When I was in fourth grade I read my first Nancy Drew novel and instantly became addicted. Growing up in a rural area, I couldn't find enough of her books to keep me satisfied. Then we moved. To my delight, my new best friend who lived across the street had a whole slew of Nancy Drew Mysteries. Her name was even Nancy. Her mom had been a fan and had named her first daughter after her favorite fictional character. Of course, my new friend couldn't care less about Nancy Drew and didn't even like mysteries. Or reading. Which worked out great for me. I got to read and keep them all.
I eagerly read each new installment through my fourth, fifth and sixth grades. In seventh and eight grades I "moved on" to finer literature, but secretly kept reading each new Carolyn Keene release even though I didn't know they were written by a host of hired writers. I eagerly ate up each new adventure, imagining I was along for the ride.
Looking back I can see the impact Nancy Drew had upon my life. She gave me a desire to see the world, experience new things, and to stand up for the underdog. She gave me a love for experiencing life first hand. I'm sure it's not a coincidence that I've traveled to Hong Kong, the Amazon, and beyond. Or, that I've tried my hand at stain glass, pottery throwing, and sketching. I've downhill skied, rode horses, and only balked at skydiving. [Sorry Nancy, there are some limits to my adventurousness.]
So you see for me, fictional characters are real. Nancy helped shape my life with endless new adventures and challenges. Reading her books provided me with the wide-open windows of possibilities that I might have otherwise have missed.