A note on how I experience stories.

You guys know that scene in “Umbrella Academy” where Five answers the door, adult beverage in hand, and his whole attitude is just … just

𝐔𝐦𝐛𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐥𝐚 𝐀𝐜𝐚𝐝𝐞𝐦𝐲: (𝙵𝚒𝚟𝚎 𝚡 𝚁𝚎𝚊𝚍𝚎𝚛) - 𝘞𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥  𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦 𝘢 𝘔𝘢𝘳𝘨𝘢𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘢? - Wattpad
(source)

That’s my Entire Mood for 2020, and I Cannot Lie.™

(like, without any actual alcohol.  but you understand.  it’s the SPIRIT of the TIMES.)

Regardless of my mood, I’m here with a blog post analyzing the way I experience stories.  Cheers!

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How do you experience stories, friend?

That’s a broad question.  Let me make my meaning plainer.  What precisely happens in your brain when you crack open a book or turn on a movie?  You’re entering an imaginary world, sure.  We all do that.  But what does your level of participation–your “form” of participation, more accurately–look like?

You have several options, don’t you?

1. You can remain on the sidelines of the story, a quiet observer.  You’re in roughly the same position as your standard omniscient narrator: watching from a distance.  The fly on the wall.

2. You can (mentally) jump in to participate, but as your ordinary self: a “tagalong” in this group of imaginary friends.  You’re part of the team, but you’re still off to the side.  You stay at a slight distance while the heroes take the lead.

3. You can slide into the hero’s (or any other character’s) skin, and literally become them.  Their experiences become your experiences.  Everything that happens to them is–quite literally–happening to you, with no filter in between.

Can you guess which of these methods is the one I use?

*clears throat*  Yeah …

I always, always, always insert myself into one of the characters, slipping effortlessly into their shoes without even realizing I’m doing it.  From that point on (either until the story ends, or until I switch identities) I AM THAT CHARACTER.  Seeing what they see.  Hearing what they hear.  Feeling what they feel.  Any insult or threat to them is an insult or threat to me, no questions asked.

For most of my life, I didn’t know I was doing this.  I didn’t ask myself “what” I was doing as I consumed books & movies, because it seemed obvious to me that whatever it was, it was the only way to experience a story.  It’s the only way that works for me: ergo, it’s the only way that could possibly work for anyone else.

Slowly, after much discussion with fellow readers and movie-lovers, it dawned on me … not only do other people not necessarily Do This … many people seem somewhat baffled that I Do This.

“You become the character?” they say, brows furrowed.  “You absorb their hurts and worries and fears exactly as if they were happening to you?”

Why would you do that?” they say, beginning to look a wee bit concerned.

Well …

THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY GIFS | Cute celebrities, Academy, Umbrella
(source)

I don’t know.

I can’t rightly say why I do this, other than my brain doesn’t seem to operate any other way.  But I can tell you more about what the process looks like, and how it’s shaped my taste in stories, characters, and more.  I’m also genuinely curious to hear whether any of y’all do something similar (absorb stories by self-insertion, I mean).  Because so far I’ve NEVER MET anyone else who says they do … but I can’t be the only one!!!

(Would I be sad if I was?  Eh.  No. 😛 )

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So, I “become the character.”  What does that feel like?

As hinted above, I’m standing in their shoes.  I see what they see, I experience what they experience.  I am physically and emotionally present (as far as my brain knows) in any situation they find themselves in.  I was born without a filter to separate reality and fiction, and I never developed one.  If the character gets punched in the face, so did I.  If the character’s spouse cheats on them, well, guess who else just got cheated on.

There’s one key caveat: I don’t adopt the character’s personality.  I still react to these events the way I would react to them, not the way they necessarily do.  For example, the love interest may tease or flirt with the character in a way which doesn’t make them uncomfortable, but if it bothers ME, then I become as flustered (and furious) as I would as if the guy were sitting in my bedroom, saying these things to me:

Because, guess what?  He literally is.

That’s how I experience stories.

