fiction makes us feel, too

Some people throw themselves into story lines. Books. Movies. TV series. And some people don’t. If you watch somebody else interacting with a story, it’s easy to see those that fall into the first category. Their facial expressions change with the mood, they cover their mouths with anticipation, they curl up when they know something bad is about to happen. They’ve invested themselves in that story (have you figured out yet that I’m talking about myself again?).

Sometimes I catch myself being afraid for a character. Dreading what is to come. Worried, but somehow still excited. Yesterday I was reading (the fifth book in the Outlander series, if you were wondering) and there came a moment where I felt genuinely afraid of what was happening. I hesitated to continue reading, knowing full well how the situation would feel for the characters involved. Feeling it myself. I tore my eyes away from the page for a moment and stared at the wall, frowning. I did the only thing I could to postpone the inevitable. Eventually I continued, because  it doesn’t make sense to stop reading a book just because you are afraid of what is going to happen. The interesting thing, though, is that fictional words on a page had the ability to make me feel this way.

It amazes me how this can be. I know this isn’t real. It’s a fictional plot that, once I’m done reading, will be gone. It’s not my life, nor the life of anyone I know. It’s not even something that I think any considerable amount about outside of when I am reading. So why, then, does it have such an impact?

There are two reasons I’ve come up with. The first involves being completely engrossed in the moment. Reading the authors words fully – no skimming, no skipping the long descriptive paragraphs that probably don’t contain important plot info just so you can find out what happens next (we’ve all done it!).

The second is putting yourself into the story. There is always a character that you most identify with. When you do this, you relate their experiences to your own, you imagine yourself going through what they do. You imagine how you would react.

Combine these two things and it strikes a cord. You can easily have one without the other, but it’s when they are combined that you really feel. When what you read becomes personal – that’s when it’s powerful.

When things like this happen, it reminds we why I am in love with stories. When they bring out feelings, if makes you think. Maybe about your own real life. It helps you realize what is important to you and what you hold in high regard. It help you see more clearly what you want out of your own life. It reminds you what makes you smile and what you need more of.

That’s why I love stories. And that’s why I fall into the first category. Stories can be much more than just entertainment. What is the point of resisting that? If I can be entertained while at the same time learning something about myself, I’m in. It’s a double win. And it’s why I will never stop reading.


Something else:

They’ve made a TV series out of the book series I’m talking about. It’s called Outlander. I’ve watched the first episode, and I must say it’s something different than a lot of other things you can find. Check it out if you’re interested and let me know what you think.

Which category do you fall in? I’d love to hear your thoughts.