Fiction & Life / Life & Fiction

How often have you read a phrase or watched a scene in a film and identified with it? Had a feeling of recognition or a jolt of sympathetic emotion? And it doesn’t only happen with those intended to be realistic, there can be just as strong a connection with a story that is complete fantasy.

This is because whatever you’re writing about, whatever characters populate your story, they have to be given a personality, and what would that be if not human? How would truly ‘alien’ characters behave? Is it even possible for us to imagine, or is it like with history, where our modern ideas and conventions are so strongly imprinted that it’s impossible to know what it was really like to live in another time. In that example I believe you can read historical texts and imagine all you want; you can’t know.

In the same way, because writers are human, no matter how they try, humanity gets in somewhere.

More than this, how could a reader connect with a story or with characters that aren’t in any recognisable way human, and why write a story that people cannot empathise with. As I’ve read in several ‘how-to’ books now, readers have to care about your characters – love them or hate them – for them to have a reason to continue reading. If they don’t care what happens, if they don’t want to find out why, they won’t bother getting to the end. Ever wondered why you walked out of the film in the middle, closed that book and never went back to it? It’s not necessarily bad, it’s much more likely that you just didn’t connect.

And we humans are all about the connections.

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