It’s an incredibly intimate and even invasive process, one that may provoke extreme anger.  Which is natural, I suppose.  If a character comes into my private room, my private thoughts, and starts throwing their weight around in a way I don’t like–like I said, it’s no longer happening to the character acting opposite them.  It’s happening TO ME, PERSONALLY.  And I explode accordingly.

Umbrella Academy Photo Book(COMPLETE) - Attempt 43 - Wattpad
(source)

(Five Hargreeves is my alter ego, y’all.  Smol, fastidious, and full of rage.)

Now, a couple rules for how I self-insert.

  • It’s automatic.  I do it without thinking.
  • It’s not something I control.  I don’t choose which characters I become.
  • It’s usually a POV character, but not always …
  • It’s usually a woman.

I empathize with female characters far more readily than I do with men, even male POV characters.  If the main character is a guy, my self-insert function will often “leap” to the women he interacts with.  So even though their exchanges are told from the man’s point of view, I feel his actions and words as if they were directed at me from outside.  As if I were standing in the woman’s shoes … even though the author intended (if anything) for me to get a glimpse of what it’s like in the guy’s shoes.

I apologize to any authors whose lives I just inadvertently ruined. 😛

This is not to say I NEVER insert myself into male characters–Five, for example–but it’s much less likely.  If it does happen with a male character, it’s usually a guy who is demonstrably vulnerable in some way.  Like maybe he’s getting taken advantage of by the other men in the story.

~~~~

If you’re getting the impression that consuming stories is a somewhat Perilous and Stressful Business for me …

YOU ARE NOT WRONG, OLD FRIEND. xD

This is why I’m so reluctant to jump into new books or new movies.  Because I don’t know what situations or people I’ll encounter inside them.  Because I do know, whatever those are, I’ll be experiencing them on a literal level, with no filter.  So I’d better be prepared and I’d better have done my research: otherwise I may find myself stranded in the Amazon jungle with a jerk ex-Marine, or something equally distasteful.  Dude, I don’t have time to get lost in the Amazon jungle today.

People talk about escaping into their imagination.  Some days … I wanna escape from my imagination.

So I’m not going to enter a fictional situation which I wouldn’t be comfortable entering in real life.  I’m not going to read The Hunger Games, because I don’t want to be the one in the arena.  I’m not going to read Lord of the Rings, because I don’t want to be the one carrying the Ring.

I think part of my issue is … I have a brain which easily taps into intensity, combined with a personality which doesn’t like intensity.  My imagination throws me headfirst into the thick of fictional chaos, surrounded by crazy fictional psychopaths, and tHAT’S NOT AS MUCH FUN AS IT SOUNDS.  For me, anyhow.  Maybe some folks would enjoy it. 😛

Do any of you have similar issues?  Maybe not self-insertion, per se, but a vivid imagination or an inability to process intense material?  I’m asking because this is a topic I haven’t seen discussed much.  Sure, people talk about “appropriate” content, but not so much … overwhelming content.

If you’re in the remotely the same boat as me, here are my coping strategies:

  • Research new stories intensively before trying them.
  • Collect spoilers with no shame.  Wikipedia is a lifesaver.  So’s Tumblr.
  • No torture scenes.  None.  Zilch.  Nada.  Nyet.
  • No on-page sexual assault.
  • No forced marriages or arranged marriages.
  • No child abuse.
  • Few, if any, villain-heavy tales.
  • Nothing scary before bedtime.
  • Don’t feel bad about hating characters everyone else loves.
  • More books, fewer movies.  (Visual storytelling cranks up the “intensity” factor by 1000%.)
  • The fast-forward button is your friend.  It’s there for a reason.  Use it.
  • Finally, unless you are completely confident in what you’re about to watch:
  • Make sure YOU are the one controlling the remote.

~~~~

Look, the world of storytelling is a big, frightening place, sometimes.  It’s okay if you need to go slowly.  It’s okay if you need to be gentle with yourself.  It’s okay if sometimes you hate your imagination as much as you love it … nobody else gets to tell you how to be a bookworm, after all.

Here’s a nice gif of Five Hargreeves smiling at the love of his life.

tuagifs: “☂️ the umbrella academy: “number five + smiling (part two) ” ” |  Umbrella, Under my umbrella, Academy
(source)

So … how do you experience stories?

