What is Meant by “Imaginary Friend?”

            Many of us cannot remember having an imaginary friend. I don’t. What I do remember is believing in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and my fear of the Energizer Bunny. I remember writing letters to Thomas the Tank Engine and the thrill of waiting for him to respond.

            And he did.

            I want you to reflect on your childhood, or explore the childhood of your character, and remember the imagined figures who were there, who your characters or you could see when others could not. Did this friend take the form of a teddy bear? Superman? The monster under your bed or in your closet? Did they look like Bing Bong from Inside Out, a hodgepodge of all your or your character’s favorite things at the time?

I’m mostly cotton candy but shape wise, I’m part cat, part elephant, part dolphin. […] You gotta remember when Riley was three, animals were all the rage. The cow goes moo, the horse goes neigh, it’s all people talked about back then.

¾ Bing Bong from the movie, Inside Out (2015)

The imagination of a child doesn’t have to make sense. In the quote above, Riley created a friend made of everything she loved at the time. She played with him, sang songs, and went on adventures with Bing Bong long before anyone told her to grow up and to forget childish things.

The question I want you to ask yourself is why might you—or your character—need an imaginary friend? Is it due to loneliness? Conflict at home and no one to talk to? Do they just want someone to play with? Are they shy and need a friend?

With that thought in mind, let’s dive in.