Project Hush-Hush – Creating Real People

SecretThis is my 100th post! Yay. And so I shall be talking, a little, about one of the most important reasons why I write fiction…

Today I want to talk about characters.

Now, what with the secrecy surrounding this project I cannot be as open about the process of writing as I’d like. There are key elements of the story, and the world I’m building, that I simply cannot talk about. Which is annoying and exciting equally. So today I want to talk about the characters in the book, at least a little bit, and quite possibly in some vague terms as to be more detailed would spoil just that bit too much.

Characters are the most important part of any piece of fiction, more so than plot in fact. Characters drive the story — indeed, they are the story. The emotional journey each character takes is the journey the reader takes, thus why I call them the story. But for me characters are not just ‘types’ of people, they’re real, as real as you and me (but not you over there). I don’t create characters that only act a certain way, who have specific traits from which they cannot deviate, because people aren’t like that. Any one person can act in a variety of ways depending on the situation they find themselves in. People like to say, ‘oh, I’d never do that’, but it is nonsense. No-one, and I mean no-one, knows how they will act with any given situation until they are there being tested by it. Just as anybody who says ‘I am who I am, and I’m not going to change’ are talking even more nonsense. We change every day, with every single situation. People are in a constant state of flux, reacting and changing to every new situation that comes along. We all have our core beliefs, our default settings, but we’re all adaptable and open to change. My characters are exactly the same. They are determined by their experiences, not by specific traits. And with each new experience they grow, they change, they become either a better person or a worse one.

What follows is a list of characters from Forgotten Son, and a little something about them. This list is not definitive since it won’t contain the licensed characters (too important to reveal just yet) and neither will it include characters who have not appeared yet.

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  • John James — A minor character, at least for now since I have plans for him. A ten-year-old boy from London who is named after an old school friend of mine from Hackney.
  • Ray (Raymond) Phillips — This is a character carried over from the original version of Forgotten Son written back in 1997, although he was called Phil Raymond back then. He’s not much changed since his original iteration, except that now he’s a moderately successful author haunted by his past. But still the childhood best friend of or lead character. Oh, and he’s forty-one years old.
  • Owain & Louis Vine — Seventeen-year-old twins. These two came out of discussion between my publisher and I, as he felt I needed some younger people in the book, two characters who were polar opposites in their core beliefs. One who wanted out of the village of Bledoe and into the bright lights of London, and the other who never wanted to leave Bledoe. They’re also my way of having a tongue-in-cheek look at the misconceptions surrounding twins, a task made very easy by the fact that they’re based on two twins I know, Owen and Damien.
  • Charles Watts — A late addition to the book. Another seventeen-year-old, he was created to be the pull for Louis, to ratchet up Louis’ desire to leave the village. Charles is from London, and a teen who’s fallen into the relatively new skinhead movement. Being from London he also serves as a direct link to the events going on in that city, and a way to anchor the early Bledoe scenes with the larger story.
  • Thomas Hamilton — Big player in the larger story, but there’s little I can reveal about him without spoiling the series. So, moving on…
  • Sally Wright — At the start of the book, and thus the series, she becomes the fiancée of the lead character. She’s also Hamilton’s assistant. Beyond that, there’s little more I can say for now.
  • Walter Douglas — Best friend of our lead character, and has been for just over nineteen years. Which, of course, means I can reveal no more about him. Yet.
  • Mabel — Mary’s neighbour in the small village of Coleshill. Barely a cameo character, but chances are she’ll return at a later date. Named after my paternal grandmother.
  • George Vine — Father of the twins, and a typical gruff ex-military man. Concerned by his son’s behaviour, but is more likely to be at the pub joking about it than actually doing something about it.
  • Mrs Vine — She doesn’t have a name yet. Mother of the twins, typical housewife of the 1960s, also concerned about the twins but understands they’re young men and so she tends to give them their space. While quietly fretting about it.
  • Ahsen Khan — A Hospital Attendant (or orderly, as they’re usually known in the US) at St Mark’s Hospital in Harrow. From Pakistan and named after an old school friend of mine. Only a cameo role, and a way to allude to the institutional racism of the 1960s.
  • Alf & Ralph — Two brothers in their mid-fifties. Delivery drivers who move goods and supplies for the NHS. Bicker a lot, with the elder (Ralph) often teasing the younger (Alfie, as Ralph calls him). Only a cameo role.
  • Henry Barnes — Landlord and owner of The Rose & Crown pub in Bledoe. Easy going chap who welcomes anyone into his pub, except ‘nancy-boys’, who he has no truck with that at all. A nod to the institutional homophobia of the 1960s, especially among older people. Believes men should be men, and won’t stand for all this ‘long hair nonsense that the young men seem to go for so much these days’. Like George, he’s every bit a man of his time.

And so those are the players thus far, with a few notable omissions, of course. A bit of insight into my thought process behind creating characters and naming them, and a few non-spoiler hints about the story. 🙂

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