Are we all guilty of creating imaginary friends?

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My imaginary friend

Whilst idly browsing my WordPress stats, I noticed that someone had referenced my ongoing page ‘Characters that can write their own stories’ from Reddit.com.

The Reddit post was one of several that referred to something called (and this is a completely new word for me) Tulpae.

The page describes a Tulpa as; ‘…best described as an imaginary friend that has its own thoughts and emotions, and that you can interact with. You could think of them as hallucinations that can think and act on their own.’

The contributor opens the discussion with;

Are characters in a novel the Tulpae of the Author?

Very interesting question…

The post then goes on to say;

‘By talking and fleshing out something to your own subconscious for so long, you start to get answers from it. The answers align themselves with all these preconceived traits you’ve given them (for the most part). When you talk to your own mind for long enough, it will answer back: this is an accepted fact.

This sounds a lot like an author with a good enough character not deciding what the character will do, but the author knowing what the character would do because the character tells him or her.

I was told by a writing professor of mine that authors should strive for this level of character development, to the point where the character makes its own decisions.

anyone interested in discussing this?’

Read more of the discussion here.

I’d be interested to learn what everyone else’s thoughts are on the subject of characters becoming part of the creative process.

This got me thinking about the entire process of writing versus creating imaginary friends.

Sure, our reasons for creating are different from that of a child who creates friends out of a need for comfort, companionship or security.

We invent characters to fill a book, act out our story or even (in some cases) fulfill unfeasible fantasies.  When I was a child, barely into double figures, I was having such a miserable time of things, I began to write End-of-the World stories where only ‘nice’ people survived and subsequently found each other to begin civilisation over again  (Obviously, these early stories failed because I’d selectively eliminated all anatgonists!).

Years later, it occurred to me that I had been exercising (or even exorcising) mental control over the world as a form of comfort, rather like inventing imaginary friends to keep me safe.

Later stories, written during my teens, became less like a wish-list of how I (unconsciously) felt the world ought to be.  They even began to include bad guys!

image courtesy of svilen001 - Stock Xchng

But, looking back at them now, the stories still seemed to retain an element of control, a sanity and restraint that the real world lacked.  My current writing style has, I can see now, developed out of that evolutionary process, although I hope that it feels less controlled than those early works.

But do writers invent characters purely out of necessity – simply to act out a pre-planned story?  Or is there even a small element of ‘this character brings me comfort’?  Is there a hint of ‘I’m happy with this character because I’d like them if they were my real-life friend’?  Do we unconsciously develop characters (even anatgonists) that we are comfortable with?

Are writers the ultimate creators of  imaginary friends?

 

Write on!

What’s it all about…Author?

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Image courtesy of mattox at Stock Xchng

Since ‘A Construct of Angels’ was published as an Amazon Kindle eBook, I have been asked this question many, many times.   And if I’m honest,  I haven’t always answered it well.  But if you plan to publish in the future (or indeed, you have already) then you should spend a few moments rehearsing your reply.

A verbal synopsis can be as important as the written one, so it’s worth getting it right.

Nothing puts off a prospective buyer more than;

‘Er…um…well…it’s kind of…’

If you, the author, can’t even verbalise a quick synopsis, how can you expect to transmit your enthusiasm to a potential buyer?

The answer that I have found to be very effective is to immediately compare ‘Construct’ to an existing…nay, a household name – Twilight.

Yes, I know it’s a bit cliched and it’s just one of soooo many vampire stories in a super-saturated market…but consider this;

Who HASN’T heard of it?

So if you’ve just written a political thriller , don’t be afraid to say ‘It’s a lot like Tom Clancy / John Grisham / John LeCarre.’

Your rip-roaring sci-fi adventure could do a lot worse than be compared to the huge success of Star Wars.

Even if they forget about your book, the next time they see whatever you’ve compared your work to, they could very well be reminded to browse for your story.

Try ‘You’ve heard of……. right?  Well, this is similar, except….’

And once you’ve established your genre, you can then go on to qualify your comparison, by adding something like; ‘It’s similar to Star Wars, but without the Wookies’ or ‘but Tom Clancy never went where my story goes..right into the corrupted heart of the DEA.’

The verbal synopsis of ‘Construct’ has evolved into something like this;

‘You’ve heard of Twilight and all the other vampire books?’

They nod.

‘This is similar, but with no vampires or werewolves allowed.’

‘Okay…’ they say, wondering what IS allowed.

‘It’s based in York.’

That gets their attention – it’s somewhere local (to us).

‘A paramedic who works there goes to the mortuary because she thinks her dead brother has just been found.’

Awww…the sympathy expression.

‘But while she’s there – she accidentally pulls down an angel into one of the bodies.’

‘Ooh?’  is the usual surprised reaction.  ‘How could this be?’ they may wonder.

‘It turns out that this angel has only six days to save the world, otherwise Hell will take over and civilisation is finished.’

‘Six days?’

‘Yep.  The clock is ticking.  Six days – and everything goes to Hell.’

After that, they usually begin to ask questions about the story and how long it took to write, and the synopsis is no longer in the spotlight.  Job done.

So, my advice is to Compare, then Qualify and finally Expand.

Give it a try when you’re in a quiet place (a railway platform or a bookshop is probably not the best venue).

Imagine that you’ve finally landed that longed-for radio interview.  Millions are listening with baited breath (don’t worry, they can’t see your reclusive yet artistic face) to hear what your book is about – and you have between fifteen and twenty seconds to sum it up.

Go for four sentences.  Short and snappy.  Get their interest.  Compare, Qualify, then Expand.

In closing, I should tell you this;

My worst ever answer?

‘So what’s your (High Fantasy) book about?’

‘It’s…er…it’s complicated.’

The curious party walked away, none the wiser.  Don’t send potential buyers away with no desire to check out your book.

Write on!

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