10 Day Book Challenge: Day 3
So I’m up there, Piso 2, in the dark, at the laptop. It’s lower on the desk than my London screen so I hunch over. I have to lie on my back twice a day and push back my shoulders to prevent my old RSI from returning. You train for these big finishes like an athlete; no alcohol, careful eating, workouts, breaks between long hours of focus. For what?
A crime novel – an entertainment for readers, that much-maligned and misjudged group, many of whom don’t even consider themselves ‘readers’ because they sometimes choose to read a murder mystery over, say, the new stream-of-consciousness Booker winner.
They say a detective storyÂ gets from point A to point B, from problem to solution, mystery to clarity. Today I seem to be stuck at Point Q.Â Reason? I’m trying to spend as much time on my lawless characters as my police officers. Trouble is, I know the members of the PCU inside out and they interest me, but for me villains are less Â fun to write.
Then I think of two fascinating ‘bad’ characters, one real-life, one fictional. Anton Chigurh from ‘No Country For Old Men’ was defined with just a few broad strokes but worked as a shark works, sleekly and dangerously.
And Michael Peterson, the reluctant star of ‘The Staircase’, the best documentary yet to be shown by Netflix, offers us a puzzler: Could this fundamentally good man possibly have killed his wife? You form a cast-iron opinion in the first episode and remain to the end because of his intriguing character (you also form a very unfavourable opinion about the US justice system, but that’s another story).
This is how extreme ‘villains’ can be, from 100% cartoon evil to entirely decent and human. It’s all about perception, so what happens if you turn perception on its head? That’s today’s conundrum, but if I decide to do it, I have an awful lot of text to change.
Back at the book I’m on target word-wise, but it’s at the expense of scenes that need to be more than just bridges. I’ll go back to them later and refine. I have a lunch date, so I run uptown, past Barcelonans leisurely dining in hipster cafÃ©s and think, ‘Why can’t I be like them, lingering over a sherry and a cortado? Why am I doing this to myself?’
It’s not for the money; I’m paid a fraction of what I earned in my old film industry job. It’s not for the company; I work alone whereas before I hung out with a big group of writers and artists. I do it because this is what I do and by now probably all I can do.
I’ve had my walk and I’m back at the laptop, trying to make Bryant sympathetic and annoying in equal measure. Next I need to flesh out the murderer’s character – a much greater challenge. Whenever I tire I take another walk. I’m not going to post all ten days – I’ll dip in and out when there are developments.
Some think that ‘just writing’ (as my taxi driver called it) is a fey pastime for dreamers rather than a serious job of work his. Right now this is as tough as manual labour.