Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Creating a Believable Psycho by Colin Mulhern

    •  Clash, published in March 2011, is Colin Mulhern's first book for teenagers. It tells the story of  Alex, a young cage fighter, who goes off the rails when he witnesses a brutal murder and cannot fight anymore; and Kyle, a talented artist.
      When I first began writing Clash, it was meant to go off in a totally different direction. Alex Crow was just the school nutter – a cardboard cut-out character whose only real job in the story was to chase Kyle. He was someone to be afraid of, someone to run from. At the time, the story was purely from Kyle’s perspective. But bit by bit, Alex came to life, and as he did so, he brought a whole load of baggage with him.

      It all started with making Alex small and thin. I thought a bog-standard bully was a bit boring, so I changed the description. But in doing that I found that I had to justify why he was so scary to the other kids. I had to work out what was going on behind those eyes. What I ended up with was a snowball effect, where each reason I came up with filtered into the story line until the whole background of cage fights and his Uncle Joe blossomed. What began as a simple, uninteresting baddy suddenly began to muscle his way into the story until I reached a point where Kyle was battling for space on the page. That’s when I decided to put them up against each other and see how they’d do.

      In those first drafts, I never really knew what to expect. Having someone like Kyle stand up to a psycho like Alex is great for a story, but for a writer, asking yourself how a normal, quite nerdy kid like Kyle balance out chapter space with a cage fighting psychopath, is a far more interesting question - and a difficult one to solve.

      I think that’s what made Clash so interesting to write. It was a constant battle. The only way to keep the fight balanced was to deepen the boys’ characters with each successive chapter.

      Looking back, if I’d never expanded Alex’s character, Kyle wouldn’t be a fraction of the character he ended up. But that’s what writing is really about – trying to find a way to make your invented character come to life, to stand up on the page and become real for the reader.

1 comment:

  1. Great stuff! I've found I'm doing much the same with a story I'm writing at the moment. Once you have a bully, you have to see why they are a bully. And then you have to go deeper. It's fascinating.