Imagining people to life

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Picture by J E Theriot via Flickr creative commons
Picture by J E Theriot via Flickr creative commons

The Writing Excuses podcast recently had an excellent episode with Cory Doctorow about why we care about imaginary characters. Doctorow sets out a fascinating theory grounded in psychology and evolution, and it’s well worth a listen.

It’s easy to be struck by wonder at how we can bring people to life in our minds, whether it’s imagining fictional characters or retaining the memories of lost loved ones. And as with so many things, explaining it doesn’t take away the wonder for me. Rather, it creates a breathtaking moment of looking at the universe and going ‘damn, that’s clever, and it’s still wonderful too’.

I’ve been thinking for a while I should read some of Doctorow’s work, beyond the occasional blog post. This has shifted him up my to-read list, so if anyone has recommendations for particular books of his then please let me know. And if you have any thoughts on Doctorow’s theory, or on other theories of why fictional characters mean so much to us, then please share them in the comments – I’m always keen for more of this sort of thing.