Have you ever become so personally involved with a book, so emotionally connected, that when you overhear other people – strangers who are not part of this private world – mention a character in passing, as if they have the right to casually say his name, you are shocked and appalled?
I have. It’s happened only a handful of times, but when it did, shocked and appalled didn’t cover it.
At first, I was confused. How does this unknown person even know who that is? They weren’t there. They didn’t see this amazing thing occur. Then, when sensibility kicked in, I was hurt, almost betrayed, as if the character had cheated on me with someone else. It took a few more moments for rationality to take over. Because I do have a handle on reality, I did eventually grasp the notion that the fictional people in the story don’t live in my own secret realm. I was forced to recognize they were created by an author and everyone knows them because Hollywood produced a blockbuster based on the novel. They don’t belong to me.
Luckily for my sanity points, this doesn’t happen often. It is rare when I can immerse myself altogether. Given the large amount of my spare time I spend absorbed in one book after another, it is something special that causes this intense of a reaction. As it happened recently with a popular young adult series, this feeling has been on my mind. I don’t know if it is the writing itself that does it, or my frame of mind when I am reading. Now that I am attempting to take my own writing more seriously, I am curious about the particular set of circumstances that enable me to forget myself in such a way. What makes a story so good, and the characters so relatable, that it is possible for a reader to immerse herself so entirely?
I can’t take timing out of the equation, of course. No doubt my mental head space contributes. Nevertheless, when I recall the books with which I have been the most enamoured, they were usually novels written for younger generations: Anne of Green Gables, Tuck Everlasting, Hunger Games… Is it because the writing itself is simpler? Or perhaps because the characters are younger? Youth and all of its fumbling generally makes for a compelling story. For myself anyway, It is often much easier to understand the motivations of a teenager than those of a middle-aged male. There is less artifice, more instinct. Their flaws are raw and their mistakes forgivable. However, just because I find myself obsessed with young adult dystopia as of late doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a little Wally Lamb. Or even, on especially unique occasions, Steinbeck.
That’s what I love the most about books, fiction and non, and why I panic about not reading enough. Every single one is an opportunity to discover a new perspective. Some more than others, for inexplicable reasons, just entice me down the rabbit hole.
What do you think? Have you ever gotten this caught up by a book? Am I just plan nuts?