Wednesday, December 9, 2015

W is for Wasim, my Nile boatman

Paula remembers the night a character created himself.

Late one night (because that’s when I usually write!), I was up to Chapter 3 of my story set in Egypt. Ross had invited Neve to visit one of the Pharaohs’ tombs in the Valley of the Kings. I needed to get them across the Nile to the West Bank from where the cruise ships are moored at Luxor, and thought they would simply catch one of the motorboats that go back and forth across the river, and off they’d go into the Valley.

Instead, I wrote this:

At the end of the gangplank, Ross turned and held out his hand to help her onto the uneven stone steps. His touch sent delicious thrills to her nerve-endings. Part of her wished she could leave her hand within his firm grasp. Instead, self-consciously, she withdrew it when they reached the quayside path.

“How are we getting across to the West Bank?”

“I always use the same private motorboat. Elvis should be moored along here.”

“Elvis? Is that the name of the boat?”

Ross laughed. “No, the boat owner. His real name’s Wasim, but he sings Elvis songs all the time—and I do mean all the time.”

When they reached the white motorboat with its green awning, Neve grinned at the name on the bow: Heartbreak Hotel.

Ross shook hands with a slim Egyptian whose dark hair was gelled into Elvis’s unmistakable quiff. “So what are you going to sing for Neve this afternoon, Elvis?”

The young man considered for a moment. “I think I have good song for Miss Neve.”

He helped her onto the small boat, and she sat on the cushioned bench at one side, facing Ross. Wasim gunned the engine into life and turned the motorboat towards the West Bank. Then he started to sing Elvis’s “Teddy Bear”.

She smiled at Ross. “I’ve never been serenaded on a Nile crossing before.”

He grinned back. “There’s a first time for everything.”

Her heart raced and she drew in a deep breath to steady herself. Just because he had a captivating smile was no reason for her to react like some love-struck teenager. She had to control her unwanted response to his male attractiveness before she made a complete fool of herself.

When Wasim finished the song, she applauded. “That was great. You really do sound like Elvis.”

Ross chuckled. “Oh, now he’s your friend for life.”

Wasim brought the boat parallel to the stone quay on the West Bank. “Shukran, Miss Neve. I try to get job at hotel as Elvis singer but no one want me.” He turned to Ross. “What time for return, Mister Ross?”

“Five o’clock, Elvis, no later. Neve’s ship sails at six.”

“I be here.”

I think it was at this point that I stopped and blinked, and actually said out loud, “Where on earth has he come from?” I had no intention of creating a Nile boatman who sang Elvis songs, but there he was! He kept popping up in the story as a minor character, and in the end, I liked him so much, I decided to give him a larger role in solving the mystery that formed the main sub-plot – or maybe he’d already decided that, and was simply waiting for me to find out his later role in the story!

Have you had any characters 'appearing' that you didn't expect? And did they demand a larger role in your story?


  1. I just had a young security guard appear. He's more setting than character, but he'll get to be seduced by the ex-fiancee, and I hear she's pretty good at that.

  2. I love the singing boatman. The fact he sings Elvis songs in the middle of Egypt is so makes him even better.

    I guess the character that 'surprised' me the most was when Zach's brother Van (Who got a miniscule mention in Zach's story.) demanded to be the hero of my Christmas story. Surprised the heck out of me.

    1. Debra, I have no idea to this day why he sang Elvis songs - that just 'happened' as I wrote this scene. It could have been any other singer, but my fingers typed Elvis, and I never even thought of any other singer!
      Love the character who demanded his own story. I'd never thought of a 'series' until my publisher suggested one of my characters could have her own story.

  3. I have to admit I've never had characters turning up who've demanded a story of their own, or even a part in another story. I wish I had. I've had stepbrothers but their parts were deliberate. Maybe I need to look out for these characters?

    1. Margaret, I bet you have dozens of secondary characters who would love you to write their story!

  4. Replies
    1. He's one of my favourite secondary characters :-)

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    1. Thanks, Carol! Definitely a case of a character inventing himself and insisting on a bigger role in the story :-)