Monday, July 17, 2006

Reality Guys

Back around 1980, when I was a whippersnapper, there was a bloke in Worcester known widely as Mad Colin. He would turn up at any kind of public gathering, such as the annual bonfire and firework display at Pitchcroft, and hang around the periphery on his Raleigh Grifter bike, which was like a sort of forerunner to the BMX. I had a Grifter too (blue), as did my brother (red) and most other kids around Worcester (unless they had Choppers). But Mad Colin was not a kid. He was in his 20s (at a guess). And no one ever spoke to him. In my memory, whenever approached, he kicked the pedals and disappeared on that Grifter. He looked a bit like Wayne Rooney, before anyone had ever invented Wayne Rooney. I have no idea who coined the name "Mad Colin", but it really worked, if you know what I mean.

Not long ago I finished writing a novel entitled MAD COLIN (my first one since the three Mangel books). I started out wanting to tell a story about the real Mad Colin, but it kind of shifted (as these things always, ALWAYS do) until all I was left with was the name. But the name really works for it, if you know what I mean. (Hopefully you will see this book some day soon.)

It made me think of writing. Nearly every piece of fiction I start is grounded in reality. A real person, event, place, or (usually) all three. But you set out to use those real things in your story, maybe tell the story how it truly happened, and you realise you have no control. The story takes over. Those reality guys are not your characters at all. Your characters are different people entirely, and if you try to bend them into the shapes of the reality guys, it ain't gonna work.


There is one character in DEADFOLK and FAGS AND LAGER who is real, right down to the name, and what you see there on the page is exactly what you got in real life 20 years ago. I tried to make him different in some way but he just wouldn't budge. Not even his name. Stubborn bastard.


Steve Kane said...

There is one character in DEADFOLK and FAGS AND LAGER who is real

But you can't tell us which one because you would get killed?

Charlie Williams said...

I didn't even realise it myself until my brother pointed it out to me a few weeks ago. I thought, why the hell didn't I change that name? But he's not a bad person, so I'm not too afraid. I'm not saying he wouldn't be capable of anything, though. If he is still alive. And if he could read.

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