Can You Really Fall In Love With a Fictional Character?

The word “love” has a variety of meanings. A person can say “I love my mom,” “I love my sister,” “I love my fiancé,” and “I love my cat” and mean something different each time. Merriam-Webster also has a separate definition for affection for impersonal things like music, food, or favorite places to be.

Fans of fiction (including books, movies, television shows, etc.) take that last definition even further. They say “I love Kaylee Frye (from Firefly and Serenity),” “I love Mr. Darcy (from Pride & Prejudice),” or “I love Hiccup (from How to Train Your Dragon 2).” These fictional characters are technically impersonal things because they are only ideas, but people’s affections for them can feel very personal. Is this an impersonal love? Is it any different from love for the story? If it can’t be reciprocated, can it be anything like the “real” love people feel for family, friends, and significant others? And what would the implications be if it were real?

Hiccup in How To Train Your Dragon 2 is considered an attractive cartoon character.

How Many Ways to Say I Love You?

To determine if love for fictional characters can be real, it helps to determine what “love” means. The Greeks went even further than Merriam-Webster. They had at least seven different words that translate to love in English, each with different applications.

Philautia is self-love; that definitely does not apply to love between real people and fictional characters. Pragma is love based on reason and external factors like arranged marriages or public appearances. Real people aren’t put in arranged relationships with fictional characters, so that term is out, too. Ludus is the version of love people feel in “no strings attached” relationships. As Psychology Today puts it, “ludus works best when both parties are self-sufficient.” Fictional characters do not meet that criterion (they are dependent on writers for their existence), so their real-world lovers probably don’t feel ludus.

Eros is close enough to ludus that the latter is sometimes mistaken for the former. It is the Greek term for physical attraction that drives people to make love and sometimes more eccentric demonstrations of their passion.

When fans speak of their love for fictional characters, a common assumption is they are physically attracted to the actors portraying them in movies or television shows. It’s not Sherlock Holmes, Loki, and the Doctor they love, for example, but Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston, and David Tennant.

The Doctor, especially David Tennant’s incarnation, is the object of many crushes.

Even when the character originally comes from a book, if an adaptation exists, that is the version that appears in the posters and life-size cardboard cutouts. Thus, say the observers, fans feel eros for the actors, not the characters. However, some fans describe feeling physically attracted to animated characters. The voices provided by real people may be part of the reason, but they cannot account for all of the flattering fan art.

Which characters become the objects of a fan’s eros is largely determined by subjective taste, just like who finds whom attractive in real life. However, a character can be cast, costumed, and/or animated in specific ways to elicit physical attraction. This is sometimes called fan service. It draws attention to the shallowness of eros and calls into question how genuine this kind of love is.

Philia is also known as platonic friend-love. Eros is physical lust, whereas philia is a desire for understanding. As Aristotle described it, philia is based on the belief that the one you love is useful, likable, or virtuous. Real people can seek to better understand their favorite fictional characters by reading more, watching more, or coming up with their own ideas. Authors and show-runners give their characters development for that very purpose.

As Aristotle described it, philia is based on the belief that the person you love is useful, likable, or virtuous. This description is especially appropriate because fictional characters often have many distinct qualities worthy of platonic admiration. In a similar way, fans say they hate the characters they find distinctly non-virtuous or unlikable. If a fan’s significant other is abusive or otherwise unpleasant, that fan may be particularly drawn to heroes with kind hearts. This situation and many others like it are philia at work. 

Storge is familial love. People develop it for other real people through familiarity; young children learn to love their families not because of physical attraction (despite what Freud might say), but because they grow up together. Admiration (philia) is often part of it, but it usually comes after storge. Fans may develop storge for fictional characters that they “grew up with” or otherwise spent a lot of time reading about or watching. Psychology Today points out that storge can be “unilateral or asymmetrical,” so it seems a good fit for what fans call love of characters that cannot reciprocate.

Storge is most relevant when a character dies or otherwise leaves the story. Fans may feel levels of loss “normally” reserved for family members and very close friends. Authors even have this feeling for characters they create; J.K. Rowling has admitted to crying when she found herself forced to kill her characters in the Harry Potter series.

J.K. Rowling cried over killing her own character.

Last but not least, agape is the word for the altruistic or selfless love people have for strangers. Not everyone embodies agape for their fellow non-fictional people, but fans may feel a genuine desire for their favorite fictional characters’ best interests. If it is love, it is indeed a selfless love, as the object of the fans’ affection cannot do anything in return.

Again, which fictional characters receive agape is up to the individual fan. The seemingly random connection some fans feel for short-lived characters in horror stories may not feel like love, but it is technically agape. Perhaps it is the relatable characters or simply the tragic, sympathetic ones we develop this altruistic love for. Some fans develop agape for fictional characters specifically because they enjoy the story containing those characters; maybe it’s a chicken-egg question of which affectionate feelings came first.

So there are four possible meanings for a fan saying “I love Aladdin.” It could mean “I am physically attracted to this cartoon drawing” (Eros), “I find this person likable and virtuous and I want to learn more about him” (Philia), “I have developed a fondness for this person over the years” (Storge), or “I have altruistic concern for the best interests of this person” (Agape). Most likely it is some combination of these feelings. It seems there is much more to be explored simply in defining what love means in this context, not even considering the implications.

Everybody loves Aladdin.

If Loving You is Wrong…

The author of “Ask Anne” says this about feeling love for fictional characters: “People do this all the time. Love at first sight is love of the visual appearance of a person combined with love of a fiction.” This is what makes eros work in general. This fact can lessen the concern that fictional characters cannot return the affections of their fans. It should be no more concerning than a celebrity crush. Affection for real-life famous people is based on their visual appearance (eros) and what fans imagine their personalities to be. The only difference with fictional characters is fans are told what to imagine about their personalities by the writers and sometimes the actors behind the characters.

As Anne goes on to say, affection for fictional characters becomes problematic when we prefer our chosen fiction to relationships with real people. It seems similar to the problem with pornography; porn is made specifically for people to feel eros for a fantasy, a fictitious person, and those who fall for its allure run the risk of dampening their affection for real people. It is easier to avoid this danger with movies and television shows that aren’t porn, but fans should still beware that their reason for “loving” a fictional character may really be lust. In this way, feelings of eros for fictional characters can put strain on romantic relationships between real people. A fan may develop unreasonable standards for their real-life significant other, hoping he/she will look or act more like the object of a fictional crush. These fans may struggle to keep or find significant others. Feelings of storge for fictional characters may lead to a similar problem; fans risk losing affection for the real people they should feel familiarity and love for.

The good news is, despite the worries of many fans, there does not seem to be evidence that feeling overly attached to fictional characters is a sign of a mental disorder (assuming fans understand that fictional characters are, in fact, fictional). If it were a symptom of something, it would be especially difficult to stop, and real-life relationships would be in big trouble. But fans can rest easy knowing that affection for characters will not irrevocably damage their ability to feel things for real people.

Meanwhile, agape and philia are actually admirable in this circumstance. Caring for a character’s best interests and wanting to learn more about them can be constructive. This is good practice for empathy. For example, authors often make the love interests of their protagonists and narrators attractive, drawing attention to their admirable characteristics to make it clear why the main characters are falling in love with them. When fans feel similar affection for these characters, they can empathize.

Some people struggle with connecting to people and empathy in general. Well-told stories help fans understand and connect with characters through means other than familiarity and attraction to visual appearance. This can be surprisingly helpful for people with “emotional deficits.” The additional advantage of practicing emotional connection on fictional characters is there are less strings attached. As Will Grayson said in the John Green/David Levithan novel Will Grayson, Will Grayson, “You like someone who can’t like you back because unrequited love can be survived in a way that once-requited love cannot.” Again, as long as the fans understand that their fictional crushes are fictional, they won’t be badly hurt when nothing comes of these feelings. 

Many real-life relationships start with attraction to physical apperance (eros). Over time, hopefully, the lover will develop philia (admiration for the other person’s good qualities) and agape (selfless caring for their well-being). It is certainly possible to feel these kinds of love for fictional characters. These pseudo-relationships can become fond memories when fans move on to a real-life love story. And the characters will always be there when they need them.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. I’ve been in love with fictional characters in the past… I started back around 4th or 5th grade, I think, and went straight on until I got close to hitting twenty. Nowadays I just ‘ship’ characters in a story together, and am pretty content with that… but man, I could get obsessed with a character when I wanted to, haha.

    I guess it was because loving a character was so much ‘safer’ than dealing with the potential drama of crushing over someone in real life. After all, the character wouldn’t push you to do anything you felt uncomfortable with- they’re in your imagination, for crying out loud.

    • I also “ship” characters. _Stranger Things_ had me obsessed with Joyce and Hopper, Nancy and Steve (I started to feel bad for him later on when he became a kind of nice guy), and Mike and Eleven, of course. In my world, those couples needed to exist. Ha.

    • Yeah man I do too,I read sanctuary series while I didn’t have any relationship.I don’t know how the real deal would be but man I feel as though I’m in the book’s world and that girl elf Vara is mine.I realy love elves.I just wish I have someone like her to call me love husband…

  2. Carroll

    I’ve been waiting for an article to this topic for the longest time. You handled it so well!

    • Thank you so much. It’s my first “real” published work, so it makes me glad to get such nice feedback.

  3. As a teenager I was in love with Aragorn (Lord of the Rings) and much later I crushed on the vampires Louis de Pointe du Lac and Marius (the Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice). At the moment I like Sherlock Holmes very much for it seems that he is asexual himself!

    • Hmm. That is something I hadn’t considered: how people who identify as aromantic or asexual relate to this topic. Do they feel things for fictional characters that they don’t feel for real people? And how do we classify those feelings? Not actually enough for a sequel to this article, but worth considering. Thanks.

  4. Great piece you have here. 99.9% of my crushes have been on fictional characters, and even more specifically, animated characters. My Mum thought it was cute when I was a kid and figured I’d grow out of it, but I haven’t done and I get the feeling she wouldn’t appreciate it these days, haha. Sonic the Hedgehog was the first one I ever had anything resembling a crush on when I was really little, and that hasn’t really diminished… >.> I don’t identify as ‘furry’ or anything of the sorts, but there’s just always been something about his personality that really draws me in. Because I find that, even with fictional characters, I don’t feel attracted to them just because of their appearance.

  5. By definition, love is a strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties. A fictional character is “another”. Personal ties may be obsession with the character, as it is personal, and it ties you to the fictional being. It is possible, and I have proven so.

  6. Stephanie M.

    I used to think having crushes on fictional characters was ridiculous, at least once you were past the age of about six. Then I read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and got a little crush on Lupin – made worse when I saw his actor, because he’s hot! Like most Jane Austen fans, I also admit to an appreciation for men like Tilney and Brandon, if not full-on crushes. So, not so ridiculous after all.

    Beyond crushes though, I think the best parts of falling “in love” with fictional characters is when they become your friends and you feel friendship love or philia for them. This has been and sometimes still is the case for me with a lot of characters, esp. females with whom I identify. They feel more like my family than my real family does at times, and they are as real to me as any people in the “real world.”

  7. I think that this is an excellent analysis on the all-too-common phenomenon of falling in love with fictional characters. I’ve been in love with plenty of fictional characters. The added appeal of falling in love with these characters (for me at least) was creating a fictional version of myself to interact with them within in the universes of their stories-a version of myself that has all of the virtues and charms that I admittedly lack in real life.

    • You’re very right. There’s an awful lot of Doctor Who fan fiction about fans getting to meet the Doctor and fall in love with him in person. But considering how Mary-Sue-like they become (as you say, the virtues and charms the real people lack), that love is probably only as real as the girl falling in love with the Doctor, whether she’s a “self-insert” or not.
      Aren’t feelings weird?

