Another Fresh Air post. NPR seems to be my main exposure to news these days. Fresh Air, BBC World News, The World, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me.
Anyway, Terry interviewed a woman who wrote a book about how memory works. She talked about pain memory. With physical pain, as a survival technique, we can remember that we felt pain and even that it was bad or not, but we don't experience the pain again. But with emotional pain, we can experience it again. To the point that it can be debilitating.
Which could be why if we don't know or care about a character, they're physical danger may mean nothing to us. But if we are emotionally involved, then it matters. Not because we identify with the pain, but with the emotional impact of that pain on the character. I've heard it time and again in the critique group. A couple writers had a penchant for introducing a character and then killing him off. The reaction by the readers? Eh.
And, moreover, it is probably why writing strong emotions can be hard for so many writers--myself included. Feeling the same pain as your characters isn't fun. May also be why writing romance (from basic longing glances to erotica) is so popular. If you're going to re-experience an emotion.......