Apparently it’s quite normal for a child to have an invisible friend. According to Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D. (published in Psychology Today, January 31, 2013): “compared to those who don’t create them, children with imaginary companions (either invisible friends or personified objects) tend to be less shy, engage in more laughing and smiling with peers, and do better at tasks involving imagining how someone else might think”. I don’t actually recall having such a companion. On the other hand I do remember conversing with inanimate objects…still do. I have yet to learn that no amount of rational reasoning with the toaster is going to brown the bread any faster.
While this was interesting it is what followed that really caught my attention. “Surprisingly, invisible friends don’t necessarily disappear when childhood ends. One study that examined the diaries of adolescents plus questionnaire data concluded that socially competent and creative adolescents were most likely to create an imaginary friend and that this type of friend was not a substitute for relationships with real people. Adult fiction writers often talk about their characters taking on a life of their own, which may be an analogous process to children’s invisible friends”.
I have often said in this blog that I adlib dialogue into my digital voice recorder in order to create more realistic conversations and often, even though I usually have a target end to the dialogue, one of my “other voices” will say something unexpected and throw a different spin or direction into the chat. My friends may be invisible but they do tend to go on and on at times. I’ll frequently picture one or more of them in a situation I find myself in. How would Evan react to the cold soup at the restaurant? What would Marie say to the less-than-courteous teller at the bank? The more I thought about this the more I realized that my characters are with me 24/7 and they indeed keep me company. Yes I admit it. I’m Mike and I have invisible friends but I honestly think that to create realistic fictional characters one has to live with them and consider them “real”.
Now I find myself wondering if I actually did have an invisible friend when I was a wee lad. Perhaps I did. Perhaps we had a falling out and haven’t spoken for fifty or so years. Maybe I was spending too much time playing with “real” friends and he/she became jealous and sulked off to wherever invisible friends hang out. It was probably just a misunderstanding or a silly argument. If that’s the case then I apologize if I had anything to do with causing this rift. Please come back…we have so much catching up to do and I’ve got some really nice people that I’d love to introduce you to.