  8. I’ve been in love with plenty of fictional characters. The added appeal of falling in love with these characters (for me at least) was creating a fictional version of myself to interact with them within in the universes of their stories-a version of myself that has all of the virtues and charms that I admittedly lack in real life.

  9. Jenette

    If I were to have a religious affiliation it would be books.

    They are more or less my life to be honest 😛 I think of the characters as real, I mean after all someone poured years of their life into creating a whole world. if that’s not real then what is right? so yes, I most definitely can say that I have fallen in love with characters in books. I actually hope one day that I can meet someone who I can feel the same way I do about books :P…

    It’s unfortunate though, because I always fall for the characters who are taken. 🙁

    • What about in movies? Because I don’t want to ever think or feel that a Fictional or animated character is fake 😭

  10. I sort of crush on a lot of female characters, but I think it’s more of a sense of deep admiration. My current one is Green Arrow.

    • Sounds like philia, in your case. Then again, I can understand Shirtless Stephen Amell causing some eros.

  11. Fictional characters are not to be loved. THEY ARENT REAL!

    • That is certainly a point to be considered. Thank you. My article simply sought to suggest that as long as the crush doesn’t harm people or their real relationships, it’s not that bad after all.

  12. Love is just a series of chemical reactions in the brain, creating a feeling of strong affection that we call love. If this happens in somebody’s brain and If they feel that then they are in love, regardless of whether that love is returned.

  13. Chaffin

    I was just telling my friend this morning that I think I actually fell in love with Ian O’Shea from the book, The Host.

    I really don’t see how it’s NOT possible, as long as you READ about the fictional character. Something about reading just makes you feel so connected to them. I don’t think you can fall in love with a fictional character by a movie.

    • I know what you mean. One point in the books vs movies debate is many fans find dissonance between how the characters look and act in their head and the portrayal of those characters in movies. Thus the idea that love for a movie character is just Eros for the actor, not real love for the person being portrayed.

  14. I’ve always thought Korra from Avatar was pretty attractive, and a badass.

  15. The human mind is weirder than fiction. That’s why I prefer to deal with computers. They don’t do weird things like fall in love with fictional characters

    • Ay, there’s the rub. If you prefer computers to people, there’s a reasonable chance you’ll find a fictional character who’s more appealing to you than most real people for some of the same reasons. Then maybe you won’t find it so weird.

  16. Amyus

    A great article and obviously very well researched. I’m pleased to see it’s encouraged feedback and discussion. A fascinating subject, by the way and one that touches many a heart. I have to confess to having a soft spot for Yuki Nagato from the Haruhi anime series, so even this old wooden heart isn’t immune to a touch of agape 🙂 Nicely done.

  17. Sarai Mannolini-Winwood

    An interesting discussion, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Love is a powerful driving force and one that we also respond very strongly to within the development of such characters. One aspect I am always interested in is the love for characters that reject love (to a narrative extent) such as Sherlock in the BBC version and Snape – I often wonder if we are drawn to loving the perceived “unloveable” on TV, but in real life would never even consider such people as potential for a love interest.

    • Good point. I think the love you’re referring to is agape, a selfless love for everyone. If you met someone with Sherlock or Snape’s “personality defects” in real life, maybe you would find it harder to love them or even like them, or maybe it would be easy enough because of this “practice” you’ve had.

  18. I do roleplaying (freeform style) and I often find myself becoming incredibly attached to my characters, to the point that I find it very difficult to roleplay them in any kind of relationship. I’m not sure if it’s like a mother’s ‘don’t touch my babies!’ protectiveness or a ‘they’re MINE’ posessiveness. I’ve never had a crush on a real person.

    • Seems similar to the storge an author feels for their fictional characters. Hank Green tweeted recently, “Don’t mind me, just revising my novel and crying because the people I invented are having relationship drama.”

  19. ryantte

    I’m in love with L from Death Note. I can’t help it…. I just am. 🙂

  20. Lovely read. I’ve had crushes on loads of fictional characters. I remember my first crush was on Bruno from Strangers on a Train. Yeah, him. I guess that just started a cycle that hasn’t quite stopped. Since then I’ve had crushes on characters ranging from Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet (Is he not the best character?) to Adenoid Hynkle in The Great Dictator to a mild crush on Roger from I Dream of Jeannie. (And occasionally Tony Nelson, but only when the mood strikes me. And do I have a squish on Dr. Bellows? You bet I do. Poor guy.) (Oh, and I would love to have lunch sometime with Abner from Bewitched. He rocked like nobody’s business.) (Oh, and OK so I did have a crush on Rorschach from Watchmen. I avoid saying it because people act like I’m kooky when I do.)

  21. Mozella

    Falling in love with a hero or heroine in a book is nutty enough but nuttier still are those who fall in love with movie stars or band members! Oh well, dream on…!

    • That’s eros. Nutty, yes, but the brain chemicals and hormones want what the brain chemicals and hormones want.

  22. I have been in love with a character which does not exist in the real world. And I don’t just mean in the obsessive infatuation sense; this has gone on for well over a year, and I’ve watched my feelings develop and change from infatuation to a deeper love, in the exact same way as my feelings did for my ex-partner of five years.

    It’s hard to make someone understand, but the close friends who have watched the entire process agree that what I am feeling is no different than any other ‘true’ romantic love. For me, it was possible because a.) I wrote character-centric fanfiction, which got me in my character’s head for months and b.) he was an unpopular character (I became universally recognized in the fandom as /his/ guardian), which gave me a very personal sense of emotional intimacy with him.

    I’ve also used self-insert fantasies to literally create a life with him, with simple routines (5:20 PM every day, when he would get home from work had he actually been real, I sit down with ‘him’ to watch a show and share a cup of tea together, among other daily shared routines). Nor do I idealize him or ignore his faults; I’ve written out exactly what arguments we’d have (some lasting months and never have a total solution), and write 128K fanfiction that capitalizes on his weaknesses. His weaknesses and faults are as important to me as anything else.

    As for the question of whether or not this is healthy: I engage in this, understanding that it prevents me from wanting to cultivate romantic relationships with other people BECAUSE I am in a position in my life where cultivating longterm romantic relationships is infeasible anyway (I move countries every year). But moving countries every year also means that I cut myself off from all my real life social support annually, friends and all, and imagining this relationship and indulging in these emotions gives me a sense of social support and connection even when I keep moving. Further, I’m a health psychologist, and the hormones associated with such emotions are related to positive health outcomes and better immune function, etc., so by allowing myself to feel those emotions and to flood my system in those hormones does actually improve my health!

    • Some people use a book, movie, or TV show to fill a need for support, connection, and healthy emotional release. Using a particular character is certainly an alternative, as long as it’s healthy. Good for you. Thanks for sharing.

  23. Chrystal

    I don’t think constantly thinking about this cartoon character, worshipping him, wishing he really exists, drawing him, writing about him, and collecting images of him constitutes as love……well maybe a little.

    I love VEGETA! Vegeta Prince of the Saiyajins!!

    In fact, I’ve only ever loved fictional guy characters. Even fictional characters in movies and shows. Never been sexually attracted to them, but I’ve definitely been obsessed with many.

  24. tuuuune

    I think it’s a pretty normal thing for people who read a lot or something. I mean, I’ve had fictional crushes since childhood, and know so many people, sexual included, who also do.

  25. I’ve found myself being attracted to a fictional character from animes. For me I can find alot of them to seem too good to be true and more emotional and passionate then real people can be..

    • When watching anime, since I was 13, I would think stuff like how I wish this girl end up with this guy and how I wish that girl had a guy and so on. I hate seeing a series and some girl stayed alone.

  26. Fictional characters are far beyond just a smiley face on a piece of paper. They have personalities, appearances, and are purposefully better than real people. They don’t have physical genetic flaws and they can’t break your heart or deny you. Fanfictions and such sometimes include “OCs” and get the reader involved which simulates real life with this character. Just because they “aren’t real” (which they are real to some people who have different concepts of real) doesn’t mean you can’t feel an attraction to them. It’s like seeing a movie actor or actress on TV. You know you’ll never be able to be with them or even meet them but that doesn’t matter because you admire and love them so much. You dedicate a part of your life to them by checking news about them, their history, other movies they’ve done, etc. If a fictional character has a personality, events in their lives, family & friends, an appearance, a voice, a life, isn’t that about the same as a real person? But they can’t dump you or cheat on you after getting you pregnant… that was both the truth and a joke.

    • “If a fictional character has a personality, events in their lives, family & friends, an appearance, a voice, a life, isn’t that about the same as a real person?”

      No, it isn’t, because the entity is MADE OUT OF MAKE-BELIEVE, not flesh, and has no substance.

      • Online dating, long-distance relationships, and friendships on Facebook and other social media all lack physical contact – “flesh,” as you say. The feelings, love or otherwise, romantic or platonic, are no less real. The difference, of course, is there will never be physical contact with fictional characters, so they won’t be your lifelong true love.

  27. I have a tendency to become extremely emotionally invested in my D&D characters. One of my long-time adored characters is a half-elf rogue/fighter named Qi (she’s taken on several different surnames appropriate to her situation in life), who’s highly intelligent but not so good at expressing herself. I’ve created a ridiculously extensive character background for her, and have drafted character sheets for her parents and her contacts before she joined the party (though they’ve disappeared somewhere), drawn preliminary maps of her hometown, attempted to write small drabbles of her story, and drawn tons and TONS of pictures of her throughout all of her various outfit-appearances evolutions. I’m especially happy that she’s managed to find a life-long companion (not so much in a romantic/sexual manner, but a friend of AWESOME) that she can rely on and who can rely on her in return (my best friend’s character from the campaign, a gnome sorcerer 83).

    • That sounds like storge, born out of familiarizing yourself with the characters. It seems to happen a lot with writers and actors.

  28. I’ll always have a thing for fictional guys. They’re just so easy to fall in love with.

    • I have fallen in love with fictional characters many-a-time in my long life!

  29. There are characters throughout my life that I’ve wanted to meet, who I wanted to give a hug to (usually because they needed one badly), and even some I thought I’d have a lot in common with. There have also been characters from stories that I have a lot of sympathy/empathy for and relate to, but I wouldn’t know how to deal with them, or even want to, in real life. However, when I think about it in retrospect, I think the affections I have or have had toward characters have been more along the lines of “squish” than “crush,” let alone all-out romantic love. Even that description, I don’t know if it’s accurate.

  30. Masterful article! Real people can make fictional people pretty appealing!

    • I was ‘in love’ with many fictional characters for years!

  31. It’s certainly possible to become enchanted with fictional characters, but not to be in love with them.

    The main problem with loving fictional characters isn’t that it’s only a one-way love, because love can be one-sided and unrequited. Instead, the problem is that fictional characters are limited to what their creators make. They are thus smaller personalities than any real person would be, and there’s too little there to provide the basis for love.

    • Fair point, but I might argue childhood and high school sweethearts don’t have much more of a basis for love. If you believe each person can only fall in love once, then yeah, fictional characters don’t make the cut. But depending on your definition of love…well, that’s what my article tried to explore.

  32. Mark Cecil

    My first ever crush, when I was a kid, was Diana from V. An evil genocidal murderess, and I was in love. Then there’s Lady Death and Purgatori, of Chaos Comics. One’s a necrophiliac bitch, the other’s a bloodsucking slut. I loved them both.

