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#GNU Terry Pratchett

William de Worde

This who's who originally appeared in issue 84 - April 2004


At the start of The Truth, William de Worde is a reasonably well-off, educated young man who's good with words. This skill lets him earn a living doing odd writing jobs for those Ankh-Morpork residents who have trouble expressing themselves on paper - i.e. most of them - and sending a monthly roundup of news and events to well-off, interested aristocrats who no longer live in the city but want to keep informed.

William can become determined and defiant in pursuit of a story, even to the point of facing down Vimes and Vetinari himself

The turning point comes when William discovers (abruptly) a new dwarf invention, moveable type. Discworld devotees know that several well-established bodies, such as the wizards, the priesthood and of course the Guild of Engravers, are vehemently opposed to printing, unless it's done by carving letters into a block of wood. This is slow, arduous and expensive. It's easy to understand why the engravers might not like the idea of high-speed, cheap printing catching on. The wizards and the priests, however, seem to be motivated by superstition, unwillingness to share knowledge and perhaps a fear of being caught out by documentary evidence.

As in so many of the recent Discworld novels, though, the march of progress can't be stopped (despite efforts from certain quarters). William's news sheet, the Ankh-Morpork Times, proves phenomenally popular; so much so that it very quickly acquires a competitor, the more down-market, sensationalist Ankh-Morpork Inquirer. A close-fought circulation war ensues, fuelled by William's determination to get to the bottom of a plot to oust The Patrician.

There may be a lot of Terry's personal experience in William's story. We know Terry worked on local papers for a number of years, so he was probably exposed to more than his fair share of aggrieved members of the public or people wielding hilariously-shaped fruit and veg. The journalism in The Truth is alarmingly convincing and the parodied newspaper articles could, with a few minor updates for the modern world, appear in several tabloids today without causing undue comment.

William himself is a sympathetic character. We know he is a great disappointment to his family, particularly his fiercely conservative father, and this sense of failure or injustice gives him much of the drive he needs to pursue his ambitions for The Times and truth and fairness in general.

Interestingly, although generally inoffensive and good-natured, William can become determined and defiant in pursuit of a story, even to the point of facing down Vimes and Vetinari himself - within reason. There is an extra dimension to William that makes him one of the most satisfying, enjoyable characters to read about on the Discworld.