Can you relate to any of what I described?

Chat with me!

 

 

 

31 thoughts on “A note on how I experience stories.

Add yours

  1. This seems like an exhausting way to experience fiction and… I’m glad I don’t do it.

    I can ‘mirror’ emotions and cry if it’s sad or get angry if there is an injustice, but it’s no different for me than if I were watching a friend experience those things. I’m not even really inside my characters when I write them — they exist independent of me, and I follow along on their adventures like a god, sometimes manipulating things in my direction but also allowing them to decide who and what they want to be. I don’t mind intensity or villains or peril, it makes my heart pump — but the only thing I cannot stand to watch is cruelty.

    I find torture scenes hard, rape scenes hard, and sometimes, the IMPLICATION of something because I do have a vivid imagination and can instantly “feel” the pain of the unspoken. I’m weirdly sensitive in that way, because I see so much more than just a few words on a page. I see the spaces in-between, full of emotional pain and psychological abuse. I think I escape into fiction to avoid reality and so… if it starts to reflect reality in all its callousness, I no longer want to be there without a filter between myself and the world. I want a happy ending. I want not to go through that with them. I want escapism, not their suffering. It seems like some creators just like to torture their characters and I find that a bit sick.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. IT IS EXHAUSTING. And I am often exhausted by it!! I don’t get exhausted by the stories I really love, but the perils of self-inserting through mediocre or Bad stories, which I don’t KNOW are gonna turn out to be mediocre or Bad when I start them … now /that/ is exhausting. Cuz at any moment I may experience something very very upsetting.

      There are times when I’m like “that’s it, I’m not reading any more,” and then my brain gets so bored and says “pleeeeeeeeease feed meeeeeeeeeee” and I cave. 😛 Because I do love reading. I just want it to be on my own terms, the kind of stories I like.

      Yes, you are like the omniscient narrator, the god from above. I think Terry Pratchett felt like that about his characters, too, that’s the sense I get.

      That completely makes sense, and I’m with you, wanting a certain measure of happiness and order restored by the end of the story. I want stories to give me hope.

      I think my thing is … not being able to turn off my feelings, whether in real life OR in a book or a movie. So in my real life, I deal with it by being cautious and taking care of myself, not plunging myself into unhealthy relationships, etc. The problem is that I have to exercise the same “caution” when I read as well, because to me it’s every bit as real, the potential for the characters within to drag me down.

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      1. I don’t mind the occasional story with a poor or sad ending if I feel it had some moral merit involved somewhere — but I am still salty about several romance stories where one of them died before they got their happily ever after. (Not a fan of Nicholas Sparks, haha.)

        Some stories can get to me. I really made a mistake when watching Girl, Interrupted, because somehow that story got to me — about mental illness and the despair of being in a mental hospital sank into me. But that was a weird experience and I’ve never had it happen again (and granted, I was a bit depressive at the time, lol).

        Liked by 1 person

      2. *side-eyes Nicholas Sparks* Yeah, I don’t think his stories would suit me, either.

        Urgh, yeah, I wouldn’t be able to handle Girl Interrupted … I’m glad that kind of thing doesn’t happen to you often, though!

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  2. YES. Someone else experiences this!! I do this all the time. Actually, there’s only one book I can think of where I inserted myself into the male character’s POV, and that was Noah from the Nemesis trilogy (Really good but language warning). He was quiet and determined and somewhat ruthless and I related heavily.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. *SQUEALS* You are the very first person I’ve run into who does the self-insert thing!!!!

      We must be twins. 😉

      Oh yes, yes. That’s how it works for me, I think. I only self-insert into a male character when I can relate to them, when they feel like a similar person to me. And that doesn’t happen very often. But when it does, I definitely notice it!

      I relate to Five and put myself in his shoes because he’s this jaded soul on the inside with a fresh young face on the outside, and he’s full of rage at the way he’s perceived, but he WILL NOT let anything stand in the way of protecting his loved ones.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yay! *highfives*

        XD Sure.

