Have you ever found a character in a novel was so vivid, you could still ‘hear’ their voice even when you’d stopped reading?

Hand holding an open book

Many of us imagine the voices of characters inside our heads when we read to ourselves. But what about when we close the pages of the book, and stop reading? Can characters take on a life of their own in our reality? For this #MondayMusing, share your experiences as a reader. Have you ever found a character in a novel was so vivid, that you could still ‘hear’ their voice even when you’d stopped reading?

In a survey of 400 readers, Durham researchers Ben Alderson-DayMarco Bernini and Charles Fernyhough found that around a fifth of people reported that they experienced the presence of fictional characters outside of the immediate context of reading. It seems that words really do have a life beyond the page. Their paper, Uncharted features and dynamics of reading: Voices, characters, and crossing of experiences, is available to read for free. 

At our next Inventions of the Text seminar this Wednesday 23rd May at 17.30, Marco Bernini will be presenting some of these findings and further exploring some of the implications. The experience of ‘phantasmal’ emersion poses some theoretically intriguing and complex problems. If you’re interested and would like to come along, all are welcome to the Seminar Room, Hallgarth House.

Meantime, join the conversation virtually in the comments below, or use the hashtag #MondayMusing on Twitter or Facebook.


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