Emotional Connections with Fictional Characters

Have you ever felt a real, strong emotional connection to a fictional character?

Obviously, that’s the goal with fiction, but some authors make entertaining fiction, and some make entertaining characters. And an ever smaller minority make not just characters that you can identify with, but characters that you can genuinely connect with.

I recently got a stick up my butt for the Enderverse novels, and read all of them over the last month and a half or so. I started with Ender’s series and ended with the Shadow series.

[spoiler]From the beginning, I genuinely liked Petra, and I identified with Peter, as soon as he stop being the “super-evil dick” of Ender’s memory. Of course, Valentine was adorable, and Ender was ruthless, I liked both of them, but Peter – at least as Hegemon and a man – was a real, moving character. And his explanation at the end of the Shadow Series was absolutely amazing.

I like Petra, because she’s feisty I suppose, from the very beginning. As the novels progressed, I felt that she was a real character. Even with her exaggerated devotion to Bean, she was a good character. And then, when Bean left Earth with the two children with Anton’s Key for a relativistic voyage… Peter’s actions towards the children, and his marriage to Petra ended a sour series on a high note for me.

I guess it says something about me, that in a series full of gray characters, I most identify the one who’s unrepentant about his actions, and what is arguably the 2nd greatest villain of the entire series (behind Achilles).[/spoiler]

ETA: I’ve got a few more, but none quite as fresh in my memory as that one.

Yes. I was in love with Willow Rosenberg from Buffy for a while, and posted a thread here about it. I also like Oz, Xander, and Jonathan from the same series, and [spoiler for one of Joss’ movies. Fans know which one]

felt like I’d lost a real friend when Wash died in Serenity.

Outside of Whedon, I think Kira Nerys is probably the most dynamic character I’ve ever met.

Holden Caulfield.

Yeah, yeah, I know.


L.E. Modesitt, Jr., in the Spellsong series, developed a very believable and likable character in the form of Anna, the Sorceress-Protector of Defalk. Her physical appearance had been accidentally changed to that of a much younger person and you get to thinking of her that way. When he has her die of old age at the beginning of the fourth book, it comes as a huge shock. I remember actually saying “Oh, no!” out loud when I read it and feeling incredibly sad, as if a good friend had died.

When I was 11, I read Elizabeth Marie Pope’s The Perilous Gard for the first time and identified so much with the protagonist, Kate, that I felt like I was reading about myself – not because of her circumstances, but because of her personality and the way she responded to the different people around her. I read that book dozens and dozens of times all throughout my adolescence, and when I read through it now I can see how it actually changed me…how I had made myself more like Kate as I grew up. (For a minor example, she never let herself cry out of pride, and although my family didn’t raise me to feel any shame over tears, after I read the book I too decided I would never let myself cry out of pride.) I even went to college where I did (Bryn Mawr) because that’s where Elizabeth Marie Pope went fpr her PhD.

It even makes me feel a little weird when I learn that other people have read the book, too – as though it were mine alone! – and I don’t like to get into discussions with people about it (online or IRL) because it’s too personal to me. I don’t want to learn that your interpretations of Kate are different from mine. Too freaky.

Rory Gilmore’s story in Gilmore Girls affected me in ways that shows/movies/books that only last for a few hours/seasons just can’t do. Meeting someone like that IRL is my dream, even though I would never be able to keep up. And I still think she should have ended up with Jess…

In a different way, Gilliat from Victor Hugo’s Toilers of the Sea is someone I couldn’t help caring about. I’ve heard people say that about other Hugo characters, but he’s the one that struck a chord the most with me.

Michael Garibaldi, in Babylon 5.

I can never again look down on women who obsess about soap operas, because when Garibaldi, in the fourth season of B-5, was having his breakdown I was devastated. When he was about to fall off of the wagon I was hollering at the TV for him not to take that drink.

I’m pretty embarrassed about mine.

