I grew up with Sherwood Forest in my backyard—not the supposedly real Sherwood Forest that folks claim is in the UK, but the actual “real” one known only to a few and located in the middle-of-nowhere, Texas. I’m surprised you haven’t heard of it.
You see, I was blessed to have a big sis with an enormous imagination and an insatiable appetite for reading. We spent hours in the backyard running through Sherwood Forest at the heels of Robin Hood, escaping on horseback from the evil Duke’s soldiers, sailing with pirates in search of buried treasure, and digging our way out of prison camps.
(Funny story there: for lack of a prison camp, we had to settle with digging our way out of the dog pen. We escaped, but the dogs did too. Never could keep them from breaking out again after that.)
But in all our adventures, we weren’t alone. We had a whole slew of imaginary friends who helped us out—Jim, Catherine, Paul. Yes, I still recall their names.
But it wasn’t until I was a little bit older and managed to sneak the books from my sister’s bookshelf—on one of the rare instances when she wasn’t jealously guarding them—that I discovered that our imaginary friends hadn’t sprung from my sister’s head … but from the books she was reading.
They were fictional characters.
For a child of nine who had to be bribed to pick up anything besides Tolkien’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, this was an enormous revelation.
There were other books out there with characters and storylines as real as the ones in my beloved red book?
Of course there were many different things that factored into my deep love of reading—and eventually into my dream to write—but that moment is one I will always recall. Spurred on by a child’s game, I learned to step outside of my comfort zone—Middle Earth—and read books, authors, and genres I would never have explored otherwise.
And I discovered stories, characters, and worlds enough to fill a hundred backyard adventures!
I was hooked.
Nowadays, I’ll pick up pretty much anything with a fascinating storyline, but my heart resides in the speculative fiction camp—and especially with fantasy. There’s just something about the otherworldly and the magical that allows truth and reality to shine all the clearer in comparison.
When you boil it down, I love books with a good plot that keeps me turning pages and trying to figure out what’s going on. I love books with a storyworld that is vivid, fascinating, and unique—one that I desperately want to visit. I love books about heroes and heroic deeds and sacrifice that makes your heart bleed.
But most of all, I love characters who step off the page until you wonder if you haven’t met them somewhere before. Perhaps in the coffee shop or at the end of the lane.
Or even wandering the paths of Sherwood Forest.
The characters who are real will always make a story real to me.
What is your favorite element of a story? Are there any characters you have met lately who seemed ready to step off the page and shake your hand?
Author Bio: Gillian Bronte Adams is a sword-wielding, horse-riding, coffee-loving speculative fiction author from the great state of Texas. During the day, she manages the equestrian program at a Christian youth camp, but at night, she kicks off her boots and spurs, pulls out her trusty laptop, and transforms into a novelist. You can find her at her blog Of Battles, Dragons, and Swords of Adamant where fantasy lovers unite to discuss favorite novels, villains, costumes, and enjoy sneak peeks at her work, or stop by her author page on facebook!
And don’t miss out on her prize giveaway to celebrate the release of her debut fantasy novel, Orphan’s Song!
Victoria Grace Howell
Really good post! I too grew up with imaginary friends. One’s name was Mildred. I’m currently reading “Singularity” by Steven James and his characters really pop. I love them. ^ ^
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