When I was little I wrote a lot of stories that never got finished. They were usually rather complicated tales of fantastic adventures , mostly set in the real world but with magic being a real thing. I’d never really thought about them much until I was reading something about wish fulfillment and the way writers and movie directors love to create characters who are themselves, but living the life they wanted to have and not just the one they’re stuck with.
It was immediately obvious to me that my stories were mostly wish fulfillment – I literally called the main characters Klementine or Jacqueline (my middle name) because I really just love my names so much. I’m a big fan of long names, so if there were other important characters they would be called Jasmine and Katherine – and it’s easy to see the correlation between those names.
So that made me think about what I want, or at least, what I wanted back then as a little kid. These things included, depending on how old I was and what other things I liked at the time:
- having long, fiery red hair
- having long, glossy pitch black hair
- being a triplet and being best friends with all my triplets
- having lots and lots of cats who may or may not have been able to speak
- being a Happy Orphan (I think I read too many books where the protagonist was adopted, but often found their real parents somewhere along the narrative)
- having a pet dragon made of crystal that lived in my hair (I was really fixed on that, for some reason)
- living alone in the woods in a cave or underground burrow
- having real-life Neopets who accompanied me throughout life (this was obviously during the era that I was obsessed with Neopets)
- being totally in tune with nature and basically being waited upon by wildlife like Snow White in the Disney movie
- being a homeless orphan on the streets who was found by a really super nice rich family that instantly adopted me (think Little Match Girl, but with a proper happy ending)
- being able to control the weather and/or elements
- being a princess who disguised herself as a poor servant for various reasons, often due to being unaware of my royal status or because it was somehow stolen from me (see the traditional German fairytale Die Gaensemagd for an example of that)
- being really smart and/or good with magic, generally travelling around doing cool magic/intelligent stuff with my cats
- living underwater, alone, in a city of underwater people
- being a ghost or a vampire or a were-cat
Those are all relatively normal things to want as an 8-year-old who was obsessed with cats, so far as I can see – princesses, being magical, having lots of cats, magical companions, all that. But I did notice one trend, as I considered each of the stories that I could remember writing, in that – apart from the three or four stories where there were 3 triplets (and EVERY set of triplets had one redhead, one blonde and one with black hair), I/the main character always lived alone.
Often, they lived somewhere isolated, like in the centre of a huge, foreboding forest, in a cave or an underground burrow or a giant hollow tree. I drew up countless plans of my burrow, which was an environmental architect’s dream – the sewerage was all provided by the stream which I had diverted to run through specific rooms, and carefully planned to go to the dining room first, kitchen second, and bathroom last, so that I could safely scoop up water to drink as I ate my lunch. Everything was made out of earth or artfully placed stones and roots, with the occasional soft furnishing to make it homelike. I had a living room, and two bedrooms – one for me and one for the guest – and a room dedicated to cats.
Or in the underwater city, I’d have a tiny house built into a shelf of rock – like everyone else – which was just the two rooms: one big sleeping/eating/living area and the necessary bathroom facilities in another room. I’d be an orphan, who ran various errands for all the merchants in the Trading Square, and was well-known by all of them, but didn’t have to spend much time with them.
Sometimes I would live in cities, in which case they were semi-medieval, semi-Victorian era, and I lived on the streets, alone, happy, with some cats who followed me loyally and often a network of similarly homeless people with whom I communicated and shared food and supplies. I might have been a traveler, performing medical work on the needy and living off whatever they gave me, moving from town to town and throughout different countries. Occasionally, as mentioned before, I’d be homeless and sad, freezing in the snowy winters and practically dying from hunger until I collapsed on the doorstep of a wealthy family with lots of chicken broth and thick bread with butter and roaring fires who nursed me back to health and realised that I was a great person and it totally wasn’t my fault that I was homeless.
I’ve got no idea what this says about me – maybe a psychiatrist would read this and immediately know that I’m this, that and the other, but I think most people are in the same situation as me – able to kind of guess but not really sure. Personally, so far as I can see, this points to me being the kind of person who’s happy to be alone, if entertained (I think very few people like to just sit quietly staring at a blank wall.) and as such might be called an introvert. But then again, for most of my life I’ve thought of myself as a kind of shy extrovert, who likes people and being with people. Which makes me wonder why so many of my quiet fantasies involved me only having to interact with other people a little bit?
The other trend, of course, was an odd dislike of the era in which I live. I do truly adore the internet and computers and all the wonderful technology that makes my current life possible – but I also have always, always loved old fashioned things, from various ages – basically anything before 1950, though. My favourite books are often from the early 20th or 10th centuries because I love something about those ‘old days’, even knowing how awful they were. I think I romanticise them a lot – the medieval times, the Regency period, all the rest of them – but the ideas of them that I have created for myself, of candles at nighttime and fresh baked bread toasted on a fire and snowy cobbled streets and leatherbound tomes and odd clothes and pennies and porridge with cream and honey and carriages – they make me happy, so I can’t bear to let go of them. And I do often wish they could exist alongside the internet and our other great technologies, and I guess all my stories were a way of living that life, the impossible life, without having to give up the one I had.
And that, after all, is a perfect reason to write, it seems to me. Even if your life is wonderful, it simply can’t include everything that you want it to – but by creating another world, by whatever means, you can live so many wonderful different lives, Who can resist that?