        Yeah, it’s always something that, when I put down the book, I’m like “Wow, that doesn’t normally happen” and then I pick up the book and keep reading because if the character is so good that I insert myself into them I wanna keep going. What drives me crazy in a book is when I *can’t* self-insert because there aren’t any characters enough like me.

        Ooh, that’s intersting. I’ve never actually watched Umbrella Academy, but I think I’d like to watch it now. XD

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      2. *high fives back*

        Yessssssssssssssss. That drives me crazy too, when there are no characters I’m drawn to enough to self-insert, then I just remain emotionally disengaged the whole time. It’s like the story never comes to life in my head.

        Umbrella Academy is pretty awesome 😀 😀 There’s definitely violent content (especially in the first season) which I skip over, but the characters are this crazy dysfunctional band of siblings who used to be superheroes and are still trying to save the universe … it’s a lot of fun.

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  3. This is so interesting! I’ve heard people say they become the character when they read and have always been confused what exactly that’s like, so…yeah, this is really interesting.

    The way I experience stories is much more along the lines of option #2, except I’d say “stay at a slight difference” isn’t accurate for me; I do not stay at any sort of distance at all. It’s more like I’m right next to the character I’m following, watching them go through the stuff really close up. And so yes, stories can make me very angry if the character I’ve adopted is treated in a way that I consider wrong by other characters. In fact…it probably makes me more angry than if I self-inserted? Because, just as a real-life example, people saying Borderline Inappropriate things to me makes me REALLY, REALLY UNCOMFORTABLE, but it doesn’t make me mad; I shrug it off and go on with my life, because that person isn’t important. But if someone says something inappropriate to my friend, or my sister…that’s when I get angry. And it’s the same with characters. I do get very emotionally invested in characters, like you, but with the difference that I react to what happens to them as if I was their mum, protective sister, or best friend, rather than as if I was them. That’s a really interesting difference, to me!

    I have a vivid imagination too, and it’s true, it has its downsides. (I mean, Anne had her depths of despair to go along with her soaring heights. Marilla, in missing out on one, also escaped the other. It’s just part of the trade-off, I guess.) Cruelty in general is just…#nope. Can’t read that. And I don’t like reading stories that feature the villains either! No villain POVs and no hostage stories for me, please! (I do appreciate a good villain. But I don’t want to be near them. You know?)
    I think that vivid imagination also informs WHICH authors are my favorite though; do you find that? Authors like Rosemary Sutcliff or Megan Whalen Turner write with such a light touch, suggesting the intense emotional experiences of the characters, and my imagination just fills that in and finds it much more effective than writing that goes heavier on the emotions, which, I guess, overwhelms me so that part of my imagination just…shuts down. (Or else finds it silly.) (I’m not sure I ever comment on your blog without mentioning Rosemary Sutcliff, and I don’t even know why… XD)

    “I’m not going to read Lord of the Rings, because I don’t want to be the one carrying the Ring.” That makes an incredible amount of sense to me. I’ve been rereading LotR, and watching Frodo carry the Ring is…hard. Like. Really hard. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be Frodo, and I don’t think I could make it through the book if I was. That…yeah. Yeah. (Don’t know why this is blowing my mind, but it is. xD)

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    1. Ahhh! I was anticipating your comment *grins*

      Okay, yes!! I totally get what you’re saying: you put yourself in the story as a best friend or sibling to the main character, so you’re closely and heavily INVESTED in them, but you’re protecting them from the things /they/ are going through, rather than going through those things /yourself/. I think another friend of mine said she feels somewhat like that!!

      Haha, yup! I have a loooooooot of intense feelings (rage, etc. ;)) at things that happen to me in real life, so I carry that same sense of “I would flip out if this happened to me” into my self-inserting, fiction wise. Because I WOULD flip out if it happened to me. I think even when something bad happens to someone else I care about (a sibling, a friend) in real life, my anger comes from a deep awareness of how angry I would feel IF IT HAPPENED TO ME. I always seem to have that “layer” of “hypothetically, if this happened to me…”

      I think that’s an IxFP thing, to tie this discussion back to MBTI. 😉

      I was gonna say in this post (until I ran out of room) that I don’t have a lot of capacity to appreciate villains. I tend to find them boring, even when they’re well-written. I think this is because I can’t/don’t want to self-insert into a villain, so my mind is just like “why is this character even here, he’s useless.” Because of that lack of engagement on my part.

