University study suggests that a writer’s relationship with characters is analogous to children’s relationships with imaginary friends.
A study, by University of Oregon psychologist Marjorie Taylor, Ph.D., and her colleagues, refutes the conventional wisdom that preschool is the peak time for all kinds of imaginative play, including playing with imaginary companions.
It inspired me to think in general about writer’s characters and their conceptions and I found this article based on a study about imaginary friends and how they can last well into the school-age years:
http://www.apa.org/monitor/jan05/imaginary.aspx with one insightful paragraph to us readers:
“Taylor says the new findings are consistent with her idea that fantasy and imaginary others play an important role throughout people’s lives–from childhood into adulthood. In fact, she and her colleagues are now talking to fiction writers about their relationships with the characters in their books, which Taylor believes may be analogous in some ways to children’s relationships with imaginary friends.”
So I throw the question out to you as a writer. Did you have an imaginary friend as a child? Can you identify with what some young children experience, which historically was understood to be related to a need for companionship? But actually, this Psychologist says,
“Sometimes people believe that if children, particularly older children, have an imaginary friend then it means there’s something wrong–like the child is shy and doesn’t have any ‘real friend’s’ “, Taylor says. “But really, it’s quite normative to have an imaginary friend.”
I certainly remember pretending to be a TV presenter making something out of sticky back plastic or a cook trying to bake a cake. I suppose my imaginary friends were my audience but that is entirely different to trying to communicate on a one to one experience and expecting an ‘imaginary’ response back.
Does Taylor’s conclusion resonate? Did you have an imaginary friend and did they remain with you into your older years (do you still? That might not be such a strange question), and have these experiences coloured your writing?
Would love to read your thoughts.