Where characters come from (2): conjuring demons

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file000328629752 telephone boxMum wanted a private word with me. I was barely five years old and we were huddled in a telephone box. Although I believed every word of the tall tale I’d just told, there was something very wrong with it. It tasted bad and I didn’t like it, unlike the taste of the chocolate I’d just eaten, the chocolate that, when we’d been in the shop, mum had said I couldn’t have. No, I didn’t like the taste of the story that came out of my mouth, the story that explained how ownership of the forbidden chocolate had happened to come into my possession. It was the lady, you see. The old lady. The old lady in the grey coat. And grey hat. It was the old lady in the grey coat and grey hat. The old lady in the grey coat and grey hat who was wearing grey gloves. The lady with the big handbag. It was she who gave me the chocolate. Just as she was leaving the shop. That’s why no one else had seen her. And that’s why we couldn’t go back to the shop to thank her. Because she wasn’t in the shop anymore. And she must have gone somewhere else because she was in a very big hurry, and that’s why she had seemingly disappeared into thin air. But I’d seen her. And with every word that left my lips, I saw her more clearly. And it was in that telephone box, with my mum trying to get to the truth, that I had my first glimpse of the difference between
fiction and lies. That was the day, for the first time, I knew what guilt tasted like. It was also the first time I met one of the many characters who help themselves to any space they can find in my imagination. It was the first time I met the elderly lady, dressed in grey, the elderly lady dressed in grey that anyone who reads ‘Strong as Death’ will meet.

Mrs Malloy pic

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10 thoughts on “Where characters come from (2): conjuring demons

    • Thank you. And I agree about those amazing places. Where I meet my characters, how they introduce themselves, the places I find them lurking and stalking, never ceases to surprise me!

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  1. You drew your characters from your real life experience! That’s curious. I’m writing a book (already 10,000 words) with the cast of characters from my university days. I changed only names and I hope nobody ever finds out.

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  2. Well, I guess if your university friends ever read this, they might guess! Strangely, many of my characters do have their roots in reality (by no means all of them,though), but reality has only ever been a starting point, and,often,it’s only after I have written a character that I realise I’ve met them somewhere before. As for the elderly lady in grey I describe above, I have only ever made her acquaintance in my imagination …

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