Imaginary Friends – Characters and their Writers


We draw them.  We colour them in.  We make them do things and somewhere along the line, we breathe life into them.  They start to move around in our minds.  They talk to us, making their preferences clear.  “Yes, I’ll do that, but not this.”  They develop proclivities and phobias.  They live.

It is the weirdest thing.  In any other job, there would be alarm followed by a long ‘holiday’.  There would be flowers sent and whispers following us down hallways upon release.  Because it is weird, right?

American children’s book writer, Lois Lowry says, “When I create characters, I create a world to inhabit and they begin to feel very real for me.  I don’t belong in a psych ward, I don’t think, but they become very real, like my own family, and then I have to say goodbye, close the door, and work on other things.”
It’s even weirder how when we might be done with our characters, our characters might not be so done with us.  I have one.  Her name is Genevieve.  She’s an older lady, quite proper, with definite opinions on things.  Every now and then, I will wonder what she would think about a particular issue.  It’s almost like I care what she thinks.  In fact, sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t let her loose again mostly because I like her in a way you like an old family friend.  Yeah, its weird.
Japanese author,  Susaku Endo,  puts it this way.   “Over the years I have forged intimate familial ties with these characters, who are reflections of a portion of myself. Consequently, even a character who appeared only once in a short story waits now in the wings, concealed by the curtain, for his next appearance on-stage. Not one of them has ever broken free of his familial ties with me and disappeared for ever – at least, not within the confines of my heart.”
 While I get the ‘waiting in wings’ part, I’m not so sure about ‘reflections of a portion of myself’ part.  Of course, these characters have to come from somewhere, I guess, I just question whether they are parts of me.  It doesn’t feel that way.  Genevieve feels quite distinct.  Gil, too, from Little Wild Things.  I’d even go so far as to say, I’m unsure of what they might come out with next.  So no, they don’t feel like parts of me.  Perhaps they are a conglomeration of so many people I’ve known, that they have become themselves.
American cartoonist, screenwriter and children’s book author, Berkeley Breathed, has said, “I will go to my grave in a state of abject endless fascination that we all have the capacity to become emotionally involved with a personality that doesn’t exist.”
He makes a salient point, I think.  See it’s not just writers who believe in their imaginary friends.  It’s readers, too.  They pick up those characters where writers have put them down and live with them for a while.  Sometimes, the characters never really leave.  They echo on.  The imagination is that powerful….. Still, its weird, isn’t it?