  33. REALLY interesting study.

  34. Carnahan

    I believe you can fall in love with fictional characters and are more susceptible to when you are young. When you fantasise about someone that you have a crush on and imagine them to be all these different things. You build them up to be this perfect piece of fiction. But then if you have the privilege of making that fantasy a reality, you become let down, as that person can never match up to the fantasy character that you have made up of them in your head. The reason some people become so infatuated with movie stars and famous people is that they create a whole view on what they believe that person would be like, even making excuses for them when they see something stupid that they have done in the mags, just like they would a lover. So I do believe it is possible to fall in love (in a sense) with a fictional character.

    • rivercan

      Although it’s not the same as having a real human partner. You can’t hug a fantasy.

  35. I have had unadulterated obsessions with many, MANY fictional characters over the years, from animated movies/shows and animes and books and video games…plus the innumerable characters of my own that I draw and write about.

  36. Genevive Fitzsimmons

    There are some of my own fictional characters that I’m a bit in love with; in fact all my characters are a lot like real people to me (and I have plenty that were borrowed from anime or video games). If I draw or write about characters I haven’t worked with in a while, it’s like being reunited with old friends I’ve really missed, and I have a lot of feelings in my heart for each of them.

  37. you can fall in love with the idea that the character is real. we all have a fantasy of what we would like our ideal partner to be.

  38. Thank you for writing this. I wouldn’t say that I fall in love with characters so much as I come to love them, as real people. I care deeply and emotionally about my favorite characters, but even if I could I don’t think I’d want to be involved with any of them romantically. I just put a lot of emotional investment into stories with strong characters. Although I do tend to call that my “love life” because, weird or not, it’s incredibly fulfilling to me.

    • That’s a good distinction. Often, the assumption seems to be that if it can’t be the reciprocated “in love” romance, there shouldn’t be any kind of love for fictional characters. But as my article said, there are many kinds of love.

  39. I’ve had a lot of fictional lovers. And honestly, I’m so glad that our love has ended after reading. Now I can calmly move forward and avoid such types in my real life)

  40. I’d say that most of my crushes have been on fictional characters (or the actors who play them) rather than real guys.

  41. This was amazing. The title is certainly a question many people have wondered at least once. The Greeks had these great words and distinctions for love which, while not part of our vocabulary, still influence how we see love. This was a great approach to understanding the affection and grief we feel for fictional characters.

  42. Munjeera

    There is safety in this type of vicarious romance. It is the whole point in my view.

  43. ChristinaBattons

    It’s so interesting topic. Thanks for such a big piece!

  44. I’ve been emotionally and physically attracted to the same fictional character for the past six years. Often, I wish for this to be a real person – not to find the qualities of this character in a real person, but having the unrealistic desire for them to suddenly step out of the limited parameters of their fictional world.

    I’ve had crushes on many characters and a few real individuals in the past, but never have any lasted this long. A lot of times, I just grow bored or disinterested – for no apparent reason.

  45. takenbysleep

    I seem to fall for the non-typical fictional characters. Yondu, Moriarty, and now Lemongrab (yeah…). I’ve married all of them in my imagination and we’ve had kids. I’ve also had crushes on Michael Scott and Andrew Bernard from The Office. I think deep down I just want to have kids and a nice husband who is a bit weird.

  46. I’ve ONLY been in love with fictional characters, and not only that but I’ve been obsessed with characters’ relationships (you may call it “shipping”) for the longest time. I used to think that it was simply a matter of age but turns out that nothing changed over the years, I’m now 27 with many “real life dates and relationships” in my record and still I’ve never actually felt for real people anything close to what I feel for fictional characters. It’s not limited to romance either, there’s a lot of characters for whom I feel a deep friendship too. The only real people who make me feel anything as strong are my closest family members, no one else. Basically I would gladly live in my head forever. Probably my standards (which I impose on myself too mind you and I work my ass off to respect) are simply too high for normal people, I’ve only ever met one guy who could maybe come close to my ideas but ofc he was already married. So yeah… I’m basically resigned right now, better make the most out of my fictions since I’m probably going to live in this castle of glass I constructed for myself forever, which isn’t born from love of fictional characters but from what you probably could call narcissism: I value myself too much to “settle” for anything less then the ideal love, and that one is pretty fucking hard to find (all the time I have friends telling me “I’m so in love him/her” when really, they are not. I’ve only met a couple of people who were actually in love, the majority of relationships are based on delusions, deep friendship, convenience, desire for a family, fear of being alone… which are not what I want to base a romantic relationship on. And I may sound like an asshole but it’s the truth, it’s not like I can help it.)
    The thing is, characters are foundamentally the embodiment of different ideals, and you would find the ones that match your desires almost perfectly because they are spawned from the minds of other humans who probably have the same desires as you, or close enough, because at the end of the day we idolise always the same values. These desires are also the ones that usually people try to fit in into their real relationships with various degree of insuccess. By realizing this (as many people who have serious fictional crush do) you learn more about yourself then the average human and actually start to separate your ideals from reality by giving them fictional faces, which translate in you being less prone to idealise real people. This means having a pretty hard time “falling in love” with them. So actually the problem for someone like me is exactly the too harsh separation between fantasy and reality. Shocking.

    • Hoo boy. Many great points; thanks for the input.
      As I pointed out, love for idealized fictional characters can have dangers similar to pornography. I did say philia – admiration for the good qualities of the character – is a good thing in this context, but I see now that it can adversely affect your standards for real people and thus endanger real life relationships. But at least you’re aware of that potential problem.

  47. I don’t know if “losing your delusions about reality” can be considered a danger through, and if it is than it’s the same as the one that comes from any type of introspective psychological therapy. I have a friend who works as a psychologist and has had the same issues as me since she reached the exact same conclusions about relationships as I did, without any fictional character involved. Sure you have higher stadards, which can be a problem, but you also realise that you don’t actually need anything less than those standards if you don’t fear being alone and are not set on having a family. I read sometime ago a comment made by a guy who said “I’ve been in a relationship all my life, I’ve put 3 marriages past me, and now I understand that all this time I’ve been faking something that simply wasn’t there. I wish I could go back and live my life staying true to myself”. As I said, the majority of relationships I’ve seen around me and all the ones I’ve lived are not based on love, unless you are part of the very few lucky (it is all luck) ones you can either accept it and settle, because you absolutely want a relationship, or go on and live searching for something better, knowing that maybe you’ll never find what you are looking for (but at least you tried). A sure thing is that, once you’ve gained it, this sort of hyper realistic viewpoint is impossible to ignore. But again, is losing the ability of deluding yourself something you should fear so much? The answer is yours to give and it has everything to do with your life goals, if you are someone who can’t and/or don’t want to be alone then by all means avoid this kind of introspection or know that you’ll probably have to make the conscious decision to “settle” afterwards. It is of course still a possibility, the difference is that you’ll be aware of the compromise you’ll be making. After all your standards are yours to set, you only have to be sure that they are at an height you are willing to compromise for at the moment. The castle of glass build on your ideals can be shattered at will, still it’s so pretty to look at that I don’t know if I’ll ever want to do it. But seeing it gives you the power to decide for yourself, once you separate the absolute beauty your fantasy can conjure from reality it’s all about taking responsibility to consciously mediate between your deepest true desires and what you can actually achieve in reality.
    In the end life is always about compromising, there’s not only one answer that works for everyone.

    Ps: sorry for the long lecture, I’m at home with the flu with a lot of time to write (lol). Also I may be not that much coherent and my non-native English may be showing its limits, I apologise for any mistake and I hope I made some sense 😉

    • No problem; long comments make for great discussion.
      I absolutely get what you’re saying. I’m an introvert for the same reasons I’m a fiction-loving nerd; sometimes even platonic friendships don’t seem worth the time and effort. And I’m aware of the pitfalls of focusing on having a relationship rather than finding the right one.
      But hear me out for a second. It seems you use fictional characters to represent your high standards, and the idea that a real person could meet those standards is a “delusion” that you’ve broken. To “settle,” you say, is to return to that delusion.
      You also seem to be saying that finding someone who really meets those standards would be the same as finding someone you love, which is “all luck.” I see how you could think that if all the relationships you’ve seen have been as you described. Still, that seems like a problematic definition of love and a grim way of looking at the world and living life.
      I don’t think love is about “settling” for someone who’s “good enough.” It’s about appreciating the good qualities in this person who is just as imperfect as you and appreciates you in return and complements your own imperfections. It’s not about “compromising” your standards of “absolute beauty”; it’s about having realistic expectations in the first place and then finding someone who you care about in spite of those expectations or who even surpasses those expectations somehow.
      To be blunt, if your “castle of glass” is based on fictional characters, I would suggest lowering your standards, whether you’re actively looking for a relationship or you prefer to stay single right now. Otherwise, I imagine you’ll be missing the fine qualities of the people around you that you could be appreciating on a purely platonic level.
      This isn’t a shot directly at you, mind you. I’m mainly philosophizing, just like I was doing in the article. As I said, I can relate to your point of view; it made me think. Thank you for the discussion.

  48. But, you see… in the exact moment you say “lower your standards” aren’t you proposing a compromise? Settling IS lowering your standards, it could be arguably the very definition of “settling”. And I didn’t say my standards are equivalent to ideals (ie:fictional characters), for sure I explained myself poorly here. This so called standards are not based on “qualities” (I don’t have any settled “requirements” I look for, that would be horrible indeed) and are not related to perfection/imperfection, my standards are merely emotional, as in what I actually feel for the person in front of me, devoid of any superimposed idealized version of reality born from my personal desire of finally be in love with someone. The delusions I spoke about are the ones people make up all the time to try to fit their partner in their own expectations and life goals. Understanding that maybe you are in a relationship mainly because “you don’t want to be alone”, for instance, is a deal breaker when it comes to the question “am I actually in love with this person or am I desperately trying to convince myself that I am because I fear being on my own/not finding anyone else?”. The “convince myself” part usually means imposing part of your fantasies on your partner, it’s one of the most common causes for breakups (the “you want to change me” stuff) when something happens that makes the idealized person crash with the real one. As I said, understanding your desires and ideals and giving them an outlet (fictional worlds) brings this type of mechanisms to a conscious level, diminishing their power by a lot. It’s like finally seeing the glass that had been distorting your perceptions since forever, once you are aware of it you can concentrate on the reality beyond it and still admire its prettiness whenever you want to. At the moment I have no interest nor need for a romantic relationship with someone I only “care about”, I call that a friendship (friends with benefits at most… still my experience with this type of arrangements it’s not so positive, usually someone gets hurt in the end. Sex is fun and all but often misinterpreted, I’ve been called a slut and a bitch because I cut the “benefits” part out after 2 times, as if it was some type of permanent upgrade… still useful to test the friendship part tho) and I’m not going to pretend it’s something else, I would first and foremost hurt the person involved as I already did in the past. I’m not saying that doing it is wrong, and I’m very aware of what is realistically possible, I’m only saying that your standards are yours to set at whatever height you are confortable with at the moment, the only person who gets to decide if they are too high or too low is you and it is always a compromise between the freedom and desire to keep searching and the need to stop and rest. Unless you find that person who can really capture and hold your complete interest that is, which is absolutely a matter of luck. Anything else in my dictionary is settling, but again I’m not saying it’s a negative thing, awareness only means that you are responsible for the choice and you don’t get to complain to your partner if years later you are not satisfied with it.
    Be true to yourself and your feelings, by all means explore life in whatever fashion you want and stop only when you feel it’s okay to do so, not out of fear but out of satisfaction: this is my motto as of now lol. Fictional worlds are there to keep my mindspace full of life and feelings and to stage my true desires, it’s relaxing to know that whatever happens I can always close my eyes and imagine something beautiful.

