I, Witness

I’ve been mulling over this blog post for a while, letting the thoughts and ideas crystalise. It has sat, words clamouring for attention, in my head, waiting.

I also wanted to give people some time to read ‘Witness’ in case I spoil anything. If you’ve not read it yet, then this post may not be for you. Also, go and read it and come back. I’ll wait. Maybe.

I wanted to do something different with this blog post and delve into my writing process, into the generation of characters, in the subconscious stew that prompts my words.

But first, let me set the scene.

I am on a train. There is a big grin plastered across my face, reflected in the windows, reflected in my iPad’s screen. The source of the smile is an email, received a year ago, come to fruition, and the fruits of that email sit in my hands. It is a short story, crafted, lovingly, by my hands, by my thoughts. I never thought I’d be writing this, but here I am and here is the final result.

The story is called ‘Witness’ and the author’s name is Joe Parrino, my name. It follows an officer of the Imperial Guard, fresh-faced, hungry for glory, scared of war. His name is Danel Prestoff and he is me.

A strange way for me to phrase it, but let me explain.

As I read my story again, I realised something.

Danel Prestoff’s fears are my own, reflected in fiction.

His uncertainties, his naivete, these are mine also. I wrote this story in a strange, unfamiliar place. The story was written back in September, started on one side of the globe and finished in another. My experiences, my feelings shaped those of my main character in ‘Witness.’

I was alone at the time, recently relocated to the United Kingdom. I’d crossed the pond, left family and friends behind, to attempt graduate school. I felt trepidation, uncertainty, all those things that Prestoff feels when he first descends on Margentum.

In the beginning of the story, in the true beginning, he is brusque, full of boasting, full of comfort. He is on his troopship, surrounded by his wife and daughters, by friends and familiar faces. War (graduate school) these are far away, in the distance; a problem for future Prestoff, for future Joe. These were my reactions before leaving for Scotland. I was home, with friends and family, leaving was a few days distant. I was full of nervous energy, ready for anything graduate school could throw at me. I was brave, brazen, bold. I could handle this.

Flash forward a few days and I was on a plane. The unknown started to buffet me, the first gnawing sense of doubt. This became Prestoff on his dropship, still prepared, but the doubt eats away at him. He panics.

The first few days in Edinburgh were filled with me keeping myself occupied, wandering around the city, gawking at all the sights. In the same way, Prestoff’s experience of war is one from behind Brindleweld shields, kept at a distance. The fear is still there, but it is hidden.

School begins and the true doubt sets in. I am ill-prepared for this. The readings, the coursework, all unfamiliar. The accents. The languages. So different from what I was used to in the US. Now I was truly down the rabbit hole.

This too is Prestoff’s story. As the Margentine War turns into a thing of horror, as they begin to lose, driven back by things they cannot fight. The essays, the readings are the xenos (*cough* daemons) in the story. They begin to overwhelm.

Then defiance sets in. This is something I can handle. This is something Prestoff can handle.

As the story goes on, of course, Prestoff and I separate. Our journeys differ. His ends in a dark place.

Hopefully mine ends in glory.


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