Identifying with characters

Ven vendersleighc at
Thu Nov 27 19:52:36 EST 2003

Identification with characters in one's reading
came up sometime this month, I've been mulling it
over ever since. Unfortunately I can't remember
who posted or precisely what they said, so if it
was you I apologise for any mangling of your

So irrc, I think someone said they didn't
identify with characters and, probably, didn't
see the point. Then they connected it to the
"Mary Sue" convention in fan fiction -- that
"identifying" was something one did with
characters like oneself, and as mundane as
oneself. And I thought "hmmm that doesn't sound
like what I call identification"...... For me
it's a question of feeling for the characters. I
am emotionally invested in their goals, I want
them to keep their children safe, get down off
the icy mountain, find out who is behind it all.
If the character's goal conflicts with what I (as
the reader) think they should be doing I feel
agonised. I can get immersed in their physical
sensations too almost as though I am there with

This kind of identification varies in strength
and isn't necessary for my enjoyment of a book,
although it does have to do with how often I
reread.  A character who gives me the full on
total immersion feeling is Robin Hobb's Fitz. I
have just read the latest -- Fool's Fate -- and I
am now rereading the first, Assassin, series. For
those who haven't read the series, Fitz is
definitely not a Mary Sue, he's a Flawed Hero if
he is anything. It's not actually very
comfortable identifying with Fitz, you find
youself willing him to do the right thing knowing
that he won't a lot of the time. And he goes
through more physical privation and emotional
wretchedness than even the average hero.  Worth
it in the end though.............

Some of the Dwj characters I have most identified
with are Cat Chant (less so with Christopher)
Jamie from Homeward Bounders (and Helen and
Polly, Maree, Sirius (rather than Kathleen)
Paolo Montana, Nan, Moril, Tanaqui and  Mitt. 


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