Monday, September 12, 2016

Invasion of Imaginary People by Peter Leavell

Writers know—characters possess a violent burn to be created. A churning volcano at the best of times, a black hole of unreasonable emotion at the worst. 

We’re depressed when we can’t spend time with our characters, and when we sit down to chat, their interest lies somewhere else. Maddening.

Our characters are so real our spouses are jealous. Parents are confused. Children are impatient. Siblings don't know about "that particular family member."

But the absurdity can’t be overstated. Our imaginary friends are getting in the way of real relationships.

There’s medicine for it all.

The medicine I would suggest is thankfulness. We’re the lucky ones. And you know why. I don’t have to tell you. If you need help in this area, message me, and we'll talk.

Here’s a few pointers, though, for coping with a real and an imaginary world in the same mind.

Stay calm. Yes, we’ve had breakthroughs in character developments, but jumping up in a church missions meeting yelling, ‘That’s why your promiscuous behavior is so famous…your mother rejected you, and you’re looking for someone to replace her!’ can lead to embarrassing talks with church administrators. Jot down the thought quickly, and move on.

Divide your time with a thick pen between fiction and reality. Just because you must spend time with your characters to write well doesn’t mean spouses, parents, friends, and utter strangers have to spend time with them. You may find they’re not interested, which is disheartening. I’ve found if I must tell someone about my character, I create another character who is disproportionally fascinated in my imaginary friends.

Let your real friends be the ones to comfort you. Stoicism may come from working through your own personal issues with your characters, but others will think your perfection irritating. I think your perfectionism is irritating. Let us help.

Do not discuss murder methods with your characters in public. For example, in the church hallway, when prepping to speak to 2nd graders and your characters appear, do not mention aloud cement shoes, taking someone to the farm, ballistic therapy, tango down, the number 187, or kevorking anyone. We understand. We really do. But you’ll find your sphere of influence at church shrinking.

Allow your characters to take a role in your life, but do not set a chair at the table for them. Don’t drive them to appointments, unless you’re going there already. It’s okay to fill out job applications for them, but don’t submit them to the company. Don’t tell anyone your crazy new idea for a hairstyle comes from your protagonist. And for goodness sake, don’t let them drive.

Be thankful we have so many interesting people in our lives, real and imaginary. But take care, my friends. The real world is scary. 

Peter Leavell
Peter Leavell is an award winning historical fiction author. He and his family research together, creating magnificent adventures. Catch up with him on his website at, or friend him on Facebook: Peter R. Leavell.