Creating characters is probably my favorite part of writing. Imagining fictional people seems like the most natural thing in the world to me. Maybe it’s because of where I came from, the world I grew up in.
Lots of kids have imaginary friends. They’re lonely and need someone to keep them company or have vibrant imaginations that can’t help but create the perfect buddy.
In my case, we had an imaginary family friend. As best as I can remember, my mother made him up. I don’t know if he was her imaginary friend when she was a child or something she created for her four daughters. My mother is gone now, and I have no way to ask her.
But Henry, our imaginary family friend, was a part of our family for quite some time. I recall once when my mother chided my father, asking him, “Don’t you see Henry standing over there?” My father was less fanciful than my mother, but still willing to play the game. Dad said, “Sure, there he is, right there.” Mom, still testing, asked, “What color is his hair?” Dad answered, “He has brown hair.” Mom, ever the trickster, said, “No, his hair is red.” Without missing a beat, Dad said, “Oh, he has a brown hat on, that made me think he had brown hair. Now I see it’s red.”
We kids all knew Henry wasn’t real, but we loved the pretend. That’s something I am so grateful for about my mother—she encouraged us to pretend, to tell stories. I’m certain that’s a key component of my compulsion to tell stories now, to write books like Awakening and Clean Burn. And just as valuable is that go-with-the-flow lesson taught to me by my father. That attitude helps when a story gets blocked, and just by letting it flow in a different direction, the creative juices bypass that barrier and start moving again.
So, did any of you have an imaginary friend as a child? Or maybe your own kids have or had one. I’d love to hear your stories.