The title of this post is a question I have been prompted to ask as a result of the discussion at creative writing group today.
The tutor mentioned that she identifies with characters in the books she reads and, talking with a fellow student afterwards, it appears that this is something she also seeks from her reading material. I have had conversations with other friends who also speak of getting inside the skin of a character and really seeing and feeling things along with them. This is not true of me.
I read, primarily, to be entertained and perhaps also to learn. I need characters to be plausible and interesting, with at least some of them being likeable. I could not read about people if I was not drawn in to care about them unless the plot itself was very challenging. I am always aware, though, that fictional people are creations – they are not real and I couldn’t, for that reason, identify with them. If they experience stuff that is, in and of itself, touching and emotional then I will feel sympathy and wan’t the best outcome for them. I could not, however, empathise with a product of someone’s imagination.
The only time I will be drawn to stuff on a personal level is when it is autobiograpical or biograpical. It is then about a real person, and therefore may have resonance for me. Having said that, I will be more interested in biographical work featuring people and situations about which I would have no experience or knowledge than fiction about someone very like me feeling things like I do (if any such person exists!!!)
I guess, on the whole, I read to see things differently. Is this true of any of you, or is this desire to find the familiar and comforting in stories (and perhaps other forms of entertainment too) the more usual motivation? Enquiring minds would like to know…