Why we’re attached to fictional characters

No, I’m not being delusional. And I don’t expect the characters to climb out of a novel or TV screen and sweep me off my feet. Bear with me on this.

How is it that we can go perfectly-well into a movie, or pick up a book that we’ve read a million times, not only aware that the full emotional climax will hit us, but also fully aware of the fact that it isn’t actually “real” — yet we always find ourselves teary-eyed and in partial if not complete shambles?

But then again, isn’t it good characterization the point of fiction? To express what cannot be expressed in reality. To feel what cannot be felt. And to experience what cannot be experienced. An oh so sweet escape. To some far away land, in the company of strangers and maybe in the midst of all that a stranger to ourselves too? To fulfill dreams and desires we cannot fathom happening in real life. To transforming into a new person, probably a fictional character of our own self. Heck, even multiple versions.