    • Okay, I was also unclear in my response. When I said “lower your standards,” I meant to say lower your expectations. Settling implies there is a person or thing that doesn’t meet the requirements so you change the requirements to let them in – you settle for less because it’s better than nothing. I wouldn’t recommend that either.
      Lowering your expectations, on the other hand, means not setting the standards too high in the first place, not “staging your true desires” in fiction. That just seems ridiculous to me. Even if you’re not letting yourself get hurt, I expect you’re going to hurt someone else at some point. People calling you rude names because they thought they’d reached a certain level of intimacy with you may be just one symptom of that.
      Again, I don’t mean to criticize you personally. But going off what you said, it still sounds like your views on love can lead to an unfortunate lifestyle. If someone with your philosophy does enter a relationship, they expect the other person to disappoint them at some point, but as long as they’re aware of that from the start they can’t or won’t complain? Sounds dangerous. Sounds like the road to pornography, affairs, and divorce. Doesn’t matter if one person is “trying to change” the other or not, if they hold up a barrier of glass and reserve deep emotional connection for fictional characters, they may as well be addicted to porn, far as I can tell.
      I still say love exists outside of “luck,” and that ain’t it.
      Again, thank you for contributing to the discussion. I like to see my article striking a chord like this.

      • Mail notification so I’m back with an answer already I’m so sorry, it’s just that I tend to get passionate about this kind of analysis and I rumble forever. Again sorry, it’s just me and my mind that can’t leave things alone gosh.
        Ok back to the point:
        1)Standards=expectations, there’s no difference from a psychological point of view, consciously lowering expectations is still settling since you are aware of your initial goal. Anyway, there’s no “requirements”, I already clarified that my expectations are only about my feelings.
        “If someone with your philosophy does enter a relationship, they expect the other person to disappoint them at some point, but as long as they’re aware of that from the start they can’t or won’t complain?” Exact opposite, assuming we are talking about the “settling” scenario (because otherwise there’s nothin to expect to be disappointed by, sure feelings can change with time but your initial decision is clear as day) by knowing and accepting what it is from the start you won’t get disappointed, even if it’s not what you initially looked for. And if after years you feel like lowering your expectations was a mistake then no, I really think you shouldn’t blame your partner for that, it was your decision. It’s not a philosophy, it’s just introspection.
        Btw my “expectations about my feelings” are set on reality, probably I should have made this clear. The thing with pornography is that it creates a fake image that acts as the sole comparison for reality while in this case my expectations are all derived from my actual experience, and to clarify I’ll try to define them (should have done this sooner). First and foremost, I know what love is to me because I feel it on daily basis (for real people). It’s hard to describe, it’s a fluid concept with a lot of nuances, as you said, and it’s highly subjective, but I’ll try to give a backward definition to what I consider the core of all types of actual “love”: to me, “loving” someone is what gives you that feeling of utter despair whenever you even briefly imagine a world without them, it’s the absolute certainty that the loss of that person would profoundly alter your identity to the point of defining a time before and after the event, and it’s the fear that maybe you wouldn’t actually be able to recover from the loss all that well. It’s the knowledge that you’ll do anything to protect that person, and It’s the desire to live eternally with them by your side. I feel this way about my mother, my father, my grandpa. I also feel this way about two of my closest friends.
        Then we have Romantic love with the added element of “lust” (not going to define it or I’ll never finish), which I’ve felt for different people but still not for someone I also “love” as described before. That’s what I’ve never been, “in love”. Still, it’s not surprising if we consider that of all the people I’ve met in my life (and of the many I would say I “care about”) I love only 5, 3 of whom are my closest family. So, this is my very real expectation, to feel both this type of love and lust at the same time. And simply based on how many people I’ve actually come to love in all my life (lust is doing a bit better but not that much) I know that I’ll have an hard time searching. Do other type of love exists? Absolutely, but this is the core of what any type of actual love is for me, what I know and what I want to go with my lust. Where do fictional characters I said I’ve “been in love with” fit in here (usually it’s more like I empathize with a character and experience their feelings for another)? Simply, they are the embodiment of what my brain imagine “feeling love and lust at the same time” to be like by overlapping two emotions I know and giving them some twist based on the story. It’s just an outlet (chatarsis maybe?), a fun one too, not the source material.
        On the other end I really don’t get what’s controversial about the statement “to find a person who you really love and who loves you back in return is a matter of luck”? It is luck, you can more actively than others go on search but if and when you find that person (or people, not saying it has to be one) it’s still fundamentally luck. Love outside luck? What’s that? If you are in love then you were lucky! Great!
        And for the record, people don’t usually call me names lol nor do I give them any reason to really (not a saint ofc but ganbarimasu). I also have no issues sharing my emotions with others, on the contrary I always take great care in being very very transparent in my close relationships (of all kind), I highly value intimacy, and that’s why I got particularly upset that time. Btw my “friend with benefits” was the one who proposed the arrangement in the first place with very clear terms so no, he really shouldn’t have assumed anything. It’s just another instance of someone proposing something while expecting something else and shoving that untold expectation over the other person involved, only to then get angry when said hidden expectation is not met. It’s why I prefer to keep my delusions were they belong, in my head. My glass is the same one everyone has (the one made of our own personal fears, desires, expectations and so on) I just see what color is mine and thus what distortion derives from it and I try to minimize the impact.
        Ok, rant done. I apologise again for the wall of text and for making this a discussion about myself, I just felt I needed to clarify a bit, maybe there’re others who can relate so perhaps it’s not too pointless? Eh wishful thinking here. Thank you for indulging me ! And for the article! You made me reflect on many things, which is a great thing!

        • Anamnesis

          @Isa – I have read your discussion with utmost interest and I just wanted to say I totally sympathise with your view. I went through a very similar analysis in my latest life, having suffered from unsuccessful relationships and lots of hurt due to the said expectations and delusions as well as due to lowering the standardards exactly… I am very taken by the way you could clearly outline this very difficult topic. Also, setting “expectations” comes down to realizing who we really are, which is really difficult at times, while we (people) mostly try to pursue the expectations of society juxtaposed against unspoken needs (often perceived as selfish and egoistic) forcing them through the back door onto reality and failing tremendously, often not really understanding what went wrong. It sometimes takes many years and I guess is connected with some sort of maturity to find yourself in a place where you actually *know* who your are and what you want. It is dramatic for me to see how people struggle with life (relationships, having children, etc being totally unhappy and frustrated – myself I hardly know any really happy people – most are in a rush, and never/almost never fulfill their dreams, and their mouth are full of propaganda about what socety expects to be understood by default as happy).
          Now having said that I’m also having a fiction episode in my life (I actually write stuff and indentify/love deeply with what I create, based on something started by someone else, but I pushed it way forward from the starting point, so it is deeply mine I guess) which allows me to let go and be more forgiving for the reality that is around me. I bless this possibility, as it allows me to be a more full human being. I denied that for many years before, but actually *allowing* it in, regardless how ridiculous it might seem for many “wise” people, it gave me the freedom that I never had before and allowed me to be more fully-fledged person exploring what I really like and want and defining myself better.
          @noahspud – I totally appreciate your article and I read it with high interest, and it was very fruitful to see your point of view on Isa’s opinion. A lot of food for thought 🙂 Thanks!!!
          ps. I really do not see a difference between the early stages of “falling in love” with the real person or “falling in love” with a character (I’m not talking about the physical possiblity to touch though;)), sometimes we see the real people we fall in love with far less realistic than we can build up fictional characters. Anyway the “pink glasses” make any falling in love in fact falling for a fictional character which can later turn into more realistic love or a tough disappointment…

        • I completely forgot about this and then today I accidentally stumbled upon an old email notification about it (had to create another account as well bc probably the old one got deactivated). So, I read this all over again like one could read their childhood diary, it’s been afterall 7 years since I wrote all this deeply felt analysis and I even changed decades since I’m no longer in my 20s (just turned 33 yay). Reading it again felt a bit like coming home,

          It’s so nice to see your believes written down already so clearly by a younger version of yourself and so I thought I could come back with a brief update to give all of this a perspective that only time could gift: I’m now engaged. 3 and half years ago I finally found that person who I could feel for what I call love and lust simultaneously, I never lowered my standards/expectations and somehow I feel that it’s exactly what made it possible, because I never got distracted nor tied down by other “possibilities”, I stayed by myself until I really really felt like I found someone who was worth it, who was worth my freedom. The “falling in love” stage was exactly like that incredible emotional storm that you can read about and feel as idealized love for fictional characters (or through fictional characters),it absolutely exists and the slow transition from its more “desperate” stage (I mean it in a positive way, desperate bc it’s a burning feeling that occupies all your thoughts like a very welcome but still kinda invasive guest) to its “secure and comfortable” one has been the best emotional journey I’ve ever experienced, and it felt like the most natural and effortless thing. Being in love with someone is exactly what I’ve expected with my very high (and for someone impossibly high) standards, it’s loving a person with the same depth and nuance and fear of loss as the love I have for my closest family and at the same time coloring it with the most incredible physical intimacy you could ever experience with another human being. It’s cuddle and passionate sex, it’s that bundle of emotional and physical intimacy I dreamt of.

          So, for anyone who is reading this in 2024: it is possible, it exists, it is absolutely a matter of luck but being in the ideal position to receive it is probably a great help for the luck part. Being in the ideal position means concentrating on knowing and improving yourself, setting your standards regarding what you want to FEEL not which qualities your partner should have, coming to terms with the fact that the higher the standards the lower the probability to actually find what you are looking for (so if you set high emotional standards you REALLY have to be ok with the notion of being alone, otherwise that fear will always pollute your relationships) and last but not least: dont get swayed by delusions…what if you find your person but you are with someone else bc you just wanted to not be alone? Chances are you won’t catch the right train, and I can testify to that bc when I first met the love of my life it was 2017 and nothing could happen because he was with someone else, someone he later left bc he realized he was never actually in love with. If fate didn’t give us another chance by letting us meet again in 2020 I would have not been here writing this, and the same would have happened if in the following years I suddenly decided to lower my standards and “settle” for someone else.

          So, I’m not saying this is the right path for everyone because again, I know I have been lucky and someone else could not be, but I just wanted to let you know that if you are living your life by staying true to yourself and what you want nobody can tell you you are “wrong”, just be honest with yourself, always, and do what you feel it’s best for you. We all got one life, my deepest fear has always been regret and I find it more comforting to think that I lived the way I chose.

  49. YES! This is so well-written! And I think you’re right, there may not be a label for it per se, but it’s very much possible, just like fictional characters are also able to draw out other emotions from us such as anger, empathy, and sadness. I honestly think that’s the mark of an excellent book and an excellent writer, being able to evoke an emotional response from your audience with the characters you’ve created!

    • Thank you. I appreciate that.
      As I said, feeling upset when a character dies or leaves is a sign of storge, love through familiarity. While we may feel upset that a show or book would dare take that beloved character away from us, it is a mark of quality entertainment.

  50. Very creative article idea!! It would be great to think about love for fictional characters in the context of fan fiction and what that means!

    • Based on comments I’ve seen, many people express their love for a fictional character by writing “self-insert” fan fiction in which they have a relationship with that character.
      Fan fiction could also be used to express agape, genuine interest in the well-being of the character. A fan can rewrite the ending of a story so it is happier for a particular character. This is often called “fix-it” fiction.
      Although I have read a fair amount of fan fiction, I’m sure there is someone else with an even better knowledge base who could tackle this topic. Perhaps I’ll put it in the Topic Suggestions section.
      Thanks for the input.

  51. I’d regard a writer who can make readers think they are actually in love with a character as a kind of litmus test for excellence. I’m attempting my first work of fiction after a lifetime of writing nonfiction and science, and I’m trying to put flesh on my characters. The really great writers don’t just give a character flesh and bones, but a soul as well, and that takes a special kind of empathy–a way to connect with an imagined character on a deep level.