      Oooh, that makes a lot of sense! About you preferring subtler, more implied writing styles … I have to say I DON’T really make that distinction: I get just as “worked up” and overloaded in my imagination over subtler authors like Megan Whalen Turner and Rosemary Sutcliff. I actually can’t read MWT’s books at all, because of certain content that I know she includes. And Sutcliff, while I dearly love many of her books, has a few that still make me veryyyyyy angry. The Lantern Bearers, for example. All I did was skim it in the library one day, and I started self-inserting into one of the female characters in a way that made me Very Very Mad at the hero. With no possibility of ever feeling differently. So I put that one down in a hurry. 😉

      OKAY, I’M GLAD TO KNOW THAT. 😀 Glad to know what I said about “being” Frodo makes sense to you, I mean!! Because I often have a hard time explaining to LotR fans why I can’t read those books. It all comes down (I think) to the fact that I can’t handle being in Frodo’s shoes … and I don’t know how to experience that story /not/ being in Frodo’s shoes. I would be right in the middle of that situation, and it’s not a comfortable situation for me.

      Thanks for your awesome comment! ❤

      Like

      1. Interesting, interesting. Doubly interesting about villains! That makes sense, even though it’s not how I think about villains at all! I’m picky about them if they don’t “ring true” to me, but I don’t have to be able to relate, even at all, for them to ring true. They just have to fit into one of the types of humans that I know exist. (My approach to people, in other words, is very much “sort and label.” I guess that might be an ISxJ thing? XD)

        So, about the subtler writing styles, I think it’s kind of the other way around? I WANT to have an intense emotional experience when I read (at least, a lot of the time I do, and provided it’s a good experience not a bad one :P), and subtle, implied writing styles are what do that for me, whereas more in-your-face ones DON’T. And I /think/ that’s because if how I react to intense/emotional things. I realized just recently, after being baffled by how differently my mom and i responded to the same event in our lives, that I tend to throw up walls (and diversions) at the first sign of emotions getting more intense than I’m comfortable with. I think I do that when I read too, and therefore it takes a subtler writing style to sneak around my defenses, as it were. So yeah. I perfectly understand why you can’t read MWT. Her books are intense, to me. I love them but they’re hard. (And golly. I can’t imagine being in Eugenides’, or even Attolia’s, shoes. How horrible.)

        Thanks for your awesome reply!! I feel a bit like I’m just rambling on about myself, so thanks for being willing to listen and ramble back, haha! I find this all very interesting.

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      2. “They just have to fit into one of the types of humans that I know exist.” Haha, YES!!! Sorting and labeling fictional characters according to whether or not they’re realistic to your experiences, is a big hallmark of the ISxJ. 😉 Whereas the INFP is much less about labeling and more about “can I relate tho?” *dreamy siiiiiigh**

        Ahhhhh! I love that! I can totally understand how subtler writing is able to get you to lower your guard as a reader and be more comfortable with allowing intense emotions to enter.

        Yep yep. Couldn’t deal with being in Eugenides’ shoes. Just couldn’t do it. 😉

        I love your comments very much! I find this all incredibly interesting!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Ok, if I experienced fiction this way, I’m not sure I could handle reading at all. Wow, I’m picky about the content of reading because it affects my mood, morals, and/or feels like a violation of my mind or of the “rightness of things” or is just personally horrible to me. I think I’d go crazy if I read like this. I’m NOPE about books because I hate them/feel guilty or dirty, but wow, your NOPE would be to avoid trauma. While I read to escape. I think this fits in that a preferred method of magic/superpower for me is invisibility or apparating/disapparating (this is SO six of me, safety and comfort first and always). I also can’t “relate” to people in real life, like I feel like I can’t understand why they feel different, I just have get to the point where I can acknowledge, it is different, that is the way it is and move on sometimes (I mean like the different reactions to the same thing). I also can’t seem to express where or why I feel different in a way that people “get.” So that is part of the difference in reading I’m sure.

