A few weeks ago, I met a boy who bore a startling resemblance to a fictional character I’d made up. I had a mini heart-attack at the time and luckily Bambi was on hand to calm me down—as a fellow writer, she understands these things! Anyway, I’ve since got to know this person and it’s easy to differentiate, but just occasionally he will say something which reminds me so much of my character that I wonder if there isn’t some kind of freaky, Tom Riddle’s Diary stuff going on here.
I suppose that’s one of the pitfalls when you have as many imaginary friends as I do—and I’ve got several.
My first ever imaginary friend was a girl called Ashley who always wore a blue and pink stripy t-shirt. She was a lot more adventurous than I, and on long car journeys she would become bored, hop out and run alongside. This is either because I’ve always longed for a dog, or because I’ve always imagined people who can do things I can’t, as you’ll see. The next friends came from the imagination of JK Rowling. I’m not ashamed to say I ran around the house in my dressing gown, asked Hermione to teach me spells I could cast with a twig, and tutted at the latest evil deed Malfoy (synonymous at times with Ferret) had done.
The first ever character to come out of my writing was just about the anti-me, save for her slightly bemused view of the world around her. She was very sporty—in fact, she had superpowers, but more on that if her story’s ever finished—and she commanded the total respect of everyone around her. She genuinely didn’t care what others thought about her. In short, she was my polar opposite, and I loved her for it. When I wrote about her, I could step into the shoes of the girl I wanted to be, back before I learned to love the me I already was. (Thanks, Word, there’s no need for all the green lines. I know that sentence doesn’t make sense.)
It was a long time before I decided to write about someone like me. At first it seemed such a boring idea, but hey, who could I write about better? Besides, if I ever got a story published one day, I’d want it to be for people like me to identify with... just as I hope some of you are able to do with this blog.
My new girl was very similar to me indeed. She was going through a lot of big changes, missing family members and being picked on at school. She was feeling lonely and taking refuge in her writing. I decided she’d be average-looking, not perfectly skinny or a Barbie doll. She would be real. Perhaps most importantly, she would not be able to catch a ball. But she’d be funny, clever and loving. She’d be beautiful in a way. All girls are beautiful if you look hard enough. (You can quote me on that if you like, it’s from my latest ‘novel’.)
As I shaped her story, I looked at her life from an outsider’s point of view. I thought about the advice her friends would give her and whether or not she’d take it. I could attempt to boil down her biggest problems to their simpler causes and look for solutions, deducing on many occasions that her life would be a little easier if she’d only change her attitude. So she did. And I did.
I encourage you all to have imaginary friends as well as real ones. They are not only enormous fun, but they can be exactly what you need when you need it... and maybe they’ll teach you a bit about yourself, too.