, regarding me with well-deserved bemusement.
What you may have gathered is that I get ridiculously attached to fictional characters. I won’t deny it. Nothing makes me cry as easily as the ending of The Book Thief. Nothing can make me smile more than beloved characters defeating the odds and, you know, not dying. It took me quite a while to realize that not everyone felt the same way. To many people (I can’t generalize, but possibly most), characters are nothing more than ink on pages or pixels on a screen. They’re not real. I know they’re not real, but somewhere in my brain, those letters and pixels translate into something that matters. I can’t explain how or why, but characters affect me – sometimes more than people in real life.
I’ve tossed around a few theories. Characters in books can’t bother me when I don’t want them to. I can put them away and ignore them when I want to. Or maybe as a writer, I recognize the effort put into building a character and assign more value to it. Decent characters take a lot of effort, after all. (Effort I sometimes do not expend. Bad me.) My mother suggested it was a protection mechanism – attaching to people who can never hurt me. (Clearly she hasn’t seen the extent of my post-Book Thief devastation.)
In the end, characters aren’t real. Still, for whatever reason, I invest a lot of emotions in their successes/demises. Everyone wants to get lost in a story. I go a bit further than some. If you see me in tears, chances are someone died – but don’t worry. They probably weren’t real.
How about you? Do you get over-emotional over non-existent people? Why do you think that is?