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    1. There ARE times when I can hardly handle reading or movie-watching for this reason, because being fully immersed in those imaginary situations just feels too intense. But then my brain gets bored with no stories and begs and begs me to try again. 😉

      Exactly!!! Reading for me isn’t an escape, it’s kind of the opposite: it’s me going on a journey and entering a potentially DANGEROUS situation where I’m going to interact with all kinds of crazy people. Whom I might hate and who might try to do traumatizing things to me. It’s like deep sea diving, and never being quite sure when you’re gonna run out of oxygen and have to resurface in a big hurry.

      But you love the thrill of diving, so the ocean keeps calling you back …

      #that was melodramatic 😛

      I can totally see you as a social 6, yep! Whereas I’m a 4, so everything is about INTENSE FEELS and PASSION and about experiencing everything on a highly “personal” level just because I don’t know any other way to experience it.

      Like

  5. This is interesting! I definitely don’t insert myself into a story like this. I tend to read from a big picture viewpoint, critically assessing all I see & why the author is doing this & that. I assume that means I read like a writer? I have no idea. 😛

    I would find your way exhausting at times but also far more conducive to slipping away & forgetting the world exists as I immerse in the book. I hardly EVER forget I’m reading. I always have one eye on the author’s byline and my red pen in hand! 🙂

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    1. Haha! Well, for me, the funny thing is, I WRITE like this too. I don’t write from a big-picture angle, but rather from the inside of my character’s skin. When I’m in the scene, I see exactly what they see and feel exactly what they feel, and I don’t think beyond that.

      I draw back to plan & brainstorm from a bigger angle, of course. But when I’m actually writing, it’s always from the inside.

      I think that’s a cool way to read and write, though! The omniscient angle. 😉 You certainly have a lot of opportunities to think critically about the story that way!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. As we’ve already discussed Elsewhere, I don’t self-insert when it comes to the characters’ experiences, and I don’t think I ever have. In fact, the way you self-insert when you absorb stories is SO foreign to me that I find it Utterly Fascinating. Because, when you explain it, I can see why/how it happens. And that’s interesting to me. 😀

    By and large, I am processing stories by Method #1. That said, I do sometimes — if it’s a series, specifically — begin to feel the tiniest bit like a tag-along in the friend group. But I don’t think I’ve ever holistically become a main character.

    I WILL SAY, though, that after reading this post, I realized that maybe I do self-insert, in a way, when I read or watch a story. I’m not sure if this “counts,” but:

    I can’t separate morality in the story from morality in real life — not usually. I feel that I step into the role of “judge” in most every story that I encounter: I’m constantly evaluating the moral dilemma, analyzing the characters’ moral decisions, etc. I’m constantly gauging what *I* would feel obligated to do if I were in the place of the characters.

    Probably a large part of why I’m a theme-driven reader rather than a character-driven or plot-driven reader. I want all the shiny moral conundrums to unravel and then reflect on. 😛

    Anyway. As ever, this was a fascinating post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OH AND ALSO. Two things I forgot to mention in this comment.

      Even though I don’t self-insert the same way you do, I DEFINITELYYYYYY relate to this: “I have a brain which easily taps into intensity, combined with a personality which doesn’t like intensity.” If that isn’t my wHOLE ENTIRE LIFE, right there . . .

      Like some other people have mentioned in the comments, for me, my imagination is so intense that what is left unsaid or unseen can be much more disturbing than what IS said or seen. Because my imagination is ONLY TOO HAPPY to fill in the blanks, in excruciating or terrifying detail. On the opposite, positive side of that coin, that may be why I love movies that employ suuuuuper subtle, silent storytelling, as opposed to the usual “sensory overload” with which a lot of movies flirt. Because I DO experience sensory overload on the regular, and sometimes, whether the sensory experiences are pleasant or unpleasant, I’d prefer them to be toned down. Basically, I saw this meme that says it all: “I wish everything was quieter and softer and less often.”

      Yep. Me too, mate, me too.