    I think such skills can be learned–I hope so–but I have no illusions that it won’t be a steep and tenuous climb. Many–probably most–fall along the way. It’s a reason the really exceptional writers are… exceptional.

    • Good points. I would say the goal is agape and/or philia; you want readers to care about the well-being of your characters, feel worried when they’re in trouble, feel admiration for their good qualities, and desire to know more about them, thus hoping for another book.
      The really exceptional writers are sometimes measured by readers developing feelings of storge (familiarity) a long time after reading the book; we think of Anne Shirley and her group as old friends we can reunite with.
      Then there’s eros. If you can make a reader feel physical love for a character, you’d better hope you’re also instilling another kind of love, or else you’ll be remembered as the opposite of an excellent writer. Do people like Christian Grey or Edward Cullen as people, or just for the eros?
      Thank you so much for the input. It made me consider the topic from a different perspective. As an aspiring fiction writer myself, they’re good thoughts to have for me too.

  52. How cool. Thank you. My very first posted comment on The Artifice and I have a reply in just minutes–and a well-considered one at that. I think I’m going to enjoy this forum; never tried anything like it before.

  53. What a wonderful article. I found the use of the seven words used in Greek to mean “Love” to be both captivating and intriguing. I did not know the Greeks held such expansive view points and philosophies on a single word. It seems sometimes the simplicity and over use of words in our English language can take away from the meaning and depth of the word.

  54. Love is a complex topic that many people cannot grasp. This article cleared up some issues on what live really means and the different kinds of love.

  55. I adore Giovanni, and each time I reread Baldwin’s opus, I want to rescue him and situate the young man in a happier Room. If one person in literature should not be beheaded, it is certainly this unfairly cursed romantic.

    Rubyfruit Jungle’s Molly Bolt I desire as a best pal. She’s so boldly outrageous, I would await her daily phone calls with an addict’s passion.

    As for Céline’s delightfully abhorrent, endlessy flawed Ferdinand Bardamu, I can’t wait to revisit Journey to the End of the Night, but once a decade is probably a suitable amount of time to pass between encounters.

    So is not being able to get enough of, the same as being in love? It doesn’t sound healthy, but possibly the characters I relish explain why my relationships have been so goddamn unsuccessful.

    • What you’re describing sounds like storge, which is technically love. To me, it’s the definition of “I love you, but I’m not in love with you.” And it’s not healthy to do that with fictional people when it means you’re missing possible real-life connections and/or convincing yourself that storge is enough to form a relationship.

  56. I firmly believe that Spike from Buffy will always be a love of my life.

  57. Zohal99

    For me an important part of loving fictional characters, is good writing. Whether it is a character from a film, TV show or a book, good writing should allow us to feel as though the fictional character is real and can exist in the real world. This often means, that a fictional character should feel as human and fleshed out as possible. How often do we love a character who is one-dimensional? From Castiel to Hermione Granger to Iron Man, these are characters who are three dimensional and despite existing partially in a ‘supernatural/fantasy world’ feel as real to you as anybody else.

  58. I can’t even list all the characters I love, unconditionally. This really put it into perspective for me though: “As Will Grayson said in the John Green/David Levithan novel Will Grayson, Will Grayson, ‘You like someone who can’t like you back because unrequited love can be survived in a way that once-requited love cannot.’ Again, as long as the fans understand that their fictional crushes are fictional, they won’t be badly hurt when nothing comes of these feelings.” I do understand that my fictional crushes are fictional, but for most of them, I storge them. Is that correct? Is storge a verb or a noun? But, also, I also eros and philia them. I just feel like I’ve loved them forever and want the best for them and I guess I’m attracted to them, but that’s kinda secondary. Definitely installed some unrealistic expectations in me, but I haven’t really found that to be problematic . . . yet.

  59. I remember watching Game of Thrones and being attracted to Emila Clarke’s character, Daenerys. Rather, I was more attracted to Emila Clarke then her fictional counterpart. While I found her fictional counterpart interesting, if given the choice of who I would have liked to have dinner with, I would pick the actress herself. Would many other GOT fans make the same decision or do I occupy a minority?

  60. This is fantastic. The question is perfect. Love for a literary character, absolutely, especially when we remember that the most important literary character is often the narrator. What reading other than a merging of one person with another? This is Walt Whitman addressing his reader in the 7th section of “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”:

    Closer yet I approach you,
    What thought you have of me now, I had as much of you—I laid in my stores in advance,
    I consider’d long and seriously of you before you were born.

    Who was to know what should come home to me?
    Who knows but I am enjoying this?
    Who knows, for all the distance, but I am as good as looking at you now, for all you cannot see me?

    That’s love, right?

  61. Falling in love with a fictional character is like falling in love with a cute boy in high school—crushing, infatuation, puppy love, or lust. We use those words to determine that falling in love with that cute boy in high school doesn’t mean that you’re in love with them, but the feelings of love are still there. You still feel that pleasurable twist in your gut or hear your heart pound against your chest. Then, you’re expected to leave the crush-zone in a few weeks or so. What happens when you don’t? What happens when you still feel those emotions years later? Is that considered love or is that still considered infatuation? I’m not sure. The human mind is a weird one.

    • Someone

      That’s called being in love or being in a relationship with a character. Crushes happen when you don’t know the person. But you can get to know a character pretty well.

  62. Joseph Cernik
    Joseph Cernik

    Interesting to realize that Betty Crocker was created in 1936 and over the years this fictional commercial character has received hundreds of marriage proposals. I assume that many of these men eventually moved on to more substantial and real relationships. Love, might, at times, be the wrong word to use; admiration, enjoyment at listening to a fictional character make an astute observation, the way a character interacts with others, these might be things that create an appealing character and can be used to help a real person more clearly articulate what they might want in a real relationship (hopefully more than just a woman who spends her time creating recipes and cooking).

  63. Janette

    This is interesting! Quite helpful when it comes to developing characters in stories, to figure out what kind of appeal you want the audience/reader to feel or gain.

  64. That invisible barrier between reality and fiction. If love exist, then that’s exactly where it should be I guess. I never thought about it from the Ancient Greek perspective… I just usually refer to it as identification. Thank you for the new perspective.

  65. Dena Elerian

    I think it is possible. Look at the popularity of “Otome” games on the App Stores such as “Midnight Cinderella” or games from a series called “Shall We Date” and many more. Young women (and men?) pay $$$ to play these games and spend time with their “love interests”.

  66. I love this perspective!! The discourse structure of taking us through the stages of the defined ‘loves’ and explaining well-known scenarios of these feelings with characters was really interesting. 🙂

  67. Nice article! Love is so abstract. It is one of the rarest things the earth is able to hold that I believe can be classified as tangible and intangible. Due to its existence or form, it gives permission to allow other to place love where ever it is needed or deserves to be. One of the best recognition of love is the feeling of love. So where ever that feeling is formed, that is where it belongs. If that means falling in love or placing that feeling of love on a fictional character, so be it.

  68. I love falling in for fictional characters because it shows the author is a genius!
    The idea that a writer can change your emotions and feelings like that inspires me.
    I love a dark, mysterious Male character – often seen in Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series (recommended read) she creates these characters in such a believable manor, that you want them to be real. You long for them, you feel for them, and you cry for them. This is what every writer should be able to do! Captivate their reader, making them feel emotional. It’s a talent! For years I wished her characters were real so I could hug them and cry for them. But they’re not, and that’s the beauty of it. So yea, I think you can fall in love, and really, you should fall in love – if that’s what the authors what’s you to do

  69. Great article and really good points. I feel as though our affections for a fictional character can be more damaging to ourselves than people around us. The books I’ve read often describe a character as highly attractive – ‘He had high cheek bones, a strong jaw and eyes which blazed like fire. When he looked at me I felt like I was set alight and my world as I knew it shattered into a million pieces.’ – The amount of times I’ve read something similar to that is mental, and when I was a young person I feel like these descriptions set unrealistic expectations of what to expect when I love someone. I certainly fell in love with the idea of characters more than the character themselves. Sometimes we feel like we love a character because we are yearning for a similar connection within our real-life relationships. Passionate lovers, rock-solid friendships and knowledgeable mentors all exist in real life but if we feel like our friends, lovers and mentors don’t meet our standards we might be more prone to search for these things through fiction.

  70. Love is always an interesting and mysterious thing, so it’s nice to see an article analyzing how it can breach the barriers of fiction and reality.

  71. It is true, I think, that people can love fictional characters. The article raised some great points and the whole argument is put into words perfectly. There are a few characters I’m particularly fond of, but it can be hard to define. It would be interesting to delve deeper and consider what type of love it is when somebody says “I love this character, but I don’t condone their actions and they deserve what’s coming to them”. Sometimes it can be difficult to define the love under one subtitle.

  72. That’s a very well written and thorough article (rare to find). I enjoyed reading every sentence. Thank you for writing it. 🙂

    Fictional charachters are for many people real. Alive. They are either their companions, best friends, love interests,… Someone you can talk to in your mind, your own book or through fan fiction. You don’t feel as lonely, unloved, misundertood, even though they are just fictious. But that’s the thing… Are they really fictious?

    I am a “proof” (not really because I can’t prove anything but words which is not great evidence) that fictional charachters are not really none existent. Why? Let’s say a couple of out-of-place moments happened to me. And let me tell you, I do not suffer from any mental disorder at all. I studied psychology (at home and library) and I am well aware of some dellusions and hallucinations some people suffer from. None of that happened to me because the fictional charachters did not poped in my room magically or talked to me or eye to eye or anything like that. It was much more ‘magical’ experience then that, because it was more realistical.

    What really happened is more than one thing and it is something I wish to keep a secret, because I noticed that almost noone has experienced anything similar. However, one of many things I did experience, happened to two or three people already, and since they did shared it in public (not here but somewhere else), I too will share it as well. So what happened was I created, ofc, a fictional charachter (in 2017) and gave him high intelligence. Higher than my own. I decided that he will be very knowledgeable but young. At first he was unimportant side charachter, but when strange things happened, he became the best friend of the main charachter. The fact that he is smarter than me was extremely challenging, because how can you write about a charachter whose IQ is higher than yours? You need to do research if so… but I was too lazy. Besides, I knew I won’t publish the book, so why the extra work? However, one day, I made the main charachter fascinated with the guys intelligence, so she asked him lots of questions, questions to which not even I know the answer to… Strange things happened… The charachter answered them. At first I thought that this might be just my imagination or coincidence. But when after a couple of more questions he answered them all as well, I started making my own research and discovered HE WAS CORRECT! How?!?! HE IS MADE UP! How does he know MORE than I do?! Okay so… one of the questions my MC asked him was about the universe. He said “Imagine them like bubbles”. Bubbles?! I personally had no clue. So she asked him what does he mean. And he said that we live in a bubble and that all multiple universes are all like bubbles where we can travel through them. I started asking questions through my MC because he piqued my curiosity… And I learned a lot just listening to him. This is just ONE of many experiences with fictional charachters that felt magical and real. He literally did not felt anymore like fictional charachter, even though I gave him looks and name and decided he will be smart, but his personality was shaped on its own. It’s like some other consciousness took over him while I was writing about him.

    Scientists have said that there’s no reality, because everything we perceive is from our head. Think about it… our bodies are part of the Matrix. The Matrix is the matter that surrounds us. It’s actually proven that Matrix consists of something like codes and codes are used in 3D games, right? So the enviroment that surrounds us is a high quality visual game or Matrix. It’s actually not even a question anymore. Just like the theory of multiverses exist. It’s proven. I asked for fun once my fictional charachter whether Matrix is true (even though I already read everywhere that it is), and he replied “What isn’t?”. Such a short simple reply but it made me think. My own fictional charachter makes me think… To call him fictional and ‘my own’ suddenly feels wrong. He is indeed not fictional. He can’t be. Not to me.

