I didn’t have many companions as a kid. Even to this day I have never really identified with one specific clique, but in elementary school, I just didn’t really identify with anyone, period.
As I grew up, I used to console myself by speculating that perhaps it was because I was more mature, or just hadn’t found the right crowd of people, but looking back, relegating myself to a loner status seemed mostly a subconscious choice.
I simply enjoyed finding my friends in books, which sounds like such a cliche I am sure any remotely introverted, self-proclaimed ‘sensitive soul’ can claim. But it’s not without ground- many can probably attest to the principle of finding one’s identity in novels instead of social settings, but I think it can apply particularly to anyone who even vaguely enjoys writing.
And when authors can string words together to make actual people come to life, people that others can relate to and come to love, you’ve done something right. It really is no easy feat.
When it came to these forged worlds, be it a series or a single impactful story, the characters weren’t necessarily more predictable and reasonable, but always seemed abundantly good-intentioned or thoughtful. Thus I found them more admirable, and started seeking friends in this way, looking for similar qualities (how realistic this was is a different story). Those heroes inspired me to critically think, and imagine myself as capable as much as they were.
Second grade was the first time I tried my hand at creating my own stories, and that was a very odd but revealing time.
Neopets was a big thing back then, so ‘Wocky’, a racoon-fox like creature, was the hero of some of my stories. He was a whimsical guy that loved cooking, reading, and saving damsels in distress; all three components were usually present in each story.
We were also learning about Australian animals at the time, so I put Wocky in a setting of some part of either Queensland or Sydney and gave him a kangaroo friend and a dingo friend, both with oddball quirks but good intentions.
The details are a bit fuzzy now, but I mainly remember they would go off and save someone from being captured from evil Tasmanian Devils, and Wocky would always finish off the day with a wooden spoon and apron in hand.
As I wrote these, even as a child, I felt the characters and their stories taking on a life of their own, my pen moving by itself as crazy ideas I’d never even thought of spewed out.
The ideas I wanted to express always carried savior-like themes, with Wocky and his friends prone to martyring themselves or trying to do the right thing in the name of righteousness.
I stopped reading fiction in high school. Around the time I became less socially awkward and more academically-oriented, I also stopped having the time or need to occupy myself with the comings and goings of fictional people. Reading books for AP Literature felt like a chore, as we usually went too fast for me to get emotionally attached to the characters, and at the same I time I gradually felt myself gravitating towards nonfiction investigative books as I grew more serious about my journalism career.
Then I found a love for TV shows, and was particularly drawn to how they could flesh out characters. As this interest developed, I started writing a plot to my own show, dreaming of being a showrunner at some point. Even when I reverted back to chasing my journalism dreams, I still have that idea tucked in the back of my mind, a particular Facebook chat and a hidden Tumblr where I started developing the plot post by post.
It all comes back to creating people who are realistic, but still detached enough to serve as symbolic reminders of what we can ascribe to in life.
At the end of the day, I’ve decided I am going to pursue creative writing, a hobby that marked and defined so much of my childhood and ideology toward people. I’m not good at setting a scene and following through with plots, but I’ve always been interested in how fictional people and fictional settings can influence real ones.
Wocky and his friends, with their stubborn but consistently faithful attentiveness to compassion, are pretty much extensions of my own thought processes and hopes. Continuing to pour that into short stories, and maybe a novel someday, will inevitably help me improve even as a person.
That is really, the magic of writing anything.