      ALSO. The one GLARING area in which I cannot extricate myself from the story? When the victim is “taken away,” behind closed doors, up into the sky, below the waves, etc. A lot of other people, it seems, can sort of compartmentalize their viewing experience, to the point where, if they don’t SEE the actual moment of killing, torture, etc. . . . they’re fine. Especially if it’s a minor character, an ensemble player. If the character doesn’t “matter” to the story, they can sort of “shrug it off” and not, you know, stay in that moment of individual horror for that character. If that makes sense? Not me, though. 9 times out of 10, I can’t just “let it go,” because I’m actually following the victim to the point of their actual demise. Like, I’m sitting there with them, feeling their increasing horror until they’re actually killed, abused, whatever. I’m seeing things from their perspective, as the door slams, as they sink under the waves, as they . . . experience whatever dreadful things they experience.

      Which is part of why what I can and cannot “handle” in movies, in terms of violence/intensity, is probably so perplexing to family members, friends, etc. Because what’s an extremely light, off-screen scenario to them is one that I am constitutionally incapable of separating myself from, right up to the “bitter end,” as it were. But then they’ll hear that I’ve watch such-and-such movie that has a heck of a lot MORE on-screen scares, and they’re like, ?????

      *nervous laughter*

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Yessss! Actually, you inspired me to write this post, by helping me see just HOW different the way I read is from the way many of my friends read … I hadn’t thought about it quite so much until our conversation!! So, thank you! ❤

      Mmmmhhhhhmmmmm. Like you, my moral judgment process when I read/watch is 100% the same as my moral judgement process IRL. That is to say: in real life, I'm constantly putting myself in other's shoes, asking "how would I feel" if this exact same action were done to me, and deciding Yea or Nay accordingly. And heaven help the man on whose head my Nay verdict falls. 😉

      Whereas I imagine in real life, as in stories, you adopt the role of impartial–but equally strict and principled!–observer & judge. Your Nay verdicts are equally formidable, they're just reached through a different process, haha!

      YES. I am a character-driven reader first, plot second, and theme probably third.

      "I wish everything were softer and quieter and less often." I ALSO WISH THIS THING. The sensory overload issues are real, fam.

      Okay, this is extremely interesting to me, yes: You're saying that an off-screen scenario of kidnapping or torture or death is possibly MORE intense and painful for you than an on-screen one? Because when it's off-screen, you vividly imagine yourself in the character's presence, seeing all the terrible things which are done to them even when you can't SEE them on-screen? (If it were me, I would be imagining those things being done literally to me, but that’s a bit of a meaningless distinction, sometimes, as long as one’s imagination is vivid enough. Whether it’s being done to you, or just being done to another living human in your presence.)

      Hahaaaaaaaaaaaaa. Yeah. I often am at my wit’s end to explain to ppl why certain things scare me or upset me and certain other things don’t. I often leave it with, “look, I self-insert, and certain things are really scary to imagine happening to myself,” and if they’re like “yes but why THIS THING and not THAT THING,” I got nothing except “I’m weird.” 😛

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      1. Aww! I love our conversations. 😀 ❤

        Yes! We're both rigid moralists in our different areas, but those areas — not to mention our moralistic processes — can be different, that's all. Hehe.

        Sort of, yes. Because if it's ON the screen, I can see it, I can grapple with it as it is presented to me, not as I IMAGINE it. Does that make sense? Like, my imagination will fill in any gaps, whether for better or worse.

        Basically . . . I'm constantly going back, even after the camera pans away, and putting myself in the exact same mindset as the victim. Feeling every shade of psychological horror and/or physical pain, moment by moment, play by play, as whatever happens is happening. And that can take me some Pretty Morbid Places, let me tell you. xD

        And I know what you mean: depending on the intensity of the torture (be that psychological or physical), whether you're imagining it happening to YOU or to someone you are WATCHING doesn't really change your own reaction.

        HAHA, exactly. Our poor friends and family members. 😛

        Like

      2. AhhhhHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

        NOW I UNDERSTAND.

        Okay, yes, right: what you are doing for an “off-screen” torture or trauma scene, putting yourself in the exact mindset of the character and feeling every single (horrible) thing they themselves are feeling:

        THAT’S WHAT I DO, ALL THE TIME. That’s literally how I read books and watch movies, for ALL THE SCENES, for all the things that happen. Whether it’s offscreen or on-screen.