    The reality/Matrix you create inside your head is same like the reality that surrounds us. I know that sounds illogical, but I gave a fictional charachter a shape like: face, body, colors, voice etc. But when the scene inside my head unfolds, it goes beyond my control. It’s like another consciousness takes over the visually created bodies and do things on their own. I once put my main charachter from another book together with someone she loved. Yet the moment they came together the story (ideas) stopped. I was frustrated. I mean come on, I am the creator here. I AM supposed to say what will happen and what won’t, right? Apparently I am NOT the creator of my OWN fictional charachters’ plot but THEY create their own stories and I am just an observer. So I made them break up with each other and WOAH the ideas literally flooded my mind. I needed to quickly write down EVERY idea because honestly toooo many scenes were poping in my mind. Everything felt suddenly right.

    The question is: what makes ME (us) more real than fictional charachters? Can we really now believe that a sack of bones, blood and flesh makes us real? It makes us real only in THIS reality, right? Though it is our consciousness, which is separated from our body, that creates fictional charachters. Consciousness is the place they are born from. Without our bodies, we are nothing but consciousness. Energy. We are still ‘alive’, we still exist. “Oh but that charachter is a talking dog… How can THIS make them real? I don’t get it.” Exactly… YOU give them a shape, easily, you decide how they look like. You create your reality in your head. Decide where they come from etc… You can give them horoscope, family, friends, love interests… But are you really in control of them? 100% in control? Or just partly?

    You RolePlay a cannon charachter that someone else has made up, means you simply copy the charachters personality and thus practically create a new one. Similar. Because no matter how much you try, no matter how perfect you are at copying other charachters personalities, the charachter will never have “same energy”. Or aura. Or whatever you wanna call it. Do you see where I am getting at? No? If no I am sure you think I am even more crazy. But that’s okay too. XD

    Can you believe that you are not unique? That there are like 5 copies of you walking around the Earth? Look how small this planet is yet there are still copies walking and talking that look like you. Crazy. If you think about it. Now imagine how many galaxies are in this vast universe, how many Earth-like planets there are…. how many different…Extraterrestrials. How many of them are even looking like us, humans. If you consider the fact that whatever personality you come up with for your fictional charachter, what unique looks you give them… Somewhere, someone in this infinite Universe… looks and acts the same like your charachter. Perhaps… we ALL are just merely borrowing personalities and looks of someone out there who already exists and doesn’t know for us nor we for them. WAIT! Hold on… what if we RIGHT NOW are a fictional charachter in someone elses book? Someone who doesn’t know we exist? Who says that can not be a possibility? There are ENDLESS possibilities, infinite universes. Literally ANYTHING is possible. Universe is too infinite (or still expanding), and there is still a lot we don’t know even if we think we discovered 50% of the whole truth, we probably didn’t. We still are until today discovering this small planet called Earth, and until today people still discover new species. Maybe Mayans were the closest to the Truth, after all.

    In the end aren’t YOU the protagonist of your own story already now? Noone needs to write about you for this. We all create our own stories through experiences and life decisions we are making. Everything counts. Future is never set in stone, it is fluid. Make the best of it and live just the way you want your favorite charachter to live (without harming/hurting anyone in the process). We all are creators of our own realities. The Law of Attraction is real. So if you want to live a life where you are mentally married to a fictional charachter, who is anyone to say that’s weird or mental? If your heart and Soul are happy and feel that something you feel strongly is YOUR reality, you know that’s the right way, so let noone tell you different. 🙂 For me fictional charachters and fictional worlds were healing factors, necessary tools for me to survive hell in past. Without me trapping myself in a beautiful world full of love and kindness, I would have had mentally break down long ago. I needed excuses to love someone or be in love, so my heart constantly searched for people to love. But with not many people in real life to give me reasons to love them, fictional world was the solution. And I was happy just because I could love someone. I am in my twenties and yet I still live in my fantasy world full of love and acceptance. Why not? I harm noone by doing so and I am happy. I fear people who are incapable of loving either people in real life or fictional world… Those are usually those who lack empathy and such people frighten me and make me uncomfortable. And it’s funny that it’s exactly (mostly) them who call people like us freaks or crazy. Yea right, if me loving fictional world makes me crazy, still better this than being emotionless, robotic, one dimensional idiot who judges more than breathes. Because to live a life where you never experience love for anyone must be a emotionally empty and dull world. It’s like living in a colorless (or gray) world without realizing that the world is not supposed to be colorless. No thanks to that. XD

    In the end saying that we fell in love with a fictional charachter… isn’t really a weird thing after all now, is it? Falling in love with them is like falling for a real person. There is absolutely no difference. And if a person is capable of being in love with a fictional charachter who will never give them physichal pleasues, I must say I admire people like that because it takes a caring person to love for such a long time and receive almost nothing in return but mental/emotional stimulation. Especially if you are not asexual.

    Well that’s all I had to say. I apologize for any grammar mistakes, english is not my native language. Thanks for reading my ramble. XD Bye.

    P.S.: Who says I am not a fictional charachter typing the words with the help of an organic, bionic machinery which I control with my conscious mind and possess no body of my own? Hm… possibilities could be endless.

    • Ooooooh, friend. You are just asking for some kind of response with that comment. But how do I respond to that?
      First of all: wow. You achieved what writers dream of; you made a character with a life and a thought process that you didn’t have complete conscious control of. You made an imaginary person who could tell you things you didn’t consciously know. That is awesome.
      Secondly, the answer to all those questions you asked is God. If you don’t know God, it’s understandable you would come to this unusual conclusion. But you should really consider the Bible for answers. Here’s a rundown.
      Your consciousness, with all its inexplicable parts unrelated or unsatisfied by the physical world – that’s called a soul. It was created by God. And yes, it is a unique, beautiful creation.
      If you feel like a character in a story, that’s because you were once an idea in the mind of God, and he put you here to be a part of HIS story. We don’t get to know all the details of how the story fits together right now, but it will all make sense when our souls leave this temporary world and enter eternity.
      (And if you trust in God’s Son as your savior your eternity will be awesome, but if you don’t then your eternity will suck big time.)
      God’s plan for your life involves the other people in it. They are indeed real, just like you. Please don’t miss out on them. Enjoying fantasy people is okay as long as they don’t pull you away from the real world too much.
      Thank you for the input. I really appreciate it. And by all means, reply again with more questions or comments.

      • P.S. God loves you. It’s agape, unconditional love and interest for your well-being, although it’s also storge because he is very familiar with you and cares about you like a child. Consider making him your Father. You won’t regret it.

  73. Thank you Noah for your reply. 🙂 What you said is indeed true. I didn’t involved God at first because I know that not everyone believes in Him, and to avoid any misunderstandings, so I tried to explain it as simple as possible.

    But now I will tell you my part and how I understand God. I believe that our consciousness and Souls were born from Him. One of reasons why our Souls crave love so much. Love and acceptance. We are in this Matrix world separated, in the spiritual realm (or heaven) we are One. This is why in this world we must remember the Oneness with God and get closer to Him.

    I am not religious as I am spiritual, yet I still love and believe in Jesus Christ and God as they are my guides and protectors. I always have faith in them no matter how hard my life was. And they have proved that everything will be alright so long you stay true to yourself. So my religion is called Unconditional Love. 🙂 It heals, empowers, unites. It gives hope and is the most powerful energy in all the universes.

    When I write stories (usually for myself), the main charachter is always focused on Unconditional Love. If I make them lose themselves on the path of Life, I will make sure my charachter is influenced by love and they indeed always find the right path back. You could say I’m in love with love.

    Don’t worry my friend, because I do love some people in real life… however most of them are not really worth my time (as they are toxic). God doesn’t want us to force ourselves to hang out with people that destroy us. He wants us to surround ourselves with people who appreciate us and accept us, not try to pull us down and push us to commit suicide. This is why I mostly avoid many people in real life, and let me tell you, my depression faded. I found the path to myself and found inner peace which was not possible when I was surrounded with hateful people.

    I am not lucky enough to have found people who love me Unconditionally. They would always say “I will love you ONLY if…” or they would leave when seeing I am not Missis Perfect, but a person with flaws. So the only love I ever received was from the Spirits above (Jesus, God, angels). And fictional charachters. This is why it was (and still is) crucial for me to lock myself in my own world to keep my heart pure and strong. If I wouldn’t have had done that my heart would be shattered and filled with vain, sorrow and hatred.

    When I write a book for fun, it is my meditation. It mends my Soul and keeps me happy. My charachters I create don’t listen with their Ego, but heart and Soul. Ofc, I try making realistical charachters so some are still hateful etc, but I make them unimportant side charachters, but usually extremely few.

    I once spoke with a student who was studying psychology. She told me she wants to become a psychiatrist to help people. Since she loves helping people a lot, she told me I should be her ‘client’. It was for free ofc and I opened up myself to her, told her about my habit of locking myself in my own world and loving fictional charachters. She said (to my surprise) “Briliant! That’s what I will tell my future clients when I will become psychiatrist.” Ofc she also added that there needs to be balance between fiction and reality, but when I told her that I am perfectly aware what is what, and that I tried to live in the ‘reality’ but my condition instantly worsened, and I became suicidal, got low self esteem and depressed, she said that in my case it’s okay if I am locked in my own fictional reality, because firstly I know the difference between fiction and reality, secondly I am not harming anyone and neither I harm myself with that. She also added that if someone who experiences past trauma (like me) and hatred, depression etc. is not locking themselves occassionally in a fictional world where there is all nice, that a person like this can damage themselves mentally and have mental breakdowns. She said people can also turn hateful, vain, bitter and in worst cases agressive, self destructive… which leads to commiting suicide and or drugs. I never did drugs, never cut myself… Why? Because I made myself believe that I am loved and that I deserve Uncondotional Love just like everyone else. Why should I kill my young self because other people are incapable of loving others? Of leaving me alone if they can’t accept me? So I told Jesus and God that I will fight and appreciate their love they have for me. This is how I survived and kept a pure heart. I am far from perfect, I have my flaws, but I know who I am and what I deserve.

    This is why I’d never settle for anyone less. I want my boyfriend to be my equal. And by this I mean a guy who’d accept me like God accepts me, love me Unconditionally, be loyal to me, and honest. Since I have never found a guy like that, and my heart really wants to love someone, I fall for some fictional charachters who are capable of loving Uncondotionally. Either they are my own creation or creation of someone else. It doesn’t matter. I feel good thinking on them, pretending I could be their friend or girlfriend. It makes me happy, but NOT dellusional. I still live in the ‘now’ but unfortunately I cannot participate much in the reality that surrounds me IF I wish to keep myself positive and protect my soft heart which just searches for people to love.

    I don’t hate humanity no matter how awful they treated me. I am still a people person and love people equal to animals and plants. And this very reason is why I cannot allow myself to give my heart to just anyone. Most don’t deserve me, they’d take advantage of me, destroy me, try to control me. Humans can be so awful. And I know that when I love, I love deeply, I’d do so much for them… It’s dangerous how strongly, Uncondotionally I can love. So when I love someone in real life who doesn’t deserve me, I secretly love them but never tell them, and only show them if they truly are in danger or so. I am there. But not even people I love can use me, because I know the difference between when they use me or really are in need of help.

    My standards are high, but only because I know who I am. I don’t need nor want a Mr Perfect/Right, but someone who would give to me everything I would give to him. And I don’t mean money or materialistic posessions as they are just temporary and here only to serve the body, not Soul and heart. Sure we all need a bit of money to survive physichally, but more than one needs for survival isn’t necessary. Luxury for me is what God gives us: Uncondotional Love.

