I’m reading Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen right now, the middle part of a trilogy. One of the book’s secondary characters is Ewen, a capable and good-hearted jailor in the castle keep. He thinks of himself as mentally deficient – “slow” or “simple” in a way others are not. Those around him seem to agree. But he tries hard and performs his job well, always wanting to make his “Da” proud.
Villains come to the jail and cause havoc, but he manages to keep the peace. The queen notices his good work and rewards him with a more important—and dangerous—job. A job that is he is probably unprepared to handle.
That’s as far as I’ve gotten. When I read on, Ewen is either going to succeed or fail. He will live, die, or something in-between.
I desperately want Ewen to succeed. I need him to.
I could say the same for the protagonist, Kelsea. (and would have, but her situation is vastly more complicated)
I worry about these two. What if Ewen screws up and confirms everyone’s expectations? What if Kelsea doesn’t figure things out in time? Will they die? Suffer something something even worse?
Here’s the really crazy part: They aren’t real. Ewen is fiction. The printed paper he appears on is more substantial. Kelsea is just a character thought up by a brilliant writer banging away at a keyboard.
I know this. I should not care about these imaginary people.
But I do. It’s madness.
Stories should not exist.
I guess I need to clarify and say fiction stories shouldn’t exist. Nonfiction makes sense. If I told you about the time I threw up in a canoe on the river and had to live with the smell for the next two hours? Fine. It actually happened. It was real.
But Ewen isn’t. Kelsea isn’t.
But my reaction to stories STILL makes no sense. It’s magic.
I took classes on how to write a story. Read books about plot structure, scene construction, character arcs, etc. That should have killed the magic, turning every story into an equation.
Nope. Not even a dent.
On rare occasions, I meet new people. On rarer occasions I try to make conversation with them. And once in a red moon, that conversation goes something like this:
So what are you reading?
I don’t really read.
What about tv?
Not my thing.
Never did it for me.
Deprived of all my normal ammunition, I try to engage with nonfiction:
Um… remember Napoleon?
That was a crazy time.
Then they ask about sports, and I stare at the floor.
I used to find these non-story-loving people baffling. Were they hit on the head as a child? Did someone remove half their brains?
But now I understand. These are the normal ones. They make sense. When presented with fiction, they conclude that it does not exist in the real world and move on. Logical.
Me? I know the story isn’t real. But if it’s good, I care about what happens next. A lot.
INSANITY. I am cracked. We all are. It’s a beautiful disease of the mind.
I don’t have any grand conclusions here. I know that everyone already understands this and takes it for granted. This is more of a WHAAAA??? kind of post. I notice something crazy, stand dumbfounded for a while, then tell you about it.
A writer invented a totally unreal person and made me care about her. It’s a phenomenon as common as burping, but I’m amazed every time. Powerful magic happens every day and it’s REAL.
Stories should not exist. But I’m really glad they do.