These two pins from Pinterest made their way onto my boards in the past few weeks.
I have always been drawn to stories that present the universality of human nature in different cultural settings. As a teenager who felt lonely and out of place, reading stories helped me connect, to know that I wasn't the only person who felt so odd. The characters were real to me, and I felt a genuine connection to them.
I connected to characters in medieval and renaissance literature, historical novels, science fiction, poetry, and fantasy. In my forties, I've rediscovered young adult literature and have voraciously read Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and Egyptian series, not to mention J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books, all of which take readers to wonderfully odd places.
Who wouldn't like owl post? Seriously.
But despite the strangeness of the settings, what appeals in all these stories is the human story. Harry, for instance, isn't particularly special in the magical world. In fact, he's rather ordinary except on the Quidditch field. He has some talents, of course, but his real strength is his capacity to care for others, and that leads him to extraordinary deeds of sacrifice to stop the evil that threatens those he loves. He struggles, fails, has help, makes mistakes, misjudges, and hurts, but he doesn't stop loving.
I love this.
So imagine my delight when I read a wonderful article from the New York Times titled "Your Brain on Fiction." Now there is a dawning scientific understanding of why we connect so well with narrative fiction or poetry.
We readers were right all along. The characters are real to us, and we are not alone.