An Emotional Attachment to Works of Fiction

Cover of "The Crack-Up"

I think we have all cracked up. Yeah?

On the surface, it sounds completely insane to become so wrapped up in characters or story lines in works of fiction that you become emotionally attached to them.  But millions of people all over the world are afflicted by this every day.

Just take a look at super religious types.  They are so emotionally attached to their holy books that they believe they are written by a divine entity.  They are ruled by their books.  They make them, and the stories in them, real.

I know I will catch a lot of flak for that from the religious folk out there, but you know it is true.  And I know that there has to be a name for this “disorder” (if you want to call it that) out there, but I will be danged if I know what it is. (If anyone knows, please tell me…)

I am a vicious little heathen, but I can relate to an observant religious person’s unyielding love for well-written and compelling works of fiction.  But instead of the heroes in the Bible, or any holy book of one’s choice, I am more attracted to the anti-hero in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work, or horrible, brutal villains in Peter Lorre films.

Make no mistake, darlings, I always root for the bad guys.  I’m wicked that way.

Whatever the case might be, this is something that affects most of us.  And why do you think that is?  Why do we place such importance on people and things that do not really exist?

Is it because we see ourselves in characters and situations portrayed in books and on film?  Or is it something else entirely?

Colonel Gimpy Crack-Up

Look at that face. Who wouldn’t fall head over heels? ;) (Peter Lorre as Colonel Gimpy in the 1936 film Crack-Up.)

My best friend tells me that when I describe the aforementioned F. Scott Fitzgerald works, or my beloved Colonel Gimpy from the movie Crack-Up, I sound like the biggest, most faithful religious zealot in the world.  I treat them not as works of fiction, but as people and situations that are real, and that I have somehow personally experienced what is going on.

I feel compelled to convert everyone into fans of what I love, just like a Missionary in Africa wants to convert the “lost” in some remote African village (or something) to their religion so their heathen souls go on to paradise in the afterlife.

What’s more, it is a compulsion that I do not want to get rid of.  Indeed, I want to feed it and make it grow.  And it is something that I have plenty of enablers for, believe it or not.  I ask for people to justify my mania and they do.  All the time.

By now you are probably either thinking I am completely insane—or you are nodding your head and completely identifying with everything I have said.  So what are your thoughts?  I will ask again:  what is it you think is the reason, if any, behind people’s emotional attachment to works of fiction?  Is it a mental disorder or is it something that is a completely normal part of being human?

(By the way, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Play The Crack-Up and Peter Lorre’s film Crack-Up are not in any way related…)

14 thoughts on “An Emotional Attachment to Works of Fiction

  1. Sonja Ceri

    What a great blog and I am so glad I stumbled upon it today!
    I love the way you are writing and found myself giggling after the first paragraph already!
    However, in regards to your question: I am a believer of story telling. This is a quality of telling stories to other people, right? And it has been done since there are thinking humans on this planet! Well, since last century we are able to tell stories in an even more engaging way: Through media.
    People have been emotionally attached to fictional characters since they were invented but with movies, photography and the internet, we can personalise the idea of an character and make it even more visible (literally). As soon as you have a face to a story, you feel sympathy or maybe not, But at the end of the day, it makes the story so much easier to remember. :)

    1. Angie Schaffer Post author

      A very good point you make about putting a face to the story, Sonja. A very good point, indeed. I think that is one of the reasons why I feel sympathy toward such a despicable character like Hans Beckert from the film M.

      If I were to just read the story about him running round a German city killing children, I probably wouldn’t feel bad for him at all. But the movie allows us to see him looking like a scared little boy with sad eyes that break your heart rather than a monster. It is very compelling how that works..
      Angie Schaffer recently posted…An Emotional Attachment to Works of FictionMy Profile

  2. Sharon

    Hi Angie, you are certainly not the only one. I’m attached to Sherlock Holmes and his brother, Mycroft and to several other characters. I tend to fall into the book as I read and I always feel sorry for those who don’t read fiction.

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  5. James Robinson

    Preach, sister! That’s the most amazing about fiction. They’re not real but the impact on our lives is so great. I remember having emotional attachment to a particular fictional character during my childhood days. The funny thing is I don’t remember who that is anymore. Just a blurry image.
    James Robinson recently posted…James RobinsonMy Profile

    1. Angie Schaffer Post author

      I remember all mine vividly. I had a real thing about Fred Astaire’s characters onscreen when I was barely old enough to walk. I would stand in front of my television and imitate all his dance moves, and I talked my parents into getting me dance lessons. *sigh*

      Fred died on my 10th birthday and I was probably the only 10-year-old in the universe at that time to lock myself in my room and cry all day.
      Angie Schaffer recently posted…The Switzer LegacyMy Profile

  6. Diane O

    I’ve tried to analyze this tendency in myself…. I can only guess… it might be some kind of nurturing missing in childhood, and seeking it out, finding it in the pages of a book or on a movie screen, where you come close to filling that missing void. It’s an attachment that never leaves us, and that’s not such a bad thing since it gives us so much joy and who is it hurting anyway?

    1. Angie Schaffer Post author

      I honestly do not know what it is with me. It might be because I am an extremely passionate person who is deeply moved by anything artistic. Whether it is music, a painting, a film. I am the only one I know who can’t bear to watch Schindler’s List past the opening credits because I become an emotional wreck as soon as it starts. *sigh* lol
      Angie Schaffer recently posted…The Switzer LegacyMy Profile


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