There's just something special about fiction. Maybe it's the way anything and everything is possible if you just suspend your disbelief a bit, even if it DOES have to make more sense than reality tends to.
Maybe it's the fact that characters in fiction tend to display their unique and interesting personalities in a way real people are too often afraid to.
Or maybe it's the fact that sometimes, feeling for fiction is so much easier than feeling in real life. Because let's face it, real life comes with responsibilities and risks.
Have you ever had one of those times when you started to feel strongly about something, only to pull back because you only have so much time/money/whatever was required to give, and it felt wrong to feel so deeply about it and do nothing?
Or maybe it was simply a matter that knowing that something terrible was happening to people, somewhere out there where you couldn't immediately stop it, was too painful, so you just stopped feeling it.
Or maybe it was a person, but you weren't sure whether they were going to like you back or hurt you, so you restricted your feelings out of fear. I know I've been guilty of all of the above.
Maybe the reason why people - often including me - get so attached to fictional characters is because you don't have to worry about that. There's nothing you can or should do about it, so you're free to feel as much as you want, without having to prioritize who you take care of or shut down your feelings to deal with a crisis rationally. And if a character does something you don't like, you can always just ignore it.
Taken too far, it can be a crutch, but sometimes it's nice to just feel as much as you want for a character, knowing you'll never be responsible for their situation. (Unless you're the one writing them, in which case, it's all your fault.)
Speaking of characters whose situations are all my fault, if you're looking for a dark Wartime Psychological Suspense novel to read this weekend, with characters so compelling that even their creator cried multiple times while writing them, you can click the button below to get your copy of My Fugitive or Voice of a Silent Fugitive.