This is well-said —
“How is it that fictional characters made of words typed on paper become real in a reader’s mind? How does that alchemy happen? I’m always surprised each time it happens for me – when I realize that I have fully accepted a character I’m reading, that I’ve made that little leap of faith that allows me not to question the artifice that is fiction but to surrender to the invention. I know that fiction is not ‘real’, that the characters I’m reading don’t exist. But they have become real for me, and so are as real as my dreams are, as real as my thoughts.”
— and without that alchemical leap, how can the novel go as deep as it needs to, how can the reader access everything that a story can be?
Now think of all the characters who are real to you, friends to you, really. Does it make sense to think that that leap of spirit, between the “real” and the reader, is made half-way by the character and half-way by us, when we read? Why some books come alive for you, and others leave you cold … after a certain level of communicative skill is reached (by writer and reader), whether it’s Heathcliff or Smilla or Josef K. or the Poky Little Puppy who speaks to you most intimately, depends as much on you as on any of them. Affinity is mysterious as breathing, and as natural.