Tag Archive | characterisation

Thank you William Walker!

Yes, he’s a fictional character and one of my own creation, so technically a figment of my imagination, but think he’s my new best friend.

I knew where I was taking things. I knew who would do what. I just didn’t know where the key point would fall. Now, William is a favourite of mine and I was reviewing his thread because I thought there needed to be more of him, and wouldn’t you know but he told me what to do.

Whatever I’ve done in my life, whichever field I was in at the time, I’ve always written. Only recently have I started to share what I write, but I think I’ve explored all of that in past posts. Never, in all the years I’ve spent scribbling away at one thing or another has a character ‘spoken’ to me like William Walker.

Maybe I’ve just never been quite so close to insane before. Maybe it took being broken right down in myself to come back with more clarity. Maybe it’s just time. Whatever the cause, I’m very glad of the effect.

Now, I can almost hear people saying I’m in reality thanking myself, because Walker only exists in my head. But I’m not so sure. When I’m writing, especially writing Walker, I’m quite apart from myself. I don’t know what’s coming next. I certainly don’t know what anyone will say next. I’m nothing but a conduit for the story and if I didn’t know better, I’d say William had tapped me on the shoulder and said “Look, here, this is where you hide the key.”

I’ve heard that other writers have these experiences sometimes and that makes me feel somewhat less inclined to call the doctor. In fact I’ll probably not mention it to him at all. I don’t want the phenomenon to go away. Walker is a good influence, quite clearly, and I’m oh so thankful because now I see the way clearly and nothing can stop me finally finishing this piece.

Inkredible was initially a Max Markham novel, but I think it just became a William Walker novel. And he’s an older guy. There’s room for a thousand prequels in his life and a couple of sequels before he retires. I’m so happy he gave me the answer!

Well that’s a relief!

“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia” E L Doctorow

I did wonder whether it was safe to admit that I hear my characters talking in my head and assume their personalities when I write them.  I suppose it’s all about how you actually say it!

I was in a little shop in Whitby (yes, the Whitby, it’s not far from where I live really) and someone asked what I was getting.  I replied “thtuff” in a deep, dopey but enthusiastic voice.  The woman behind the counter heard and looked at me strangely.  I looked at her, grinned and said “sorry, that’s just the dog’s voice in my head”.  Silence, tumbleweed, was that the sound of ambulance sirens?

What I should have said was “that’s the way I imagine my dog would talk if she could” but no, I had to make myself sound as unhinged as possible.  I paid and left quite quickly then waited until I was a distance from the shop before howling with laughter.

I do attribute voices to characters as I imagine them.  My dog was actually the smartest dog I’ve ever met and an incredible judge of character.  I really wish I’d listened to her about the builder – she was right!  To my mind her voice was quite deep because her bark was big and she spoke bluntly and with an innocence that made her sound quite dopey.  She also had a lisp.  No creature with a tongue that could lick your face at fifty paces could fail to have a lisp.  She therefore liked thocks and thoap and thponges and thtuff.  It became a common thing among friends and family to refer to thtuff in the dog’s imaginary speaking voice.  It was perfectly acceptable for me to say that to a complete stranger “it’s just the dog’s voice in my head”.  Only it wasn’t really acceptable, was it?!

I’m laughing just thinking about the Whitby incident.  It sprang to mind the minute I read this quote.  As a writer I create characters in every detail inside my head and then project them onto the page.  They have conversations in my head (not with me, with each other).  That may well tap in to the same areas of the brain that conjure up voices to the schizophrenic.  It might be schizophrenia itself safely channelled.

I admit I’m neurotic, I admit sometimes even mildly psychotic (in a non-violent think it but don’t do it sort of way).  The difference between me and the person that looks at me funny is that I don’t try to pretend that my brain does nothing unusual.  I write it all down, call it my art, and no-one bats an eyelid.  I say it to someone and that makes me weird, maybe slightly dangerous, definitely to be watched, possibly even sedated.

Where is the line drawn between schizophrenic and creative?  If a schizophrenic were given the means to write would they create the most amazing characters ever written?  If they’d written all their lives, would the characters have stayed on the paper instead of usurping the mind of the creator?

This quote means so much to me on so many levels.  I can laugh at myself and understand why people might give me a wide berth when I come out with things like the dog’s voice in my head.  I bet those same people do very little in their lives that’s creative and passionately so.  Food for thought.  I wonder what the dog would have said?