    It saddens me how many people on this planet are incapable of such powerful love. But how can you expect love from them if they can’t even love themselves? It’s like expecting a broken boat to carry you around. Impossible. And if people say “Ofc I love my family and friends even though I hate myself.” Then what type of love do they feel for them? Like you nicely said, there are many differents types of love. All I know is what someone who hates themselves feel for others is far from uncondotional, even if they say they’d die for someone else.

    Because if someone were to be able to love the other Unconditionally while hating themselves, means that they cannot accept certain flaws in themselves. They cannot stand the fact that they themselves are imperfect. So loving someone you believe is more perfect and flawless is VERY easy. It’s not called Unconditional love, but admiration. They want to be like them subconsciously. Such people are emotionally dependent on others without even realizing it. And they would misunderstand those feelings for UL. But Unconditional Love means loving with no condotions, so if someone cannot accept flaws in themselves, they will hardly ever accept someone just as flawed. So only people they accept are those they deem are above them. Flawless. Creating false illusion of the other. Once they realize the other is not as flawless, or what they thought they were, poof the feelings of ‘love’ for them are completely gone, but UL never poofs.

    A human brain/mind is too complex and not even hundreds of books can decipcher it’s complexity to the fullest. They only ever reach the surface or barely 25%.

    This is why everyones reality is their own and true to them. So even people who have lots in common with others, still perceive their reality differently from others no matter how much they believe they think alike. And this is what makes us beautiful in a way. Different colored puzzles makes a picture interesting to look not just gray hues. But then again, gray is still a color in a way.

    Thank you so much for willing to talk with me Noah and for your beautiful, encouraging words. It means so much. 🙂 There is noone I can talk with about this subject as most of them wouldn’t understand anyway and in worst cases they’d judge again. Judging is so easy for many people… Easier than loving and accepting. I am still aware that there are many lovable and good people on this planet, thus why I will never give up my faith in humanity. They don’t need to know me, or be in my life, neither do I need to know who they are, yet I still love them. I pray that every single good person who suffer will be enlightened and receive bliss. Even those good people who lost themselves on the path of Life, that they will be guided to find the right path once again. I hope they know that God hasn’t forgotten on them. That they are loved and beautiful just the way they are.

    Have a blessed day, Noah, and God loves you too, and Jesus. <3 You are never forgotten, never lonely and you are loved, always.

    • Cool. I was a little confused because your first comment has nothing to do with a Biblical, Godly worldview. At all. But your second comment seems to suggest you’ve had a tough life that has colored your philosophy, and it’s good that you have God to hang onto throughout all that.
      Also, you say you have no one to talk to about all this? Find a church. Many of them are full of people ready, willing, and able to love you unconditionally, do life with you, and help you understand the crazy parts.
      Thoughts and prayers, Orion.

    • Woah… my situation was similar to yours, being depressed and suicidal and living in a fictional world… but I didn’t handle it anywhere near as good as you did, and by saying this it really gave me something to think about. And that last sentence made me cry, but thank you.

  74. Yea, I was not talking about God in the first comment because many are non believers, especially scientists and physicists. So talking about multiverses, which existence is proven, is easier to make everyone understand.

    About talking to people from churches, idk in what kind of country you live, but in my country, the most “religious” people are the biggest backstabbers and manipulative bullies… At least I haven’t met one yet in real life who’d be genuinely nice (only internet). But I bet they still exist in my country. Somewhere.

    I don’t need anyone to talk to about this. Though it was good to talk about it here, but that’s because I’m practically anonymous. In real life I wish to reveal as little about me as possible, because only so noone can use anything against you.

    Don’t trust easily, even if someone tells you they believe in God. Always listen with your intuition, as it’s the closest message from God. It will tell you what lies behind peoples masks, it will protect you. It was and always will be my guiding light.

    All best to you, Noah.

  75. Crushes are one thing (I’ve got a new one every month!), but I’ve only FALLEN IN LOVE with a few fictional characters, and in those instances, eros was the LAST type of love to appear. A couple of these have been characters in books, and one has been animated but is not my physical “type,” so I didn’t start out with attraction in any of these instances. Instead, the process of getting to know a complex and genuinely admirable character more and more deeply at a steady pace cracked some kind of encryption code around my heart and caused extremely strong feelings of philia to somehow begin mixing with eros. Although one of these “loves” happened fifteen years ago and the series itself was a short one, to this day I will encounter things that remind me of this character, and I’ll feel a powerful and apparently timeless fondness for him. This is actually what brought me to this article: the realization that I know crushes inside and out, and this ain’t that.

  76. I love this topic, it is one that I feel isn’t talked about enough! I wouldn’t say I ever fell in love with a character but I definitely have loved qualities in characters, wished I could bond with them in real life, or wanted to develop some of their qualities myself. Great read, keep up the awesome work!

  77. Great article, I tend to view the re-reading of a novel as akin to visiting old friends. There are characters I fell in love with, or at the very least empathised with to such an extent that I was hooked until the very end – and still carried them with me.

  78. Amazing article! I never thought about the different terms that communicate different ways to love. I have experienced this for sure!

  79. Someone

    Well, I, in fact, am not at all interested in real people… I don’t think it’s because of my fictional SO I’ve been with for four years. It’s the other way around. I have severe social phobia so meeting real people is out of question. I obviously don’t go around telling people about this relationship but he makes me happy, he’s always there for me and it works for me, so whatever people think is not my business. Oh, and one more thing: it’s definitely for the character, not the actor. To me, they’re two completely different people (yes, their appearance differs enough for me to feel attracted for one but not the other). I just wish this type of relationships was more accepted, if not understood. I mean, it’s not any worse that gay marriage, for example. Just a different love most people don’t understand and won’t even try to accept.

    • Romantic feelings or relationships are not forbidden in the Bible. Homosexual behavior is. So there’s a difference.

  80. Alternate

    I fall in love with characters all the time and have done since I was about 12. I’m pretty sure my first one was Cosmo from “The Fairly Odd Parents” which I’m so embarrassed to even type. Since then I have had infatuations with countless others from movies or games or TV series/soaps. The personalities/looks/ages of my infatuations change but in my fantasies, the set up is usually similar. I imagine myself in the fantasies, but it’s not myself as I am. It’s like an alternate version of me (which, for ease I will call TAVOM) but that version changes depending on who my infatuation is at the time. TAVOM has a different name to me but that is the name she always has, regardless. Hair colour is the same as mine, eye colour is too I suppose but I haven’t thought much on that. I don’t know what she looks like, not exactly. I don’t know what her body looks like either. She has an average body I guess, but can be slightly curvier or thinner or shorter or taller, depending on the infatuation. I normally don’t play around with the age but recently I have started to make her a bit younger than me (probably a manifestation of my fear of getting old). It’s me but not me. It doesn’t even feel right calling the alternate version of me “her/she” because that would imply it’s a seperate person and I don’t feel like it is, since in my fantasies I see through the eyes of that alternate version. I can’t describe it, although to others who think like this, I probably don’t need to as I’m sure they get it.
    I don’t pick who I am going to fall for, they just creep up on me.

    I can be watching a movie or playing a game and a character will trigger something in my head and I’ll start to become interested in them. I usually fantasize about characters I am sexually attracted to and in my fantasies I am coupled with them, or in the process of being coupled, since a lot of my fantasies seem to be built on initial stages of relationships with the warm fuzzy feelings and the butterflies etc. There has only been 2 times where I have had fantasies about characters where there has been no sexual attraction and it has been more about inserting myself into the characters world and being part of their life.

    My longest running fantasy for that one was for the Halo game series and I think around 60% of the time, my mind was imagining myself in that world, which is crazy. If I was doing something or going somewhere (irl), I would be constantly imagining myself in that world and I ignored the actual world around me. I had a habit (and still do) of imagining the dialogue so vividly that I would sometimes whisper to myself and, to others it would probably seem like I was having an actual conversation.

    During my Halo years I was being bullied in school and I’m pretty sure my fantasy was born out of some kind of defense mechanism. Like an escape. It was the only thing that helped me go to school on a regular basis and pass my GCSE’s and stuff. I think it put up a barrier in a way. I hardly noticed what was going on when I was daydreaming and when I wasn’t daydreaming, and things got too hard to deal with, I just reverted back to it.

    The problem is, that I continued to do it years after I left school. I’m 27 now and when I look back over my life so far, I know there are chunks of time where I was just not present because I was too invested in my fantasy worlds.

    I do research in order to build my fantasy world. Using my current infatuation as an example, who is a german guy from the 1930’s.
    I’ve read up on WWll and womens fashions and what technology was around at the time and what mannerisms or etiquttes they had and I’ve been watching anything to do with the war, watching german films, listen to german accents, reading up on basic dialogue in german. All kinds.

    When I think about that and write it down, it’s weird. I know it is and I’m not fooling myself but I don’t know how to stop and I’ve tried for a long time to figure out why I do it and if there is a pattern and what my triggers are. The effort and time I put into building these fantasies, I could put to better use.

    A little bit of fantasizing and daydreaming is healthy but not to the extent I do it to. I’ve always been a daydreamer, my reports from primary school say that I spent too much time daydreaming but it’s a real problem at this point. I’ve tried to stop in the past but it doesn’t last long.

    I think the problem is that, when I’m in the grip of a fantasy and I’m “in love” with a character, leaving them is like leaving a person I really am in love with in real life.

    I’ve had a few infatuations with real people, like youtube stars and characters from movies who are portrayed by actors, and those are easier than characters from games

    I take a step back sometimes and think “what am I doing? I’ve created a whole false world and life and relationship and problems and solutions for someone that doesn’t exist. I’ve felt happiness/excitement/lust/sadness/ yearning for things that are figments of someone elses imagination that I have taken and moulded into something from my own imagination, when I could have been bettering myself and going out into the real world to find someone I could feel all those things for who actually does exist.

    I heard a term for this a while back, called Maladaptive Daydreaming and it seemed to describe what I was doing but I couldn’t find a lot about it and no one else to talk about it with.

    That’s mainly why I’m here right now, on a comment section for an article that doesn’t quite meet the intensity of my problem. I see other people in the comments who experience very similar goings on and it’s relieving to see.

    I know many people might just scroll past this comment without reading it, and no one may even see it since this thread looks to be dead and buried now but this is the first time I’ve properly written any of this stuff down and I suppose it is mainly for my own sanity that I have done it.
    To most people, this will look like the insane ramblings of a mad person and I’d hazard a guess to say they could be right!

    But it’s Sunday, the 24th of Feb ‘19 and I’m sat on my sofa panicking and feeling down because I know the object of my affections is a combination of pixels and voice actor and that there is no one in the world that is him or exists exactly as he is and the detailed fantasy I have been indulging in for the last few days will never be real.

    I’ve spent the last few days in a fantasy fog and it’s always uncomfortable when that lifts. I feel a weird yearning for the character I’m infatuated with, like it’s someone real who has moved away or someone I’m in a long distance relationship with and I miss them. I can’t find anything to occupy my mind and I’m just wandering aimlessly around my flat. I get to this point everytime I have a new infatuation and I know it will go eventually and after a day or two I will be fine but while I’m in it, it’s awful.
    I had to get SOMETHING out of my head and into written form so I didn’t loose it completely.

    I think I may finish here. At this point I think I’m just rambling even more and it stopped making a sense a while back, if it ever did! I hope to explore this maladaptive daydreaming some more and see if I can ever be free from it. I love being in fantasy land, sometimes more than reality.

