When you know someone has an imaginary friend, something like Elwood’s six-foot invisible rabbit called Harvey, don’t you immediately think that person is crazy? I do. But I have imaginary people as friends. I think most writers do. So am I crazy? Probably. But hopefully it is a good kind of crazy.
It began with imaginary friends from books. The Cat in the Hat was my friend. Jim Hawkins was my friend, as was Mowgli and all the members of the Swiss Family Robinson. They entered my dreams and my daydreams. I told them my troubles the same way I listened to theirs through their stories.
I began to have imaginary friends that came from my own imagination too.
I used to tell my mere human friends about my friend Davalon from outer space. I told them that he was real and secretly visited me at night to talk about being able to learn about humans on earth by walking around invisibly and watching them. I got so involved with these stories that my sixth grade class began saying, “Michael is from Mars.”
When I was a teenager, I began having conversations with a faun. His name was Radasha. He was a creature from Greek Myth, a sensual Dionysian creature who, in his child body, was both younger than me and way older than me. I didn’t realize until much later in life that he was the result of my repressed memories of a childhood sexual assault that I was the victim of. I could talk to him about my fear of nakedness. I could tell him about my blossoming interests in naked girls and their bodies. I could talk to him about all the things I was somehow too terrified to talk to my male friends about, even though none of them had the same reluctance to discuss sex. Ra was imaginary. But he helped me heal.
Then the story-telling seriously began. I used Davalon as one of the main characters in my novel Catch a Falling Star. I created Torrie Brownfield, the baby werewolf to express the feelings I had as a boy about being a monster and secretly terrible and deformed. Torrie is a normal boy with a condition called hypertrichosis. I am working on The Baby Werewolf now. And then there’s lovely Valerie Clarke. She is the main character of Snow Babies which is a finished novel, edited and proofread and ready to publish. It is I book I will have to find another way to publish since the recent death of PDMI Publishing. She is not a me-character, based on my own thoughts and feelings. She is based on former classmates and students who told me things that express the sadness and isolation of growing up female. So she is even more imaginary than my other characters.
They become real people to me. They have their own point of view. They talk to me and I learn things from them. But they are imaginary. So am I crazy? Yes… as a loon. And happy as Elwood P. Dowd to be that way.