My Fictional Friends

So if people ever look down on you for crying for fictional characters, you should give them a gentle, pitying look and feel bad for them. If they’ve never cried for a fictional character, then they’ve never loved one (and what a joy that is). If they’ve never cried at a book, a movie, a piece of music, then they’ve missed one of the greatest pleasures life has to offer. Just because fiction does not contain things that are real doesn’t mean it doesn’t contain truth, and we find it through the alchemy of our tears. Cassandra Clare

I was sobbing my way through a poignant death scene in The Darkest Road when I got a text:

“What r u doing?”

I answered with uncharacteristic honesty:

“I’m crying.”

“What’s wrong?”

“A character just died in the book I’m reading.”

“Is that all? I thought it was something serious!”

Needless to say our friendship also died that night.

That was not the first time I shed tears for a fictional character – I cried when Fievel was swept overboard, I cried for Laurie because Jo wouldn’t marry him, I cried for Simba when Mufasa died, I cried because Sam and Frodo were so brave, because Tomas overcame the Valheru, because Commodus killed Maximus’ family; more recently I cried because Egwene sacrificed herself, Javert couldn’t accept grace, and because that one S.H.I.E.L.D. tech guy wouldn’t betray Captain America. Sometimes the tears are for a dark night of the soul, sometimes I mourn for or with a character, and sometimes I am so filled with joy and wonder at the goodness I encounter.

Too often the world looks down on depth of feeling, especially when it’s for something that isn’t real, as though somehow our tears are being wasted (who measures the usefulness of tears and why anyway?). The truth in fiction that moves me to tears increases my capacity to feel, and that’s something that has a ‘real world’ application.

To quote Buffy: “[M]y emotions give me power. They’re total assets.”

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