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Matthew and Me

I’ve been asked… what are the similarities between Matthew Swift and me?


Let’s begin with the obvious differences.  I am not, at last checking 1. Male 2. Magical 3. Hearing voices in my head.  I do not have any grudges against higher powers, or even interactions with higher powers unless we count my local authority and when last I checked, violence was not a solution.  I feel I should clarify these major points right now, and save confusion later.

Then there’s the similarities, and make no mistake, like all good scribbler I have similarities with my characters, meant or otherwise.  We both love Thai food, for starters, and find it very hard to say no to a free meal of any nature.  We’ll both try most things once, but will be extremely suspicious of some of the things we try as we try it.  Arguably this latter trait is more of a blue electric angels thing – being less used to the world around it they are willing to give stuff a go, but can’t quite believe what it is that the world has on offer as they do.  We have both been caught playing in playgrounds when there aren’t any children around.  Again, this is arguably a blue electric angels thing – I like to naively think that I share a sense of wonder with the angels, albeit not so many of their psychopathic tendencies.

And of course, there’s the biggy.  Our voice.  I know that my written voice is often quite similar to that of Swift.  In fact, so is my spoken voice.  It’s not something I’m ashamed about, or worried about – it’s a fairly natural side-effect of spending too much time in one character’s company.  Indeed, there’s a bit of a chicken-egg thing going on at the moment in that, over the years, I’ve started to get confused as to whether something I say is a Swiftism, or whether Swift would merely sound a lot like me under those circumstances. A lot of the time, it’s simply a question of logical extensions.  I logically believe that, faced with half the things Swift is faced with in his daily life, there’s only one of two options – complete breakdown or a bit of a shoulder shrug.  Since a breakdown wouldn’t exactly advance the narrative, Swift tends to shrug his shoulders and deal with it which is, I’m afraid, precisely what I’d try and do in a tricky situation.  So it’s not so much about whether I want him, or don’t want him, to sound like me – if I have a choice I aim to keep my characters as far away from the ‘real me’ as I can, hence the male/sorcerous/psycho thing – I simply don’t know of many other ways to write a sensible response to a situation.

There are some differences.  We’ve already mentioned the psycho-thing, and the blue electric angels, I hasten to add, in their more whacked-out moments are very not me.  Swift, having more tools in his arsenal than I do in terms of sheer special effects, as well as rather more challenging situations, can also be far more blunt and, frequently, demonstrate the emotional IQ of a concussed carrot.  He’s not what you’d call a softly softly kinda dude, whereas I, for all I rant about gender equality, have caught myself plenty of times being a damsel in distress if I think it’ll get me that drill bit I need or an extra five minutes in the lighting gallery.  It could be that this is, in itself, a gender thing – men don’t really have the option on eyelash batting and while I’m hardly genteel feminine specimen 101, I am frequently frustrated by how much better the response is to me if I come across a little flustered and feeble more than outright demanding and assertive.  Hypocritical?  Quite probably…

He’s also a slightly shifty narrator in that, if he suspects something but isn’t sure, he’s as unlikely to tell the reader as he is anyone else in the story.  In a sense, that’s something we share – if I’m not 100% sure of the ground I stand on, I’ll tend to chose the option of shutting up over anything else.  However, if I am sure of where I stand, I’ll tend to talk at great and gesture-prone length, to the point where really, I should probably try mastering the skill of shutting up a little bit more.

On which note, I think I will take this paragraph break to observe my own advice, and slip away back into the electronic ether…