A conversation I had with my parental unit today.
Mother: Arthur Clarke isn't the only author who died in their nineties, Andre Norton and Betty Neels were pretty old too.
Me (concentrating on driving): Uh huh.
Mother: There must be something about writing that's less stressful than other jobs.
Me (silently cursing at missing the opportunity to overtake a semi-trailer): Uh huh.
Mother (crosses her arms and scowls): I think it has something to do with all those imaginary friends writers have. Less conflict.
Mother: Well, writing is a solitary pursuit, you know, and if you know the conversation you're going to have, there's nothing to argue about.
Mother: You should get out more; meet some real friends. Then you can write about them.
Me: Oh look, it's been raining...
Imaginary friends. We're supposed to grow out of that when we're quite young. I don't think we ever do; they just mature into more evolved characters in our heads. I also think there's a lot of them and we write their stories down to make room for more. Once we've written about them, they retreat into their little homes and await re-reading.
Those 'friends' are made up from external influences and aspects of people we meet, or read about. They're amorphous beings at first, insubstantial and shadowy, slowly becoming clearer as we add more traits to them. Then, we know them, whether written down on character sheets or compartmentalized in our heads and we're ready to use them.
They might float around for weeks, or years, before they give us the story, but until then, they're vague companions, whispering more information to us.
All we have to do is wait for them.
My mother is right in a way: imaginary friends might surprise you, but they'll never harm you.