He came into my life when I was seventeen and I can remember the night like it was yesterday. It was raining and I really should have been revising for my AS Levels but I was having ideas, as I often do. I sat down at my computer and then he was standing there in front of me, almost but not yet fully formed. He was a rough street kid from the wrong side of the tracks, from a town eerily like the one I myself grew up in (though a bit further north.) I instantly knew all about him; what he liked, what he did for fun… The only major thing I didn’t know about him yet was where he actually came from, what his background was, but that would emerge soon enough. Then came his first words: ‘ARE YOU AN IDIOT? FOR GOD’S SAKE RUN!’ After only a day or two of writing it became clear to me that this guy was going to stick around. He wasn’t going to flutter away on the breeze like so many others before and since.
It is now nine years later and yes, he’s still around. We’ve hardly been separated since that night. We’ve been on one heck of an adventure together and at times I have found myself thinking that I know him better than I know myself. I know how he would react to any given situation, what he’d say and do. And ever since he came into my life with everything I have done he’s been two steps behind, almost with me but not quite. He’s become like a friend to me, my best friend in a way. The trouble with that is that he isn’t real and never will be.
That hasn’t stopped him from feeling real though. A lot of writers get this as it happens. Dickens used to say that his characters frequently demanded his attention, demanded to be written about. They took on a life of their own. That is what happened with Will. That rainy night when I was seventeen he stepped out of my computer screen, from the pages of what was then a television script, and it was as if he was alive. He’s been demanding attention ever since. I haven’t been able to stop writing his story. I’ve been through it all once already, as a TV series, and when that fell through he found his proper home (and subsequently flourished in a way he never would have done otherwise) as a character in a book series. The latter, mysteriously, has made him more human than ever. I suppose that is because before he was just made up of dialogue and actions and now he’s all sorts of tics and foibles and some very deep, complicated emotions. I really thought I knew the man before starting the books but then he really went and showed me who he was. I knew everything before but now I know everything, if that makes sense.
In real life we would never be friends, or I don’t think we would anyway. That’s probably a good thing because he’s actually a twat. He isn’t a nice guy overall. He’s destructive, he throws home made explosives around like they’re toys. He uses people for his own ends (in various ways) and if he really doesn’t like someone he’ll either beat them up or make their life a misery. There is also his mile wide arrogant streak to be taken into account. He isn’t very likeable in real life but on the page he comes across as just that, likeable, weirdly. You can’t help but admire him when he’s on the page whereas if he were real a lot of people would only see him for the arrogant douche he is.
And one day, quite soon, our time together will come to an end. I have just two and a bit books left to write and then we’re done. It’s the end of the road, the end of the adventure. It is hard to admit that we’re closer to the end than the begging but that’s the way it is. We’ve come to the start of the final act and are almost at the curtain call. To tell the truth, I thought this once before but this time it really is the end. Where do I go from the books? If ever there is another TV version I certainly won’t be writing it. One day in the near future we are going to have to say goodbye and that makes me sad.
This week I’ve been revising the second book and going through it he seemed so young, not just in age but in his attitude and his temperament. As a character he seems young. He lacks the experience and the wisdom that he gains later on. It shows how far we’ve come and it’s like looking at an old photograph of someone else. It’s very strange and hard to believe they were ever that person. The experience and wisdom he’s gained, I suppose, is mine as well. Just as he is with me in my life I am with him in his. Everything he goes through I am right there with him; every battle, every heartache and every turn of the screw. I know what is to come of course; the final battles, the losses and the ending which is going to break not just Will’s heart but probably those of a lot of readers as well. All that is waiting… It’s almost over but we’ll finish things together, just like it has been since that rainy night when I was seventeen.