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Small Spaces by Sarah Epstein – Guest Post – Are Characters Writers’ Imaginary Friends?

Continuing with the spooky theme – today I have a guest post from Sarah Epstein author of psychological thriller Small Spaces.

Synopsis

Tash Carmody has been traumatised since childhood, when she witnessed her gruesome imaginary friend Sparrow lure young Mallory Fisher away from a carnival. At the time nobody believed Tash, and she has since come to accept that Sparrow wasn’t real. Now fifteen and mute, Mallory’s never spoken about the week she went missing. As disturbing memories resurface, Tash starts to see Sparrow again. And she realises Mallory is the key to unlocking the truth about a dark secret connecting them. Does Sparrow exist after all? Or is Tash more dangerous to others than she thinks?

Author

Sarah Epstein spent her childhood drawing, daydreaming and cobbling together books at the kitchen table. A writer, illustrator and designer, she grew up in suburban Sydney and now lives in Melbourne with her husband and two sons. She is passionate about YA, especially the thriller genre, which is her favourite to read. Small Spaces is her first novel.

Are Characters Writers’ Imaginary Friends? by Sarah Epstein

Imaginary friends have always fascinated me. And while I don’t remember having one myself as a child, I’ve encountered plenty of people who did. When my own kids were small and attending playgroup and kindergarten, I’d hear stories from mothers about how they’d overheard their child’s one-sided conversations in the bath, or how their child’s invisible friend had to have a place set at the dinner table. I’d always think, where do these imaginary friends come from? Are they tied to emotional issues, loneliness or just boredom? Are they coping mechanisms, a cry for attention, or even, as some suggest, a spiritual presence that a child’s mind is open enough to see?

It was a subject I wanted to explore in a story. But in many ways I’ve been writing about imaginary friends for years – my own. The characters I create who tell me their story.

In Small Spaces, I wrote about my protagonist Tash’s experiences with her imaginary friend, Sparrow, both as a young child and as a teenager. To do this, I had to understand Tash’s character inside and out – her hopes, dreams, fears and faults – so I could figure out how she would react to the appearance of Sparrow and the situations his presence would put her through.

In a sense, Tash became my imaginary friend, because she was constantly talking in my head. She was with me while I walked my dog, took showers, and late at night when I was trying to switch my brain off to go to sleep. For writers, this is nothing new. Our characters are shadowing us everywhere we go, especially during the drafting stage of a novel when we’re trying to work out exactly who they are. You imagine how they look, speak, think and act, who they are closest to in the world, and what makes them angry or afraid. Soon they become more than just fictional characters – they become friends we are passionate about. They become friends we are rooting for, friends who are keeping us company on our writing journey as well as actively driving our stories.

And, until readers discover these characters, they are friends created in our imagination that no one else can see.

Is this so different from the imaginary friends some of us invented during childhood? If they were created for company, entertainment, comfort or even a bit of attention, perhaps it’s not so different at all. And while I may not set a place for Tash at my dinner table, or hold a conversation with her in the bath, she’s always with me, tucked away inside my head.

Thanks so much to Sarah for this insight into how characters can ‘live and breathe’ for the writer. Hope everyone taking part in NaNoWriMo has picked nice people to spend the next month with

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Sandmare

Happy Halloween 👻 🎃 everyone – here’s a nice creepy piece of short fiction I wrote a while back. Hope you enjoy!!!


Sandmare

That’s what he saw first on his early morning jog over the dunes. Their feet.

At first he thought he might have interrupted something private, something that is usually and more comfortably best achieved indoors. Their feet were intertwined, touching toe to toe. On hers were two silver toe rings in twisted metal. He apologised then to their twisted faces. Eyes open they looked into each other’s eyes and saw forever and nowhere all at once.

He was not ashamed to scream as the crab scuttled over her hand. His dog lurched forward to lap at the dried blood that had once been dripping down from the gunshot between her eyes. The man was worse, his shot was through the mouth up into his brain. The congealed mess and sound of the dog’s lapping made him feel sick and he vomited. 

Turned away from the scene he knelt in the sand no longer able to stand. He dialled 999 all the while trying to think of his response to ‘What’s your emergency?’ When the question came, he vomited again and spat out, ‘They’re both dead. Beach. Come quick.’

He spotted the gun then, in the man’s hand, and wondered if the girl had had a choice in this or if she had just been on her dream date watching a beautiful sunset with her lover. 

When he heard the siren’s wail he wept and his dog, inquisitive and drawn to his sobs came close, nuzzled up and licked his tears.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group Jan 2014 #IWSG

The theme of my very first IWSG post is – Is this mine? Did I write this?

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The other day I was going through the notes app on my iPad to tidy it up and I found the poem below (which I’ve tweaked a bit since finding it). My problem or insecurity this month is not remembering writing it. Did I? Did I see it somewhere and make a copy? I’ve Googled it and came up with nothing. I think it’s mine but what if it isn’t?

Is it just me who writes things and doesn’t remember writing it? 

I think this little foible of mine does make it hard to write longer pieces and keep them coherent. I think that’s why something like NaNoWriMo works for me – having that concentrated and dedicated time to work on things. Now to create that feeling year round. 

Anyway please enjoy this poem – and if it’s actually yours do let me know!

How to inspire a love of reading:
Make books like chocolate!
Don’t dictate what children should read,
instead place them in a library and
let them look, nibble, sniff out their favourites,
sampling from the entire range.
Some they will spit out, because they don’t like nuts
but others they will savour, not wanting it to end
reading again to re-taste the experience.
Let them write about why they devoured something
and when they didn’t love its flavour.
Let them explore everything to do with that world
beyond the words on the page;
often there’s another layer hidden beneath
and for each person that layer is unique,
based on their taste buds,
which mature over time,
coming back to old favourites
and trying the one spat out at five,
to discover it tastes different at thirty.

If you want to sign up – here’s the link.

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