Not long ago, I interviewed the author Hilary Mantel and she explained her writing process as being similar to that of a medium, like the character of Alison in her novel, Beyond Black Temmy was a boy, Clugga a girl, and I remember them now in the way you might remember beloved cousins not seen since childhood.
They are abandoned, frozen in time, consigned to memory and anecdote.
The vast majority of imaginary companions came in human form 68 per centthough there were some animals too 15 per cent and a small number, of whom I immediately became jealous, who had friends with magical powers seven per cent.
They live in, well I made up, a planet called Sweek.
A work of fiction, then, can only be successful if it is animated by some living energy distinct from the controlling hand of the author. And not just typically developing children have them, those with Down Syndrome and children diagnosed with autism also enjoy playing with fantasy friends.
But it can be very frustrating for the parents. Children typically start inventing imaginary friends between the ages of three and five. With all these benefits though, it is currently hard to tell exactly whether imaginary friends actually cause them or whether children who are just generally more creative and socially aware are more likely to have such friends.
Imaginary friends are often the reason for broken windows or untidy rooms according to their child creators. That is, they have become so good at imagining their friend or character that they are no longer conscious of the process of creation — the friend or character seems to arrive automatically, fully formed.
Children make up imaginary friends for many different reasons, and each fantasy friend is unique and special to their creator.