Character-ful: In My Head

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Jun 13th, 2011
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Richard Pierce is an author, poet and artist living in a small English village in Suffolk, following on from his interview with my writing partner Mel, I was inspired to think about character and the way we interact with our characters. A natural progression of this train of thought was to ask him about one of my favourite characters.

There’s an old man in my head. He’s been there since 1989. He’s a character from a book of mine which will probably never see the light of day, but he’ll never go away. He’s become too much a part of me.

At work, one day, in that year, under the neon lights, struggling with tiredness, new responsibilities, new everything, I scribbled down a title, Tettig’s Jewels. I still have the piece of paper somewhere, in a box not yet unpacked from my last house move, and not due to be unpacked until after the next one. Then, under that, I wrote Dick Tettig. No idea then who or what he was to become. So the unformed spirit of Tettig stormed around inside me, bugging me to define him, to give him a real life, not just an abstract presence.

At home, I turned on my green-screen PC, and started writing without knowing what I was writing. And there he was, the man in the big coat, the old face under the Trilby, brave and afraid, world-weary and excitable, hair grey, with the heart of a buccaneer and a pirate, an eminence grise with a history none of us could live long enough to experience. At first he was a bit of a joker, a bit of a fly-by-night, a crusty old reprobate who took nothing seriously. But he grew into what he would then always be – an immortal, an embodiment of a spirit, a physical manifestation of all our souls, with all their vanities and frailties, doubts, fears, sins, and goodness.

I wanted Tettig to be old, so we can all hope to live our lives to the fullest. I wanted him to have sinned and search for forgiveness, so we can all hope for redemption. I wanted him to be immortal, so we can all hope for immortality. I wanted him to be universal. He took all those wishes of mine and became even more rounded, became all I wanted and so much more. He became my hero and my alter ego, my father (now sadly dead), my brother (I never had one), my best friend. And now, even now, he guides me often.

Besides the rough details of stature, gait, and clothes (old-fashioned, rumpled and elegant), he has no particular facial features, because he just is. Even my wish to have Simon Callow play him if ever a film of the book were made is not because Callow looks like Tettig (or vice versa), but because Callow is a good enough actor to fit the character.

The Tettig books were always intended to be a trilogy. I have no idea if it will ever materialise. But while I wait to see if it does, if ever life gives me enough time to write something that might never be read, the old man Tettig is here, not just inside my head, but in my heart, at the very centre of me, living some mad adventure of his own making, determining his own dialogue, his own reactions, and changing the world, making his own choices. Because, honestly, he chose me.

Richard Pierce, Author




1 Comment

  • Mel

    Thank you, Richard, for your warm and wonderful writing style. I adore your warmth and honesty, and how real Tettig is in your heart and mind. I wish you continued success with your writing career, and look forward to having you guest on My Ink Project many times in the future.

    Warmest regards,


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