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of clockwork men

Character studies

Trying to avoid spoilers. Really.

It was suggested last week that I talk a little about the three (or two) characters at the heart of the story. I’ve spent a good few days thinking my way through overarching structures, devices and storytelling motifs, and have, truth be told, not dwelt on the core of the story itself at all. This was, even in the first drafts, about people. People in an extraordinary situation, and how they dealt with that (one badly, the other worse), but people nonetheless. The decision that starts it all, the moment that Matthew steps up, steps over and then off, and begins what will happen, is about his humanity.

(Can you tell I’m trying my best not to give any of the plot away?)

So, let’s start some character studies.

Matthew starts the story scared. Very very afraid. He’s looked into the corners of his life, and seen inside the cupboards everyone else has the good sense to keep tight shut. What propels him there is explored in a set of files within ‘primarycrisis’, (including ‘waking nightmares’, ‘recorded’), which reflect on the beginnings of the story played out across all three sites. It’s hard to talk about Matthew without giving too much away, but it’s important to plant the suggestion that he’s not a victim of events, rather he’s the big question that doesn’t get asked until you get back to the beginning. By that point, you’ll have seen the effect of his decision, and almost certainly the eventual solution to it too, but ‘why’ won’t ever have been answered.

Telling Matthew’s story in reverse though, was an interesting choice. I can pinpoint the moment I made that decision (it’s written in a small notebook with ‘plans for world domination’ printed on the cover), and it arose because I had trouble working out how to make his story interesting as a linear narrative. Matthew is gone from the text after the first few pages, linearly speaking, but he never really leaves the stage. Removing my protagonist worked when the story was written as a cause and effect narrative, but done this way, as an exploratory study of three people and the decisions they make, it made more sense to leave the reveal of why Matthew does what he does (and the nature of what that act was) to the end of the reader’s experience. That was difficult to ‘plot’, and although I’m still happy with the decision to tell it that way, it was largely responsible for the ‘no solution’ problem with the text.

What happened fifteen years before the story ends is the subject of the ‘primarycrisis’ act.


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