Unsurprisingly, Ricky won the next poll… so here is Part 1 and Part 2 of the TikToks I did for him!
Bramble Cottage appeared first in a draft of Pagham-on-Sea werewolf thriller Real Meat where it had a touch of Roald Dahl’s The Witches about it (I read that as a kid and being stuck in a painting really bothered me… I didn’t get the antisemitism of that book until much later). I wanted a painting of Bramble Cottage to have a moving figure of a woman in mourning dress who appeared in it sometimes, always in a different place. This became Lettie Porter, Ricky’s mother, in mourning for the children she would never have, and the ones she believed Ricky killed in the womb.
In a draft of a story called The Reckoning I introduced Katy as a character and had her cousin live in the cottage, although he didn’t see the future and he only had a second mouth and full head of hair. When I rewrote The Crows I liked the changes to the setting I’d made and wanted to keep them – so it made sense to overhaul the whole thing and add in the new bits and pieces.
(Katy’s mum is Lottie Porter, sister to Lettie. Lettie and Lottie are sisters in Agatha Christie’s A Murder is Announced, which is one of my most read Miss Marple stories).
When I decided Ricky was going to be a serious character rather than a side character, I had to develop him. I spent a really long time on this, because I wanted to use him to explore the logical extremes of some of my own prior mental health issues, and I gave him some other traits I had from the same time period, such as teetotalism. I seem to have also given him undiagnosed ADHD, which is less obvious when he isn’t trying to complete tasks on time, but the traits become more obvious later in the series as other characters interact with him and the stories become more plot-driven.
I wasn’t sure the second mouth alone would be enough, so I found inspiration in the Twitter avatar of the man I was seeing at the time (and went on to marry), and the tendrils were born.
Ricky is also, in many ways, a nod to where I grew up, and the lads on the bus to town, and ones I was mates with, but he’s primarily a grotesque caricature of myself from 2006-2008 moulded carefully into a three-dimensional character.
Film/TV Inspiration: Physicality & Physique
Ricky is 28 at the start of the series, but I think he reads a lot younger in The Crows sometimes. I didn’t want him to be like Callum in Tiger House (2015) but also that performance by Ed Skrein is very very close to the way I conceptualised Ricky at the beginning. The rage certainly, but that became more about his emotional dysregulation, and also the way Ricky oscillates between maturity and childlikeness, especially in situations he can’t control. Other influences from film/TV on his character include Ajax from Deadpool (2016), Eddie Brock in Venom (2018), Hjorr in Northmen (2014), where there’s a giggle that really got to me in his first scene, and Vinnie in S01 of Brassic (2019).
I didn’t want Ricky to be as tall as Ed Skrein or Joe Gilgun though: he needed to be imposing in other ways, especially reputation, so he’s 5’5″, about 2in shorter than Tom Hardy. That impacts the way he moves and sees the world, and boxing felt right for that. Ricky is shredded and lean in the first book, he moves like a boxer, but you don’t really see him fight with his fists. That was more based around Tom Hardy in Bronson (2008), and actual boxers, like Joe Calzaghe.
I worked in a gym at the time, and passed my Level 2 gym instructor exam, and it really bothered me (and still does) how you can mask disordered eating with exercise, and have a really unhealthy attitude to your body and with food if you ‘look good’. So, an intrinsic part of Ricky ‘looking good’ was that he starves and binges, and he mindlessly comfort eats stuff like insects, rotten fish, gone-off meat, anything he can get his hands on. Nobody’s called him out on it and suggested this isn’t good, because he outwardly looks muscular and sinewy. He’s physically strong. He loves that, and plays up to it. But his strict ascetic lifestyle is hurting him, and it’s resulted in disordered eating habits.
I knew I wanted his arc to be that he eventually gains quite a bit of weight, because that’s what can happen when you stop restricting and start trying to eat more regularly – the abs go, since he’s not maintaining them, and he does put more weight on through the series as he relaxes, his body changes as he ages, and he ends up being comfortable with that. He may never have a healthy relationship with food, but he hopefully will end up with a much healthier and balanced relationship with his human-passing body.
Personality & Problems
Ricky self-medicates and has social anxiety – he’s an introvert forced into the limelight because he can see the future (if he’s sober and not grounded in the present by contentment/enjoyment). His farsight makes him simultaneously a boon to the family and someone they come to for advice, and unable to form anything but transactional relationships with his family, who view him like a sentient cash machine.
He’s under-socialised and doesn’t understand how friendships work – he’s never really had any – and he doesn’t see his life changing. He’s had ample opportunity for it to change, but never taken it. ADHD is a lot to do with this, I suspect, because Change Is Bad And Scary. But it’s more than that, too; he can’t cope with the idea of moving away and starting over where nobody knows him, and he has to build his reputation from scratch. He mainly wants to be left alone, but at the same time can’t cut ties with his parents, whom he’s been slowly poisoning since he was 12.
Did I mention he’s also a cannibal whose hobbies include taxidermy? That’s pretty key.
Ricky is also both on the asexual and aromantic spectrums. I don’t know where he is on either, exactly. He’s mainly sex averse, but he’s had sex before (under the influence, in dubious consent circumstances, while in his teenage experimental phase). He’s canonically bi, even if just in terms of aesthetic attraction, which is very rare for him in itself. He might be aceflux? He doesn’t know, and doesn’t think about it, or interrogate it.
Those are the main points! I could talk about that lad for hours. Any questions about him or Fairwood House (previous #SpotlightOn post), drop them below:
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