Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Curse of Imaginary Friends

Writing fiction means falling in love with people who don't exist.  It means devoting your time and tears to helping imaginary people conquer their outward problems and inner demons.  You must both love and loathe your characters or they fall flat.  If you only love them, they become nothing but paper doll Mary Sues.  If you only hate them, they become unsympathetic, shallow villains with no reasonable motivations driving their horrendous actions.  Your characters are an extension of your psyche, a glimpse into the inner workings of your mind.  They are your oldest friends and your worst enemies.  They are you.  You have reached deep into your soul and yanked out a hidden manifestation of yourself.  An that can be downright terrifying when you put your soul on display by showing your writing to others.

It can be infuriating to fall in love with an idea.  You create your ideal friends and enemies, but they remain figments forever out of reach.  You dream of them at night and imagine how they would react in your various day-to-day situations.  They become real people inside your head because you know that is the only way they become real to your reader.  As you write, you slowly learn even more about them.  Their quirks, both endearing and intolerable, become apparent.  They gain experience and therefore sometimes react differently than you would expect upon encountering new situations.  They change your own perspective.  Some people in your tangible life become a bit more one-dimensional, or perhaps just more opaque since you cannot see their thoughts the same way as you can root around in the brains of your imaginary friends.  You don't know what they are thinking, so you imagine.  Your tangible friends become inspirations for new imaginary friends.

I love my imaginary friends, even though all of them occasionally deserve to be punched in the face.  I love Sevilen's bookish eccentricity, Lani's vulnerability, Faron's quirky sense of humor, Ember's inner strength, Tesji's innocence, Rastaban's devotion to those he loves, and Dacibrega's reluctant willingness to overcome his/her flaws.  I can only hope I successfully translated my visions of them into words.  Even if I didn't, I still want to invite them over for a party, a la the end of Labyrinth.  Rhodren can sit in the corner whining to Ray about the dust on the shelves while Dia charms everyone to the rhythms of Tesji's sitar.  If that makes me a touch insane, I don't care.

Gratuitous kitty shot.  They don't care if I'm nuts as long as I feed them. 

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