Gay Yellen: Imaginary Friends

Dickie George was his name, my first imaginary friend. I was the only four-year-old among a household of grown-ups, so I suppose he was my way of having a ready-made playmate whenever I wanted an adventure.

At the dinner table, I would regularly share news of his latest exploits with my Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, and teenage aunt. And they lovingly played along.

For me, there was no doubt that Dickie George was real. I was a well-mannered child, but he enjoyed all kinds of tricky activities, doing things that would have gotten an ordinary kid in trouble, like the time he stuck a broom in Grandma’s washing machine. Yes he did.

Somewhere along the way to kindergarten, I lost track of Dickie George. But he remains in the family lore of my childhood, and in my memory, too.

Later, when I encountered the brilliant Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, I would catch myself peering deeply into each panel in search of Dickie George, certain that he and Calvin were soulmates, and maybe even playmates. And Hobbes, too, all of them living together in the fantastical universe created by children’s imaginations.

I have new imaginary friends now, with names like Samantha and Carter and Lizzie and Gertie. As a grown-up author, I’m supposed to describe them as the characters in my books. Yet when I’m writing, they are as alive in my mind as Dickie George was so many decades ago. I often find myself following them and reporting on their activities, rather than forcing actions on them. Not always, but often enough that I can feel a trace of the little-girl me who once had an imaginary playmate. 

Did you have imaginary friends in your childhood?
What were they like? Please share in the Comments, below.

Gay Yellen is a former magazine and book editor. She writes the award-winning Samantha Newman Mystery Series: The Body Business and The Body Next DoorBook #3 is slated for release in 2021. Gay would love to hear from you, here, on Facebook, or at her website,, where this post was originally published.


10 replies
  1. Donnell Ann Bell
    Donnell Ann Bell says:

    Oh my goodness, Gay, I never looked at it this way. Are our protagonists, antagonists, secondary personalities in our books, characters, or are they our playmates! Very thin line where I'm concerned! Great blog!

  2. Gay Yellen
    Gay Yellen says:

    Thanks, Donnell. I guess because I had Dickie George, I recognized the same feeling when the characters in my first book began to take on a life of their own.

  3. Saralyn
    Saralyn says:

    How astute of you to link your wonderful characters (I especially love Samantha and Gertie.) to your imaginary playmate. I'm certain that they all come from the same place in our brains, and, whether we are children or grown-ups, they are no less dear. Proof that you were destined to be an author.

  4. Gay Yellen
    Gay Yellen says:

    Sarayn, what a lovely thing to say about Samantha and Gertie. As writers, it's interesting to discover links to the past that we weren't conscious of before.

  5. Debra H. Goldstein
    Debra H. Goldstein says:

    What a great comparison. I've found the more books I've written in the Sarah Blair series, the more Sarah, her family, her friends, and even places in her neighborhood seem real. I'd really like to try the restaurant I've created. But back to Dickie George..although I never had such a friend (I blamed everything on my sister), my husband had one until he went to school —– and his family still periodically asks how his imaginary buddy is doing.

  6. Gay Yellen
    Gay Yellen says:

    So fun to know that your husband had an imaginary friend, Debra. And I know what you mean about wanting to eat in your imaginary restaurant. As long as we're making it up, we might as well make it delicious!

  7. PatFlahPag
    PatFlahPag says:

    Invisible friends, indeed! If you lovingly created them over time, such as my Puca story and all the characters in your great Samatha series, it totally fits! Especially Gertie. Gertie is your readers' friend too! I eagerly await "The Gertie Chronicles…"

  8. Gay Yellen
    Gay Yellen says:

    Thanks for reminding me of your Puca, Patty. I'm pretty sure it was the first story of yours I ever read. So good. And yes, I agree, everyone could use a Gertie in their lives.

  9. Kathryn Lane
    Kathryn Lane says:

    During COVID lockdowns, I'm sure there were plenty of kids who suddenly had imaginary friends! With regard to your characters, I feel the same way about Nikki Garcia – sometimes she seems so real to me. And then I get comments from readers saying they want me to introduce them to Eduardo. So characters can become favorites of readers, and they too, feel that "character" is real. Enjoyed your blog, Gay!

    • Gay Yellen
      Gay Yellen says:

      Interesting thought, Kathryn. I'm sure there will be lots of studies on how children are affected by life these days. I'd love to know how many imaginary friends were created! And I agree, Eduardo is dreamy.

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