  1. Jack Deveraux from Days of Our Lives. He was one of those ‘reformed rapist’ dudes, a trope that normally I despise, but his was the only redemption arc I actually believed and sympathized with. He had a (obviously justified) self-loathing streak that led him on a self-destructive path, and even when he was trying to become a better person, he screwed up; he’d end up in these patterns of pushing anyone away who tried to get close, and yet was hungry for some affection. It took him ages to find some sense of peace. This was back in the late '80s / early '90s, when soap writers were able to take the time to explore a character’s psyche and take them through long, painful arcs. I was rivetted and felt extraordinarily empathetic with this guy, primarily because of the excellent writing and especially the nuanced performance by Matthew Ashford. Unlike almost every other ‘reformed rapist’ crap storyline, Ashford’s Jack never forgot what he’d done, even when the producers desperatedly wanted him to.
  1. God help me, but Remus Lupin from the Harry Potter books/movies. I … I empathized with him way, way too much. I don’t think I’ve been as connected to a character as much, ever. In a kid’s novel series. With a character who has like twenty lines of dialogue, tops! Sick, sick, sick. In addition to angst that surrounded his lycanthropy, I loved his Job-like endurance of a horrible burden, his good humor, his warmth, his bravery… just an all-round fascinating character. And when I got to the final book…

I was furious and depressed for weeks whenever I thought about how cruelly he’d been treated. Seriously, I actually cried whenever I thought about it. In fairness to me, I was in a depression at the time anyway, but still. I’m still resentful of Rowling’s disposition of that character. Of course, it’s her book to do with what she wants, but goddammit, Remus should have survived that fucking saga. After enduring a life filled with pain, misery, humiliation, and even character assassination (leaving his family?! attacking Harry???), to end up with a couple of weeks of happiness only to be pointlessly murdered OFF-STAGE… oh God, I’m getting verklempt again! Talk amongst yourselves…sob!

Yeah, obviously I have a thing for angsty, tormented types filled with self-loathing. Sadly this reveals way too much about my psychological makeup!

as a pretty straight male, i found myself oddly connected to Joey Adams’s character in Chasing Amy. Not in the sense that i was looking for love in all the wrong places, but i felt bad for her. like in a big brother kind of way.

also sexually attracted. i could definitely get over the fact that she got double stuffed in HS. Joey Adams is fucking sexy.

I connected with fictional characters quite often when I was growing up. I think literature helped shape who I am as a person. One of my favorite books when I was younger was Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede, and her protagonist, Cimorene, is a strong and capable woman with a friendly disposition and a no-nonsense approach to life. She’s someone who doesn’t feel comfortable in a woman’s typical role in her society and so she finds a way to make a place for herself. These are characteristics I strongly identify with, and admire, and I think that’s why I felt so connected to that book series.

I remember I was also a huge fan of the Anne of Green Gables series and I thought Anne was the kind of person I would like to be friends with! She was wonderful because she wasn’t a perfect human being, but she matured throughout the series and made me laugh.

A bit sillier was when I was 11 or so and started being interested in relationships. I was really into Star Wars and I had fangirl crushes on Han Solo, and, more oddly, Boba Fett (the bounty hunter who never takes off his mask) and Ghent (a young computer geek from Timothy Zahn’s really-rather-crap-actually novels). I think the crush on Boba Fett got a bit out of control; I was obsessed. Actually, I still (as a 19 year old) get crushes on celebrities, I think it’s become much more healthy since then though.

You’re embarrassed, choie? Wait till you read mine.

OK, I know I talk about Naruto an awful lot on this board, but I really really like that manga/anime series. The character who stands out for me is HinataHyuuga. She’s shy and withdrawn, much as I was at the age she is at the beginning of the series (12 or so). She’s the oldest daughter of a rather traditional family, but she is passed over as the heiress in favor of her younger sister, because her father considers her untalented as a ninja. With Naruto’s encouragement, she stands up to her bullying older cousin (who gets his ass kicked by Naruto, BTW) and develops her natural talents as a tracker as well as a defensive fighting technique. She has admired Naruto for years, and this admiration has blossomed into a crush, but it takes several years, and a life-threatening situation, for her to confess her feelings to him.

The reason I identify with this character to some extent is that I was once as shy and withdrawn as she was. I liked how she toughened up as the series went on while still remaining sweet and kind to her friends. I know many people find her annoying as a character, but I’ve noticed they tend to be the same people who would tell me “Speak up! Stop mumbling!” and “Smile!” when they think I’m not acting lively enough for them. :rolleyes: Not all of us are the life of the party, and I like that there is a female character with this personality who is portrayed heroically.