Last week, I wrote about the real emotional impact of a beloved character leaving one of my long-running favorite TV shows. If you missed it, you can catch up here. This week, I am going to try to figure out why this sort of thing breaks my heart in a very real sense.
I think part of it is that I am a writer. I invent people all the time. And then I live with them for however long it takes me to finish their story. I hear their voices. I know how they will react to whatever happens. I know where they live, what they do, what they like, what they hate. They have conversations and interactions that I see and in a way, live just as they do. They become real to me.
If that story is going to be successful, those same characters should be real to you, the reader, too. That means they have to be real to me, first, because if I don’t believe in them, if I don’t think and feel and react as if they were real people, you won’t, either. I have a lot of friends in the files sitting on my computer. I have a few folk that I am not entirely fond of. I am happy with them for every triumph. I grieve with every loss. I feel it when one has to die or otherwise be physically hurt. Oh, I do it. Of course, because sometimes it’s necessary to make things real. But it doesn’t mean I don’t feel it.
The other part is that I am an avid reader. I don’t have all the time I would like to read, but I try to read at least a little every day. I am the type of reader that gets fully immersed in a book. If it is a particularly good one, I sometimes am completely unaware of the world around me. People talking to me? Don’t hear them. Noise? What noise? If I am lost in a book, I suspect the zombie apocalypse could take place outside my door, and I wouldn’t notice! Favorite characters become neighbors and friends. I smile at the good times, and feel sad at the bad. There is more than one book in my library with tears dried on the page at the death or tragedy of a favorite. There are some in ongoing series that I know will gather more.
Same thing happens with TV and movies. Those people are my friends, the heroes and sometimes villains that pull me into their lives, fictional though they are, and who touch my mind and, too often, my heart. It is, of course, a tribute to the creators of all of them that they become such a part of my life.
I am very character driven, whether I am writing, reading, or watching. It’s character over everything else. When I’ve stopped reading a book before the end, it’s almost always because I can’t find a character to care about. Plot, setting, the writing itself can all be stellar, but give me just one character that I can latch on to, or I’m probably going to lose interest.
So, when Kylo Ren killed Han Solo, I cried. Twice. When the druid Allanon died in Terry Brooks’ Shannara series, I cried. There were so many times I was heartbroken and tearful in Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni series, I lost count. And when ADA Barba walked away from the courthouse in last week’s SVU, my heart broke and there were more tears.
As they say: Oh, the *feels*!
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