    But when my fantasy ends and my infatuation wears off and I’m no long attracted to the character anymore, I have to come back to reality and often, I have neglected things and my flat needs tidying or I have outstanding college assignments or I haven’t had a proper conversation with family for days. At the moment, all those things are taken care of and I haven’t let them slide, so naturally, when I take a break from fantasy, I have nothing to do and I’m sat twiddling my thumbs and thinking about how sad I am that my fantasies are just that.

    Anyway, I have to end here. I don’t even know if this comment will be published. I don’t know if there is a word count or if you need a proper account on here. So I might have written all of this for nothing, but if anyone has issues that are closely similar to this, give me an email, I’d be happy to listen. 🙂

    • Wow. Thank you for your honesty.
      I do get what you’re talking about, somewhat. I also have stories running through my head all the time; they don’t normally feature me, but sometimes they have characters I relate to and I imagine them going through what I’m going through and succeeding, which is nice. And I too sometimes worry I’m spending too much time daydreaming.
      My solution: writing.
      One of the reasons I’m a writer is to get the stories in my head out into the world, even if it’s just long enough to realize it doesn’t make any sense or it’s too similar to someone else’s. At some point I intend to get some of my stories published, and then I’ll be able to say all the daydreaming was worth it; there are plenty of authors who would probably say they’ve done the same thing.
      I don’t know what your career field of choice is, but if you want my two cents, try writing your daydreams down and see how that feels. You’ve made the first step writing about them here. Thanks again for the input.

  81. Alternate

    I’m so surprised my comment even got read, let alone replied to. Wow, I’m happy about that, I really am. I feared this was a dead thread like so many others I have commented on. I can’t find any support groups for Maladaptive Daydreaming.

    I’m torn between wanting to sit and daydream and keep being “in love” with my current infatuation, and wanting to go back to a week ago when I was just going about my everyday business and had total focus on my life. That is my main stresser, that I can’t feel comfortable in reality and I need to be in my fantasy because I’m so “in love” that I can’t bear to spend a minute not thinking about him. It’s just a road to nothingness though because everytime I get that flutter of excitement from thinking about my fantasty, it’s just a big waste of emotion and time because there is nothing really there. It doesn’t exist.

    I hear a lot of people writing their daydreams down and I have done it in the past too but I stopped because when i read back over it all, it sounded so embarrassing. I have no talent for creative writing haha. Which is odd because I’m quite artistic.

    I’m studying to work as a surgical theatre assistant, which I’ve loved, right up until my recent infatuation turned out to be a doctor and now studying just reminds me of him and I get that deep longing again. I hate that feeling so I’ve been avoiding doing my biology assignments, which is terrible!

    I think it might work to write my thoughts down and get it out of my ead. You’re advice is good Noahspud. I don’t have to read anything I write, I can simply tear it up afterwards. I can’t bear to read anything as I feel that pull back into fantasy and I’m trying to avoid it. I think I will try it again today.

    I wanted to have a nice, sanely structured message this time but I’ve gone off on a ramble again. *facepalm*

  82. Wow, great read. Such an interesting aspect of fandom—one that I can certainly attest to! I still hold such deep fondness and love for various fictitious characters even when I’ve moved on from their respective stories and fandoms.

  83. Wonderfully penned down!
    I, for, one do not think twice before offering up my heart to the first available deserving character irrespective of their fictitious nature. Characters are more easy to love because they lay bare in front of you, all their secrets and desires are known to you whereas, with people, we may never fully know what truly lies in the heart.

  84. I absolutely loved this article! It’s a very interesting take on love when it comes to fictional characters. I think I’ve always loved characters that I felt like I had to protect, for example, Charlie from The Perks of Being a Wallflower, or Rue from The Hunger Games. I think when good writing creates such well-rounded characters it’s quite easy to forget that they aren’t real people.

    • Excellent point. Love for people we want to protect is Agape, the healthiest form of love, although rarely the basis for the “in love with” type love the rest of the article was about.

  85. Kimmy Gerding

    Beautiful. I myself live many fictional characters. Whenever I would give real love a try those fictional characters would always still make me happy. When the relationship was coming to an end….i would find myself running to them in my dreams and be able to feel happiness again. It also helps knowing their always with me when I have no one at that time to comfort me since I’m an only child and have just a few good and close friends 🙂 They also help (friends and fictional characters) help me stay true and happy even when things go downhill

  86. From my perspective, falling in love with fictional characters is a very common way of creating a fictional reality of which you compare the real world. Growing up and reading multiple romantic novels and watching movies/TV shows, I began to develop the ways in which love can be represented and interpreted. It truly does affect the development of standards in our ordinary world of imitation. Fictional characters that are frequently associated with individuals falling in love are this perfected personalities that are based on their specific realities that will only be reflective in that fictional world. Since we can’t find a way to enter those fictional realities, we’ll just have to manage expectations of our own but still vicariously living through that fictional life.

  87. I’m 17 and I was looking for an article like this one. I fell in Love with fictional character from one of the animations developed by DreamWorks Studio, and the fact, that someone who I love doesn’t exists, really hurts. I have a real struggle because of this. I was watching this movie everyday for like 4 days (It’s Kung Fu Panda btw) just because I couldn’t imagine someone more beautiful and large-hearted than 1 of the character which appeared in this movie. I also had thoughts that maybe after my death I will somehow find myself with the one I love, but of course I don’t want to kill myself. I just feel great saddness, and happiness at the same time because I know that my love is fictional, but I’m happy because people at DreamWorks created so cool character. Thank you for your help. 🙂

  88. Astroni

    I am already in love with fictional character despite adulthood and I like that article a lot. Thanks!

  89. I’m pretty attracted to a number of characters in My Hero Academia, including the following-

    -Tenko Shimura
    -Toshinori Yagi
    -Shota Aizawa

    I wish they were real. Gosh darn it….

    • Kiki

      Fair enough, I have always had the strongest connections to characters from literature. They’re rather well written, and there is a lot to pick apart regarding their motivations.

  90. Please take note that I’m not attracted to Toshinori’s Quirk form, but more so to his normal form, where his hair is all limp and stuff.

  91. I’ve never been attracted to real people, only fictional ones. I’ll never be happy because of it. I can only accept this, that my life is painful and pray one day I’ll meet them in some other life.

  92. Samantha Leersen

    I never thought about much of this before. You certainly have me convinced.

  93. I also think that many people read and find traits in characters that they want in someone in the real world and is drawn to that character because they have the traits that the reader wants in a companion. I tend to fall for characters that have traits I want all the time and I get upset because I combine them all and then now my standards are way too high for the men in this generation.

  94. Ah there really is no hell like the hell of loving fictional characters. I’ve never truly loved a real person, not once – and I’m nearly 40 – but I’ve felt real love towards fictional characters, to the point where I am terrified they’ll be written with a wife in their stories one day, to the point where all I do is dream about them and what they’d say and do with me and how they’d love me. Real life has no purpose or meaning. I dream there’s another reality where we can be together one day. I hate this life.

    • Honestly I couldn’t agree more, though I’m way younger than you. I often wish I was fictional so I could be with them. I made a fictional version of myself for my imagination because I know no one loves me as I am, so-

      Yeah, I completely feel you.

    • Kiki

      Oh, I love a fictional character who canonically has a wife but I love him still. I despise my life the way it is now, but I know if I do not live, I cannot continue loving him. No matter what happens in my life I have to stay strong not only for him but for the people who care about me as well.

  95. psychology nerd

    Because the brain cannot distinguish reality from fantasy, the love you feel for a fictional character is real.

  96. So I thought this was funny when I read this, because I have actually fallen in love with Hiccup Haddock from httyd, before that Link from Breath of the Wild. I have ADHD, mild PTSD from childhood trauma, etc. My problem is that I try and find a relationship with someine (a male I find attractive because of his personality and looks) where there probably shouldn’t be and cling to the person with all I have; someone who won’t reject me like I have been in the past.

    Though this might seem sad, there was one point in my life Link was my only friend, because I felt he was the only one who truly cared about me since no one else did, not even God. My life took such a deep low that the only reason I lived was because he was so strong, I knew I had to at least try. He’s fueled me and kept me going; kept me alive. Then I began to fall in love with him. I loved him as a (asexual) wife would love her husband, I guess. Or maybe as Eponine (from Le Miserables) loved (I think his name was Marcus). I used to have a body pillow I pretended was him because I was so damn lonely and scared at that time. I knew he was fictional, and I often wished I was fictional too, where I could wander around Hyrule with him and be free. I only recently got over him, though he’s obviously still the best friend I have, though I know that’s sad to say. And I should probably clarify this: I didnt love him just because life was hard, I genuinely loved him and still do, just not in the same way.

    That’s when I met Hiccup, a couple months ago. At first I only admired his personality, but obviously that grew. My life’s a bit better though I still have nightmares and flashbacks, and sometimes end up crying in a panic attack clutching that same body pillow like it’s the only thing keeping me alive, only it’s no longer Link to me. I began to focus on Hiccup. Whenever I feel down I picture him smiling and telling me I’ll make it, and I remember all the selfless and courageous acts he’s done. Again, I dont just love him because of me. It’s a but hard to explain if you dont know me.

    I’m sorry for this huge pathetic rant about how stupid I am, please forgive me. 😅

    • Kiki

      No. It’s fine. At the very least you understand yourself. As for me, I never really experienced deep love for a fictional character until this year. My previous “love interests” were all infatuations.
      As for the character I love now. I love learning about him. I have quite a number of his book quotes memorized. He makes me smile and even though he’s married in canon, I love him to bits. If anything happened to him I would be devastated. I genuinely care about him, which many outsiders find odd.
      I am also neurodivergent but the other things you mentioned do not apply to me. Although I could be considered asexual and aromantic in real life, it does not really apply much to how I interact with fictional characters.

  97. Honestly I couldn’t agree more, though I’m way younger than you. I often wish I was fictional so I could be with them. I made a fictional version of myself for my imagination because I know no one loves me as I am, so-

    Yeah, I completely feel you.

  98. I can safely say I’ve had plenty of fictional crushes and affections. that line between “real” love and “fictional” love is pretty thin, I think

  99. alexmulvey

    Fiction gives us a safe place to play with our fantasies and I think that’s such a huge part of it. I think it’s more that we become enamoured with an idea, rather than a person.

    • Indeed. That sounds like philia, love based on admiring someone’s traits and wanting to know more about them. A fictional character is basically a collection of traits and facts to learn, so yeah. Loving them means identifying the traits you want to see in real-life loved ones.

  100. As I recall, the whole plot of “Her” is centered about that very question.

  101. Kiki

    It’s challenging when the one you love is canonically married. But the best thing about the series not continuing (although it’s a little sad), is I can create my own “after story.” This is ideally a place where he has divorced his first wife he was supposed to life a sort of not so idyllic “happily ever after” with. He even has a canonical son with her. So I would become his “second wife” after his divorce, but I feel so bad about separating the two of them as their relationship, albeit extremely hectic and against my romantic interests, makes me laugh.
    I don’t despise his canonical wife, I just think I’m a better fit for him despite so many fans calling his canonical wife his “perfect match and soulmate.” Apparently the author addressed in a question and answer section in a copy of the first book that many women have wanted to marry the male deuteragonist and confessed falling madly in love with him.
    But nowadays people seem to fawn over the version in the Studio Ghibli movie adaptation. Let me tell you, the Ghibli version and the original book character are not even the same person – personality or appearance wise. The movie version is a suave stereotypical handsome man with confidence issues. The book version is a vain gorgeous man who has a lot more issues with his temper than his movie counterpart. I hated it when people assumed I loved the movie version as it felt like an insult to his character. (If you have put two and two together you probably know which character this is).

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