Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Imaginary Friends

With no particular story banging at the doors to be let out, this seemed like a good time for a cattle call, an open audition for characters in search of a job, and possibly a combustion of ideas and concepts resulting in a story that wold whip through the landscape in the manner of the recent fires.

First to show up was my old buddy, Lew Lessing, who first appeared in my fiction back in my undergraduate days, a more-or-less alter ego who has done a number of the same things I have but who at one time in is life has done a number of things I haven't. He is often under consideration for a lead role or walk-on. Since we have much in common, my worry is that I don't push him enough to get away from and past me. He likes the work, is reliable, shows up on time, doesn't make excuses. But in this reading he was noticeably not on his marks because his reading partner, Maeve, growing progressively impatient with his timing, wondering when he was going to be through, finally announced her frustration with the accusation that she couldn't trust him. Lew, I learned subsequently, likes to be trusted. I told him I'd give him a call back but suggested during the next while that he work on why he is so keen on being trusted, and what he can bring to the next reading.

Maeve, on the other hand, is a keeper because of her insistence that men are not to be trusted for any reason sooner or later, she says, they will do something to bear this out, making the tracking of her an interesting project.

Matthew Bender also showed up. A pretty good actor, Matthew keeps suggesting a format for a group of short stories, thanks to the discovered connection between his name Bender and the fact of Odysseus of Iliad fame bearing translation as a man of many turns. We've contrived between the two of us, Bender and I, that as Odysseus returned home after the Trojan war, experiencing adventures along the way, Bender is returning to Santa Barbara after having been in a long run with Troilus and Cresida in an off-Broadway theater. Not quite a war for Bender although T & C has the Trojan War as a background element. Bender seems to attract rather than pursue younger women, somewhat of a frustration because of his interest in women in their late thirties to early forties. Naturally, Bender wonders why. I see him back home, being offered a job in which he wears a chicken suit as a part of a California ballot initiative for free range farm animals.

Cindy is a gifted actor who would rather be a fine art photographer.

Meryl is a teacher at a junior college who so far as she is aware harbors and broadcasts heterosexual instincts but who has been the object of romantic interest of a number of female psychotherapists.

Junior is an accepted member of a Cro-Magnon hunting clan only because his father, Curly, is an highly accomplished hunter. Junior wants to be a shaman, but shamans have not been invented yet. His best friend, Art, would rather paint animals on cave walls than hunt, and Rose, Art's girlfriend, wishes he'd get a better job.

It is true, I have been focused on two nonfiction book projects for some months now, but the consequences involve these guys and others like them, trying to get my attention. "What's with you and nonfiction?" Lessing will ask me from time to time, and Cindy frequently accuses me of denying my heritage, which could mean a lot of things, many of them quite true.

I'm fond of reminding friends that when I was a kid, we couldn't even afford imaginary friends, but the fact was and is that they have always been around, clamoring for attention, wanting to be listened to. Happy families may, pace Tolstoy, be all alike, but so are characters, alike in the sense that they have stories to tell and want to be heard.


Querulous Squirrel said...

Our blog friends are imaginary friends that come and go, bend to our interests, attract and detach, have non-blog lives we can only guess at its outlines. We we forget that our blogfriends are imaginary friends, we lose the distiction bwtween fact and fiction, we take rejection and praise too seriously. Yet even with imaginary friends, kindness shines through, an important quality in every type of imaginary friend. I will never learn more about the process of writing fiction than I have from my imaginary fictional friend Shelly. No other fictional friend comes close. I wish I had him all to myself. Frankly, the only reason I'm still blogging.

lowenkopf said...

It never ceases to amaze me at the way connections are formed. Characters and friends and ideas are somehow drawn into the linear accelerator called life, spun about until they acquire velocity, then are sent speeding into one another for the collision that produces...story.

Anonymous said...

In childhood I had a group of imaginary friends. And they didn't cost a dime.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I think my favorite fictional characters are my friends and I live in the reality they live in. That's when I make myself go out into the world. Good thing I don't live alone-

What I still struggle with in deciding what way to write fiction is this: do I write the world that I want to live in (ordered, safe), or the world as I actually have lived it much of my life? (chaotic, unsafe)? The former approach would mean creating a place I'd love to live in as I write, but the latter might help dispel the demons. Or maybe I can do both, but I'm not sure I have the writing chops for such a complex approach...

Rowena said...

My imaginary friends have always been in stories, in books, in movies, in tv, in the stories I write myself.

In fact, I once told a funny restaurant story that happened to a friend of mine, and there was quiet when I was done, until someone piped in, "That was Monica on Friends."

Yes. Monica was my imaginary friend. I hadn't even realized.