Why We Relate to Fictional Characters
Whether you are watching a show on TV, playing a video game, or simply just reading a novel, you’ve probably interacted with the exploits and adventures of thousands of fictional characters. Many of us can admit that we’ve become influenced or can relate to a media-created persona at least once in our lifetime; however, the biggest question tends to be, why?
Personally, I believe the main reason why we tend to relate to characters in media is…well, simply because they are more relatable. Ever since the expansions of technology and social media, the ability to both give and receive feedback about your favorite piece of literature or software happens almost instantly. This allows for content creators to see how they can improve their work to build more of an audience. With the rise of technologies, this can now be done almost instantly through digital communication.
In the instant feedback era, content creators are able to witness first hand how a majority of people are feeling at a given time or simply understand what is the “popular trend” at the moment. It seems that most popular characters out there are one who are able to say something about society, human psychology, or anything that can be referred to the human condition.
When we see characters triumph or struggle, we feel closer to them because we as people know what it’s like to have ups and downs. It’s part of the human psyche to be able to empathize with others who share similar thoughts or experiences and I think in that sense, relatability is what drives the business part of the media industry.
Relatability is an important aspect when it comes to modern media because it is able to draw people more into your work when they know or feel that they can personally take something away from your creation. Think of it like an advertising campaign - you want to buy something that you’ll benefit from and companies want to study what/which people will benefit from said item.
Now that isn’t to say that relatability should be the only driving point. If a product is only aimed to relate, the effect most likely wouldn’t work as there would be no thought of the characters or story in the work. Most likely, people would perceive it as “forced” with little thought or merit to anything else.
The way to get past this setback and have a universally-adored product is to have relatability as the afterthought in the process. When creating your characters, think of their personalities and arcs first, then think how they can relate to people. Build a story with unique settings and themes and then try to think of how the idea can draw a crowd in. This may come as a surprise, but audiences really do tend to appreciate good, honest effort in their media platforms.
As you sit there and watch your favorite anime or play your favorite RPG, try to think of why you love a specific character, and of course, try to find others who share a similar style or who may offer a unique perspective on your thoughts. We live in a society where creativity is more detailed on results and interaction than ever before and I believe that spreading that love of creativity and offering ideas/suggestions for improvement will help what’s in store for the future.