Why? Because it gives me more time to get to know the characters. The author gets to delve into the minds of everything, even the small, seemingly unimportant, side characters. Everyone is more developed, more in-depth, because the writer can indulge their fancies and show us the whole picture.
I like characters. No, that’s an understatement. I love characters. It’s a constant struggle too, because so often I’ll start reading or watching something and there will be things in it that go against my beliefs so I have to stop, but I will forever mourn the fact that I won’t be able to find out what happens to the characters I connected with.
I form emotional bonds with characters very quickly. A smile, a phrase, a slight movement, I pick up on all these things and read into them. I love a character because of the way he smiles shyly just after the girl turns away. I can tell he’s in love with her, but he’s too shy to be anything but polite with her. I grow attached to someone because of the way their shoulders sag when no one is looking after they’ve spent an entire chapter going at it with the bad guys, exchanging snarky comments and claiming they will succeed without a doubt. Because, that shoulder sag shows that for all their bravado, they’re human, and they’re scared, and they have no idea if they can really save the day.
It’s actually very exhausting, loving so many fictional people that much. I invest my time and emotion in them, I watch them in all their ups and downs, watch them make the right choices and the wrong, and cry and cheer and laugh and scream along with them.
I’ve also learned something out of it all.
Loving characters so much has taught me just how much I will forgive someone. When my favorite character makes poor choices or starts to maybe sway over to the side of the bad guys, I will still root for them. I will never give up on them. Just because they failed, that’s no reason to stop loving them. They’re still the person I laughed and cried and cheered and screamed with. They’re still the person I love.
It’s taught me what unconditional love really is. No matter how far a character falls, I still see them as the person I fell in love with. I still see their potential and with every word they speak, every one of their actions, I hope they live up to who I know they really are and what they can be.
Yes, I hate what they’re doing. Yes, I want to scream at them every time they make a wrong choice (and, sometimes I do… just ask my parents). But that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up on them.
I’ll never do that. Even if they give themselves over to the villain and start fighting against the good guys. I still won’t give up hope that someday they’ll redeem themselves.
Which got me to thinking- how is it I can love characters so much, forgive them so much, when I’m such a trolly introvert who doesn’t like people?
It doesn’t make sense at all.
Or, does it?
See, after some pondering, I realized that the reason I love characters so much is because I get to see everything. I get to see that little shy smile, I get to see the way their shoulders sag, the way they cry when they’re alone, and the way they’re laughing on the inside when they’re pretending to be mad.
I get to see them as a whole, get to see beyond the mask they wear, into who they truly are. I accept it when they make mistakes because I know why they made them. I know them. We’ve gone through so much together since the beginning of the series. I know what they’re capable of and why they aren’t living up to that potential.
I guess what I’m saying is, they allowed me to understand them.
See, that’s the problem with humans. We put up walls, create barricades, wear masks. We only let people see what we want them to. We don’t let them see our shoulders sag or the way we cry when it’s all too much. We lock ourselves away and reduce our interaction with others to small talk and chitchat.
I realized I don’t like people because I don’t want to chat about the weather, or the game, or whatever random tidbit you come up with. Unless that’s what you’re passionate about, I don’t care.
I don't actually like baseball. In fact, when I'm alone, I really don't care at all who's winning the game or who just stole second. But, when I'm with my dad, I love it. I'm excited and involved and I care. I really do want to know who's winning or stealing a base or pitching a perfect game (of course, if they are, we don't talk about it for obvious reasons...)
Because he’s passionate about it.
That’s what I want out of my interaction with people. I want the real you. I want to see you passionate, or angry, or confused. I don’t want the put together, stuffed into society’s box version you think you need to be. Because that version, quite frankly, is boring.
I think the world would be a much better place if we would stop trying to be who we think we’re supposed to be. If we would stop hiding who we really are because we’re afraid of what people will think. If we would allow people to understand us, to see who we really are.
I’m not just pointing fingers. I do this far more often than I care to admit. I want to fit in, so instead I keep my distance. Because nobody really cares what I have to say.
Well, I’m here to tell you, that if you have ever felt that way, you’re wrong. Because if you were a character in a book, everyone would love you. They would accept your faults and your flaws and laugh and cheer every time you showed your passionate side. They would cry with you, and boo and hiss at anyone who told you that you were anything less than wonderful.
You might even have a group of fangirls. Who knows.
The point is, your being you is so much more important and impressive than you being someone else. It’s far more beautiful and engaging and exciting. It makes you far more interesting.
You’re no different than my favorite character. I want to understand you, want to know who you are. I care but I don’t know how to tell you. Because I’m too busy hiding behind my own mask, wondering if you care.
I know it’s hard. It’s a leap of faith, putting yourself out there before everyone else. But, if you truly care about the person you’re talking to, the best way to show them that is to be yourself. Because the message that sends is “Hey, I’m me; it’s okay for you to be you.”
And, if the person gives you a weird look and never talks to you again, guess what? They aren’t worth your time or emotions. You know why? Because there’s so much more to you than what that one person thinks.
So, I’d like to challenge you to be yourself. To show the people around you that you care about who they are by allowing them to see who you are. Show them it’s safe for them to be themselves with you.
And, in the end, maybe you’ll discover a character worth loving.
How about you? Do you find yourself easily attached to characters? Do you feel cramped in a box when you interact with people? Has this post caused you to want to start being yourself more than you have?