Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia - E.L. Doctorow
Schizophrenia: a psychotic disorder characterized by loss of contact with the environment, by noticeable deterioration in the level of functioning in everyday life, and by disintegration of personality expressed as disorder of feeling, thought (as delusions), perception (as hallucinations), and behavior - Merriam-Webster
All right. So the definition of schizophrenia gives me the idea that the quote above doesn't apply to me. That fact is, though, that I am a writer and I do have imaginary people in my head all the time. And it's extremely interesting to me, the way they evolve and have complex histories and motivations even though they don't really exist.
In the spring of 2009, I outlined and hand wrote the first draft of a novel. One of the characters (I'll call him "R") was inspired by someone whom I've seen around and had a few conversations with, but I don't know at all. I find this person inexplicably endearing and friendly, and I wanted to use some of his essence (as I imagine it to be) for R.
Several months into that particular novel, I abandoned it (I have my reasons!!!!), but I took a character from it for the manuscript I'm working on now. The character was R and I am still learning new things about him in every scene he appears. His interactions with my main character are, by far, the most challenging for me to write, but I feel so accomplished whenever I'm able to pull them off simply because it is so hard.
Today, for the first time in many months, I spoke to the person who inspired R. He said something incredibly endearing as per usual (without suspecting that I would find it to be so, I imagine), and as he walked away, my first thought was, Never in a million years would R have said that.
I don't know if this makes sense to anyone else, but it was a really cool moment for me, realizing that my character is not at all like the person who sort of, kind of was the very, very loose inspiration for him almost two years ago. R is totally his own person!