FOOT OFF THE GAS, I THINK NOT!
Naughty, naughty, but I decided to take my foot off the gas this week. I’d finished the first draft of a brand new novel and was at that point where I was double-checking research with a police officer before allowing the story to ‘cook’ before picking it back up, re-reading and discovering all those flaws that you’re simply too close to spot in an early draft. As far as the day job went, having finished one major critique for a client, I was reluctant to rush straight into another piece because it was a second and key read of a novel that I much admire and it was essential for me to come to it with fresh eyes. There’s a common theme here: cool objectivity. When you work with words every day, you can easily become ‘worded out’.
All that changed within the space of a few Monday morning emails when my super eagle-eyed contact in the cops revealed a gaffe in the last third of my novel. If I were honest, I’d spotted it too but, in the interests of drama, had turned a blind eye. It wasn’t so drastic that I couldn’t rejig the penultimate scenes prior to the big finish, but it did take a little thought and fresh application to achieve a level of authenticity without losing pace and tension. As I worked it out and translated each scene to the page, what I feared most – screwing up an edgy narrative – disappeared. In fact, the story improved exponentially. It’s currently ‘stewing’ before I lift the lid to take another peek.
Back to my week of sloth, I caught up with friends and family, and read a sizeable chunk of Patricia Highsmith’s ‘The Two Faces of January,’ now a major film starring Viggo Mortensen. I hadn’t read it before. In common with ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’, a psychological thriller that revolves around three main characters, the main players in ‘January’ are conman Chester McFarlane and his young wife, Colette, and drifter and adventurer Rydal Keener. Highsmith’s talent for carrying the reader along with ‘warts and all’ characters is on full display. As each sparks off the other, it’s hard to know why we are sympathetic to them, yet we are, perhaps, because they are more like us than we’d care to believe. It’s something I touched on in last week’s blog when writing about Sally Wainwright’s ‘Happy Valley’. It takes a writer of great skill to get the reader onside with characters that are less than perfect, which leads me, somewhat tenuously, to the start of the World Cup.
Amid dirty play, dodgy decisions and yellow cards, who (and I’m no football pundit) could fail to be caught up in the drama of last night’s match between Brazil and Croatia? When Croatia scored the first goal, care of it bouncing off Marcelo Vieira, I surprised myself (and my family) by jumping up from the sofa and punching the air. I watched rapt as Neymar made his mark by scoring two goals for Brazil. He also made his mark on Luka Modric by delivering a swift, sneaky elbow to the unfortunate man’s face. As in fiction, real-life loveable characters sometimes behave in less than endearing ways.