Why was that name so familiar?
I was sitting at a restaurant with coworkers as they were chatting about a person in our corporate offices several states over. I can't remember the name but let's call that person, "Bob". I didn't know the individual they were speaking of... but the name... "Bob"... brought up warm feelings. Like an old friend from high school. Or a cousin that you played with in your youth.
Who the hell was this other "Bob" that I was thinking about?
Then it hit me. "Bob" was the name of a fictional character in a film script that I was working on. Yes, an imaginary person. At that moment, I was both embarrassed and confused. Warm feelings for an imaginary friend? Good Lord. What has my life come to?
Back then, I spent my days writing. I came into an office everyday and was paid to sit at a desk next to a window and write scripts, among other things. I would spend hours everyday in my head with people that didn't exist. Like any writer, you create imaginary characters to inhabit your worlds. And if you really do your homework, you will know every detail about them - what they want, what keeps them up at night, what they hide from the world - even what shoes they would buy. And if you don't know something about them off the top of your head - their first kiss or preferred ply of toilet paper for example - you would be able to deduce the answer correctly since you know them so well. In other words, they become the person you know best, sometimes more than yourself.
And then you hurt them.
You give them dreams, desires, and needs. And then you take it all away.
You put them in the last place they want to be and give them a choice.
Do they fight? Do they question? Do they hate? Or do they love? You break the heart of your most intimate friend and then, if you're not a cruel bastard, you give them an ending that makes the journey worth it, both for your friend and the viewer. Maybe they even learn something along the way. Maybe they don't. Either way, your friend leaves stronger.... or dead (shit, it happens). But no matter, in the end, you always set them free... to continue a life without you.
I've had moments where I've cried thinking about a character's situation often because it relates to something very real in my own life. Or to someone close to me. Those fictional lives become real like some perverse hypnotization trick on yourself.
Writing is like trench warfare. It progresses slowly by inches of page and with heavy losses. But in the end if you actually create something of value, which is rare, it becomes its own. It grows up through rewrites and then you shove it out into an unforgiving world where it will be deemed worthy or not by the court of public opinion.
But if you've done your work right, it ends up bringing joy to the world. The characters become people that we love or love to hate. Through media, they enter our living rooms, our beds, our ears, and they stay with us for several seconds to several years. They become people we laugh with, think about, and scream at. People we know all so well... even though they're imaginary. They're our friends in the moments when our own lives are on pause.
So I sit. Alone. With imaginary people. It's both the saddest and greatest privilege ever. And I write in Los Angeles, a place where the years remain frozen in an eternal summer. Where there's never a cloud in the sky, where the heavens have no ceiling but at the same time no depth.
It all isn't real.