Good Reading : November 2010
28 goodreading ı NOVEMBER 2010 behind the book you left for the reader? I always prefer to hold back a little. Create the suspense, paint the scene and let the reader's imagination interpret what happens. Once I have the general plot in my mind, I like to know roughly what the ending is going to be. But how I get there and what subplots, problems and characters start to develop is the great unknown. Sometimes the subplot threatens to hijack the main theme and then you have to make a decision about what to do with it. I like to keep open my options about how my main character might solve the problem.You should always strive not be a lazy writer and take the first idea that presents itself. It's a bit like chess: when you've found a good move, wait -- there may be a better one. I find it useful to keep a spreadsheet going on each chapter so I can easily track what's been happening with characters and storyline. It saves a lot of pain when you discover the guy you ran over in a hit-and-run is suddenly working out in the gym two days later. Idoalotofmywritingonalaptop commuting on the train to work each morning and naturally you get people stealing a peek over your shoulder. While writing Silk Chaser I was doing a lot of web research into serial killers and noticed people sitting next to me on a crowded train suddenly leaving their seats and giving me all the room I needed. Every new book uncovers topics that you realise you'll need to do more research on. I like to conduct my research interviews in person whenever I can, usually at the person's work location, because you pick up the sights, sounds and smells, all of which helps to make for more powerful writing.There's a scene in Silk Chaser where I needed to describe how police produce those 'wanted' images you see in the newspapers. I thought I had all the information I needed until I talked it over with an artist. Then I realised I could write a much better piece if I changed it around a little and described how an artist actually went about their work.The brand of pastels they use, the size of pad they draw on, the way they use their fingers to soften the edges.You can pick a lot up by simply observing an expert in their own work environment. I also had a scene to write for that book concer ning the archives of the racing museum. Now that's a pretty easy thing to do in your head, but I went down anyway in my lunch break and was rewarded with perfect character material; two elderly volunteers at a table poring over historical records. I could just imagine them taking ages to get through their task and 'borrowed' them as old teapots, doddering along, frustrating a police inquiry with their complete lack of haste. Not knowing about a subject has never put me off writing a certain scene. I always take the view that there's nothing you can't find out about. The trick is to make it believable. I'm now writing a book about an arsonist and I interviewed an expert on bushfires. It was fascinating watching him in a café as he described a fire. He'd use the salt and pepper shakers as props to show the spreading flames, and a knife and fork to demonstrate how a wind change shifts the fire front. Sugar bowls and coffee cups became the fire's victims.You pick up a lot from talking to people like that and they usually open up and want to make sure you understand all the details. Of course not all your location shots have to be exhaustively researched. As akid,Iusedtogetmyhair cutbyan old-style barber in Glen Huntly. The guy used to smoke while he cut your hair and when he tilted you back in the chair, you could look up and see the yellow stains on the ceiling caused by years of smoke. I don't know if that barber shop is still around now and even if it were, I'm sure I'd be disappointed. Fresh paint would have long ago covered any evidence of smoking, but in my mind, I don't ever need to find out. I want to remember it just the way I first saw it, the way Punter sees it when he gets tilted back to have a shave. Silk Chaser by Peter Klein is published by Pan Macmillan, rrp $32.99. Watching the form at Randwick Racecourse, Sydney. Photo: Alison Aprhys You should always strive not be a lazy writer and take the first idea that presents itself. It’s a bit like chess: when you’ve found a good move, wait – there may be a better one.
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