Can we really learn from fictional people?

Sometimes I think about the people I know and love in my life: the main characters: key protagonists and sometimes antagonists, as well as the cameo roles. To expand on something I said yesterday, we are the composite of all those people who walk beside us. But what about the characters we create?

I can’t help think that since writing breathes life into characters, we are somehow attracting or drawing to ourselves the kind of characters we need. I have talked before about how Lydia from While No One Was Watching taught me so much from her wisdom about life. She took me to places I could only imagine (hmm, I did imagine them though, right?) and she showed me things. Truly. I remember her teaching me about an aspect of African-American history I had never heard of. She taught me about places where the blacks were moved to the outskirts of major cities and given the opportunity to buy their own homes in the 1959s/60s, like the whites — but then realised it was nothing more than marginalisation. I think I say in the novel how she realises it was like putting all the black sheep into a pen — out of sight. And the people had to jump through much higher and  far more difficult hoops to be lent money than their white counterparts. In the novel, Lydia’s father did this and was so proud of being a home-owner. This really happened and I had no idea, but it was something Lydia taught me. Did I stumble upon it by a serendipitous wrong click on Google? Did I know it without knowing I knew it, maybe I was dozing on the couch as a kid and something was on TV that went in without me knowing, rattled around in my unconscious mind and came to the fore years and years later? Or do characters really come to life and become real people?

Have we not all learned by connecting, even falling in love with fictional characters? And if we do, be that love or hate, then are we  not experiencing the same physiological responses inside as if these were real people we were reading about? Reacting to? I would say an emphatic yes. I myself have many times felt uneasy and it’s been a feeling, perhaps that something is going to happen or of sadness or grief and later realised it’s because of something happening to my characters and  I feel it in the same places. If we didn’t then how could we ever relate to the characters we write or read about?

So what do you think? Are neural pathways in the brain not forming and breaking and reforming making memories and associations about fictional characters as we read as well as the real people in our lives?

Is there any difference to what we learn from real people to what we learn from the ones borne of ours or someone’s imagination? Food for thought for you all today.

Have a great Thursday everyone.

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Filed under being a successful writer, Blogging, Learning to be a writer, Living the dream, Mainstream Fiction, Novel writing, Passion for writing, Publishing, Reading, Writing

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