"If you will practice being fictional for a while, you will understand that
fictional characters are sometimes more real than people with bodies and heartbeats."
—Richard Bach, "Illusions"
A disclaimer: This introduction, while attempting to cover as broad a range of experiences as possible, reflects only my own standpoint and opinion on SoulBonding. The experience is not alike for everyone, or indeed anyone; if you find yourself identifying with some of the concepts presented here, but disagree with others, you may want to try some alternative perspectives
or, better still, write your own essay for that section and share your views with others.
SoulBonding. An esoteric word with a funky capital in the middle (or not, depending on how you choose to spell it - either way is acceptable). It's a term you may have heard tossed around the net quite a bit - or maybe this is your first encounter with it. Either way, what does it mean? What's it all about? And what's all this talk of characters in people's heads?
As proposed by Laura Gilkey, an encompassing, dictionary-style definition of SoulBonding is:
to form and/or experience a robust mental or empathic connection with
one or more fictional characters.
Or to put it in prose: ever been so connected to an "imaginary" person, whether your favourite comic-book superhero, the tragic nemesis of a Shakespearean play, your fictionalised interpretation of a famous author or an entity of your own creation, that you literally couldn't get them out of your head? That you felt as if in some way, whether silent and unmoving or active and participating, they were with you or by your side? That their worlds and experiences were a personal story that they shared with you - or that their journeys were more than merely stories, but that to the both of you, they were as real as any other?
This is what we call a SoulBond. Or a Soulbond. Or soulbond. Or possibly muse, or "imaginated lifeform", or whatever other term you prefer to use. It doesn't really matter what you call it; only that you are not alone in the experience.
The "mental or empathic connection" mentioned by Laura - the "link" you have to the character - is sometimes one-way, a feeling of looking in on their world and observing them or moving beside them, without being noticed or acknowledged. This is often the experience had by people when they first SB in their childhood, or when a connection to a SoulBond isn't particularly strong, though for some people this may be their primary way of SoulBonding, and of course there's nothing wrong or "lesser" about that. The most common experience of SoulBonding, however, is as a mental or emotional "presence"; you may feel unusually affected by the character's emotions, have the experience of "seeing things through their eyes" and knowing how they'd react to a certain situation, hear or see them comment on and observe the world around you, hold personal conversations with the character themselves or simply be aware of their "presence" beside or within you. Ultimately the best way to describe the experience, trite and provoking of insanity-related comments though it may be, is of "having the character in your head".
SoulBonds are related to, but distinct from most other types of mental and empathic connection (multiplicity
, channeling/telepathy, spiritual contact etc.) in that they have "fictional" origins - whether characters from external fictions (TV, movies, video games, comic books/manga, novels/short stories, plays, fanfiction, etc. - known as outsourced
SoulBonds), internal fictions (your own stories or imagination - known as original
SoulBonds), or less commonly, internalised/fictionalised "versions" of Earth-world people (authors, band members, etc.). However, many may argue that this distinction is a rather artificial one, believing that what we consider "fictional" is just a channeling of worlds and existences outside our own experience (see Theories of SoulBonding
); and there are occasions where the line between "fictional" and not does blur, such as a "character" who appears in your mind without provocation or conscious thought and is not from any recognisable fiction. But generally speaking, a SoulBond can be roughly defined as a person who you connect (or initially connected) to via a fictional, imaginary or inspirational source, as opposed to astral travelling, channeling, spirit walk-ins, mental "splits", conscious creation of entities for specific purposes, and so forth.
Beyond this basic concept, SoulBonding experiences vary widely. Some people envision their SBs as living solely within their own story-worlds, continuing their lives as normal with you as an extra friend (or barely-tolerated acquaintance) in their world. Other people have what's known as a "mindscape" or "soulscape", their own inner/other "world" or "place" where SoulBonds may live, or just come together to interact outside of their own story-worlds. Still others may see their SBs existing in spirit-form in the world around them; sitting on park benches or standing at bus shelters. For yet others it may be a simple "empty space" or "grey area" within the mind, or a feeling that the character lives within you and alongside you, peering over your shoulder at the world outside. Some SBers experience a combination of these interactions. And yes, some SoulBonds are capable of "fronting", or having bodily control - either briefly or for extended periods, either with consent or autonomously, either with you at their side or entirely on their own - but that's something for another essay
Some SoulBonds will voice their own preferences for things, or make them felt silently; they may like certain types of food, or enjoy a particular genre of book or movie (and yes, SoulBonds sometimes even gain their own SoulBonds this way!), and encourage you to try those. Some have phobias or dislikes that their SoulBonders are (or should be) respectful of. Some are wild jokers; some are pensive and serious; many are neither, depending on the original character's personality. Some may have an interest in the Earthly world; some may shun and fear it, or refuse to believe in its existence entirely, maintaining that their
existence is the reality and yours the fiction. Some have horrific pasts or emotional wounds, and need to be treated with tenderness and care; others are headstrong, belligerent, comfortable in their skin; still others are daydreamers, or poets, or just ordinary highschoolers (though of course, in fiction, no highschooler is ever too "ordinary").
Some may be confidants or mentors, guardians or guides, encouraging you and providing a means for you to explore your own self and examine your motives. Some may reflect a person you'd like to be, or a side of yourself that you have difficulty expressing; your darkness, or even your light. Some may be lovers; some may just be friends. Many are all of these or none of them, but simply individuals with whom you happen to share mental or emotional space, regardless of physical location. You may not even like them all the time. But your SoulBonds, being that they were the ones you felt a special connection to out of all others, will probably tell you something about yourself - your dreams, your desires, and who you truly are. And in turn, you may find that you touch something unique in them that no one else could reach.