        It’s extremely fascinating to me that that you only experience it for off-screen stuff. Like, I think I can see why (whether it’s being objectively presented to you or whether your imagination is being allowed to fill in the void.) But it’s just really funny to me that you do this only under X specific circumstances, whereas my brain is like “let’s do this ALLLLL THE TIME.”

        Poor, poor friends and family members. xD

        Like

  7. Okay, so this is SO interesting! I love this. (Anything to do with people and how they think fascinates me, haha.)

    I definitely understand what you mean. As a general rule, I definitely read stories as option #1. HOWEVER, there are times, particularly when I’m in a highly emotional state (not very often tbh) when I definitely read as option #3. Those are the times when I cry while reading a book, which rarely happens. (This doesn’t happen when I watch movies, btw.) It’s generally a female, and one of the main characters. Two books where I almost always tend to do this is Little Women and Lord of the Rings (although in this one I am normally Sam or Frodo). I am genuinely so emotionally exhausted when finishing LOTR, because I have just carried the Ring through 3 whole books, cried hopelessly on Mount Doom, and then come home knowing that life will never be quite the same and I have lost part of my carefree self that I will never get back. (It can affect me for up to a week later.)

    So I generally experience stories as #1 and #3, although mostly #1. (This was SUPER interesting!!)

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    1. Ooh ooh ooh!!! Another person for #3!!

      Okay, I can totally see that! You don’t self-insert all the time, but you DO with certain books or when you’re in certain moods … I think my problem is, I’m ALWAYS in a highly emotional state, mwahahaha. So I’m ALWAYS self-inserting.

      Yep, that would exhaust me, too. That’s why I personally can’t read the stories, I don’t want to be in Frodo’s shoes and go through all that. Poor guy ❤

      I am so glad you liked it!! Thanks for reading! 😀

      Like

  8. I love that show so much, especially Five. I’m so glad you seemed to love it too.
    You actually share a few of Five’s better qualities. Him with the margarita is a perfect 2020 mood. XD

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I was very much like this when I was younger and still am but with one change. Now that I have been through some really difficult and some even traumatic experiences there are stories that are a little more intense that in the past I would have avoided but now they somehow comfort me. It’s as if the character understands me because they have been where I have been and felt what I have felt. Sometimes I just need a little dose of this to be comforted ex. I could never watch the movie The Free State of Jones but watching the trailer helps me feel that I’m not insane to not want to serve people’s materialistic agendas. Watching The Chosen has been very intense for me but I think that’s a good thing. It’s not easy being sensitive but I think it’s a gift because it can be a way to develop compassion. I’m new to your blog but really enjoying the content. You are a very gifted and fun communicator. Probably comes from feeling things deeply.😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve found the same thing–stories that deal with intense/traumatic experiences to my own can comfort me, as long as they do it in a WAY that helps me instead of stressing me out? Which is very hit-or-miss, it feels like. It’s hard to predict which will be which.

      Isn’t The Chosen amazing??? *heart eyes* Mary Magdalen is my FAVORITE.

      Oh my goodness, thank you so much!! ❤ I'm so glad you are enjoying my blog!! I agree, being sensitive and feeling things strongly can be a blessing for us, as well as curse. 😉

      Like

  10. 🙂 Yes The Chosen is so amazing! I’d have to say that the woman at the well is the one who got me ugly crying and I’m a major fan of Matthew because I have sons on the autism spectrum. The first thing that drew me to your blog was the Star Wars discussions because it was Star Wars that my 12 year old son who is nonverbal is really passionate about. I just really want to get into the mind of a young person and see it through their eyes like he does. Thanks for giving me a front seat.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The woman at the well GOT ME GOOD, and Matthew is so lovingly and thoughtfully portrayed, I have been blown away!!

      I’m going to cry … that makes me so happy! ❤ I am so glad I was able to help in some small way! I love knowing that your son loves Star Wars the way I do!! I love stories that bring people together.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think we are all impacting people more then we realize just by being ourselves. Keep being you. 😉

        Like

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