This weekend I was supposed to be going up to Chichester with a group of my old friends and cracking out a few Desperados in the summer heat. We had a full plan to play cards till 3 o’clock and listen to heavy metal all evening, but sadly, it was not to be, because at 4:30 I suddenly collapsed with nausea and was sick, and from then on it only got worse. I was up until 2 o’clock puking my guts up, and I’m pretty sure I’ve pulled a few muscles in my stomach. I could barely stand this morning, though now I’ve had something t eat and am up and about. I have no idea whether it was food poisoning, a bug, or just plain bad-eating with all the pressures of work, but either way, I was in no state to party. I told them all to go on without me; I genuinely hope they had a cracking good time.
Because I was mostly tied to bed I thought I might as well try and do something constructive. While being inspired by ‘The Best American Short Stories 2007’, edited by grand master Stephen King, I finished writing a story in which I revisited an old character from The Darkest Touch for the first time in a year and a half. I don’t normally revisit stories once I finish them. I’m not into trilogies or series (though I make an exception for Game of Thrones as it’s stunning), and generally my stories are short. The longest novel I’ve written – a fantasy epic – clocks in at 106,000 words, which is still relatively average compared with books like The Stand or The Once and Future King.
However, in this instance, I felt like this character had another adventure in them. It’s set in a completely different world to that of The Darkest Touch – and at many times it borders on the surreal – but I couldn’t have written this story with any other character than this one. As I was taking this character on their new journey, I found myself rewriting a whole lot of my perspectives. I began to realise that I’d created this character as a personification of all kinds of nastiness I perceived in myself – and their destruction in the novel was my act of getting rid of it all. But of course, you can’t just destroy parts of yourself. It’s not a healthy thing to do. And I also realised that some of those traits I perceived as ‘nasty’, had actually been useful survival tools at different stages of my life, and just like Smeagol, I owed a debt to the ‘Gollum’ for keeping me alive.
So I decided to re-create the character, revealing new pasts and histories, exploring new dimensions to their character and motivations that made me realise certain truths about the very different challenges in my life currently. This character had their own kind of honour and courage, and I needed to show that. I made them a hero – in a twisted way. By the end of the story I liked that character, I was being entertained by them, rather than repulsed by my own creation like Frankenstein, and I actually felt pretty good about myself as a result.
If the story ever finds a home, I’ll let you know. To be honest, it’s probably more therapy than anything else. So, for now, I’ll just leave you with a piece of advice. Sometimes revisiting something old isn’t lazy, it’s an essential part of re-discovering yourself. If that sounds arty-farty, you’re probably right. It is. But arty-farty is good if it helps you get through the rough patches.
And if there’s no Desperado to hand.
Anyway, adios for now amigo. Thank you.