Teensy teaser – Dr Peter Phelps

Tiny little taster from Inkredible, a snippet from ‘crime’ scene number two:

At the mention of his title Dr Phelps came over. “I don’t know what to think, Jim. The torso is like a bag of soup, but the skull and legs are intact. I’ll know more once we open him up, but I’d say his insides are a pulp. I’ve heard of similar things in accidents, people crushed between or under vehicles, but that’s extremely rare, I’ve never seen one, and how it might happen on a sofa in a first floor flat, I couldn’t begin to guess.”

“Ok doctor. No way the body could have been moved?”

“No way. We’re going to have a hell of a job getting him into a body bag without, well, to put it bluntly, without spilling him everywhere.”

The D.S. grimaced and decided he’d rather be elsewhere when that happened.

If you like a bit of grim and gruesome, Peter Phelps is the man.  The plain-speaking blitz-humoured coroner works round the clock to find answers on the rash of gruesome deaths in the city.  Even he struggles to deal with shocking things done to the victims coming in to his morgue.  He starts to see a pattern emerging and only prays someone puts an end to these horrible deaths and soon.

Meet William Walker

William is an old fashioned policeman.  He follows hunches and doesn’t consult databases.  Nearing retirement, he thought transferring to a quiet country post would be a great way to ease into the years to come.  He was wrong.

“Even in the middle of nowhere, no, especially in the middle of nowhere, you couldn’t keep anything quiet.  The middle of nowhere had a grapevine the like of which you never saw in the city.  Out here everyone was interested.  Everything that happened was news because not very much generally happened.  A broken leg was headline news.  City folk might pay a passing notice to something and that was it, on to the next thing.  Country folk would watch every move with interest, give theories half of which would be superstitious and they would still be talking about it in ten years’ time because nothing else would happen in the meantime.  Walker thought it would be more comfortable out here; less overlooked.  He could not have been more wrong.  Everyone knew he got through a bottle of brandy a week, did his laundry on Saturdays and the Times crossword on Sundays.  With nothing but space for a mile in any direction, you could feel intensely claustrophobic.”

With the discovery of human remains and lots of them, he wishes he’d stayed in the city.  Now he has to find out who these people were and he doesn’t look forward to much help from the locals, especially when it turns out the first seven burials are about 140 years old.  He has a bad feeling and knows this is something much bigger than the experts seem to think.

Little does he know he’s about to be caught up in a current investigation and more mysterious deaths as Inkredible unfolds.

A glimpse at Ivan

Ivan is a misanthrope to say the least.  He doesn’t often go to the city and can’t bear to be around people.  Every time he has to go into town though, he’s struck by the changes in society.  He rants inwardly:

“He was appalled by men who had evolved to have no physical or moral backbone.  People called them homosexual as an insult but they weren’t.  He understood homosexuality – that had always been there and it wasn’t the same thing, although modern society couldn’t make the distinction.  Effeminate and homosexual were not the same at all.  The most masculine of men might have a predilection for other men.  Feminised heterosexual men would at one time never have found a woman that paid them more than a sisterly notice.  Now though, now that women were as free as men to play any role in society, a whole new type of man had emerged, one that knew nothing of what it once was to be a man.  Some women now even sought these men ‘in touch with their feminine side’.  But what good would they be if the world suddenly reverted to what it had been a millennium ago?  It wouldn’t take much.  Men were not all men anymore, and even fewer were gentlemen.  But why was a gentleman needed when so few women were ladies.  He couldn’t relate to these new types of people.  So many distinctions, so many blurred lines, so few solid boundaries.  Did it matter?  Was it of any consequence what impression he made of himself when all were so self-interested anyway?  Of course not.  He laughed a dry laugh.  Human life had tried to infect him with its desperation to belong, but it would have to be cleverer than that!

He found it a strain to blend in.  It made him weary.  Having to listen so closely to what anyone said, having to analyse the tone against the facial expression and both of those against the body language.  People were so seldom sincere, so frequently embellishing the facts, so often using sarcasm and humour to veil a slight.  He wondered how anyone lived and communicated among such a society and survived.  Perhaps they didn’t really.  Maybe that explained the superficiality.  How could anyone afford to feel anything, to register what was really going on, to give more than a cursory glance, when to do so could only open them up to the brutality of the world beyond their tiny existence?  How could they afford to have depth when it would only show them the depths to which humanity had sunk?  Some, he knew, created their own micro society around them and shunned all others.  That had gone on for a long time.  Now it was even more complex and he wondered at the truth of it all.  Who could really live like this without losing sight of true life?  He could not slot in to this world.  But so what?  He didn’t need to make friends, only get by here for a little while.”

His thoughts are many and about everything.  Don’t get him started on architecture!