Happy Monday, Reading Nook readers!
Today, we're thrilled to help kick-off The Fixer blog tour! As you may remember, we loved the book, so we're super stoked to be taking part.
Jennifer is on the blog today, to talk about the science of fiction, including the relationships we form with our fictional friends, and how fiction helps us find social order in our worlds.
Read on, to learn more about the science of fiction!
A Guest Post by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Author of The Fixer
July, Bloomsbury Children
The Science of Fiction:
Part One: Fiction and the Need to Belong
I’ve written before--here and here—about the relationships we form with fictional characters. If you’ve ever come home from a long day and wanted nothing more than to hang out with your imaginary friends by re-reading a favorite book or re-watching an episode of a favorite TV show, you’re not alone. In fact, research suggests that time spent hanging out with fictional friends contributes to a person’s overall friendship satisfaction just like hanging out with real friends does. But fiction doesn’t just make us feel less lonely; it has the potential to fulfill a universal human need known by psychologists as the need to belong. We all need to feel like we belong somewhere. We all need to feel like we have people, like we’re part of something bigger than ourselves. Research suggests that when we read books, we don’t just form fictional friendships; we assimilate into fictional groups. We start to feel like part of the gang. Webelong. For example, one study found that after reading a chapter from Twilight, participants perceived themselves as being more vampire-like, whereas after reading Harry Potter, people feel more like wizards. As we read, we assimilate into the groups we’re reading about. The more important a sense of belonging is to someone, the more strongly they feel these effects, and the more strongly people feel these effects, the more satisfied they are with their lives after they finish reading.
So if you’ve ever wished you could join The Avengers or become a Shadowhunter, or if you got some pleasure out of deciding which House you would be sorted into if you went to Hogwarts or which faction you would belong to in the world of Divergent, you’re in good company. Our brains have a way of latching on to groups in narratives. These groups can be families, like the Cullens (Twilight) or Winchesters (Supernatural). They can be teams. They can be tight-knit groups of friends. They can be misfits, thrown together by fate, or a paranormal species living in a hidden world. The important thing is that at the end of the day, they’re a unit. Because as long as there’s a unit, as readers, we can—at least for a little while—become a part of that unit, too.
That brings me back to Tess, the heroine of The Fixer. When she goes to live with her sister, Ivy, Tess has a lot of emotional walls. She’s not a joiner. She forced herself to stop longing for a relationship with her sister a long time ago. She’s self-sufficient. She has no intention of making friends. And yet…
The book is chock full of found families. The band of misfits Tess finds herself leading at her exclusive DC private school. Ivy’s team. The president’s inner circle. As much as THE FIXER is a political thriller, it’s also a book about family—the families we’re born to and the families we choose. And it’s that focus—above and beyond the conspiracies and plot twists—that I owe to my scientist self, who’s good at reminding me that books aren’t just about OMG MOMENTS and danger and twist endings. At the end of the day, they’re about people. They’re about relationships and emotions and being a part, however temporarily, of something bigger than yourself.
Gabriel, S., & Young, A. F. (2011). Becoming a Vampire Without Being Bitten The Narrative Collective-Assimilation Hypothesis.Psychological Science, 22(8), 990-994.
Kanazawa, S. (2002). Bowling with our imaginary friends. Evolution and Human Behavior, 23(3), 167-171.
What a great post, right? I've always wondered why people feel a certain kinship to certain characters/groups, so this explains a lot. And it also explains why I immediately clicked with Tess and her friends.
Thank you so much for this eloquent explanation, Jennifer! And if you haven't checked out The Fixer yet, what are you waiting for? It's OUT THIS WEEK!
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