Whenever I write a book, it goes like this:
– Have idea
– Start writing
– Get to end of first two chapters
– Be stumped
– Come up with plot
– Still be a bit stumped
– Eventually have a revelation where I think of that One Good Scene that brings the whole thing together, gives it its voice, etc, and will probably be other people’s favourite bit
– Finish the book.
Obviously that sequence is followed by:
– Wait for feedback and reviews
– Wait some more
– Inject Smirnoff into own temple
– Lose three days
– Wait some more
– Howl at the moon
– Contemplate entire existence, self-worth, and just the very point of living
But that’s for another blog. Today I want to talk about the revelation/One Good Scene part.
With The Boys of Summer that was the scene with Richie’s dad in the garden, and the one glove, because for me it summed up everything about being a male parent back then (or maybe even now) where it’s not considered proper for you to have emotions, or feelings, or to connect with your kid. And then that brings about the later scene where his dad tells him what’s what about life, finally.
With Girl Afraid, it was a different thing. It’s an action/horror book, so what I needed was a big set piece, and that turned out to be the last chapter, where it all goes a bit Line of Duty season three finale. Once I had the ending, I went back and wrote the rest.
Sweetness Follows, I went back to the formula of the first one, obviously, so my revelation/Eureka moment for a scene had to be about characters/feelings again, not shoot-outs and gore. My main character wasn’t as likable as Richie, so I needed to connect you with him, and the way to do that was to soften him. He’s not as expressive as Richie either, so the commentary about how he’d changed as a person had to come from someone else, so it comes from Ciara, in the nightclub after the Battle of the Bands, and it’s only a few sentences really. But once I had that, I knew I had my book.
A Certain Romance, I had to take a character who does really heinous things, all the time, and make people like him enough to maybe root for him, or at least to keep going with the book until the end. Obviously that was always going to be a struggle, and no matter how I did it, people were still going to hate him, or give up, or whichever; that’s par for the course. It’s not a conventional book in any sense, so I was taking risks, fully knowing that they were risks. In the end, the way to make him resonate, was to show you him getting his heart broken, because we’ve all had our hearts broken. And I didn’t do it with some dramatic fight or blow-up, I just did it with a single word from someone, which I think is far more devastating. Your mileage may vary.
With More than Words, well I’ve been struggling to find that one scene for months now. The rest of it is fine – it’s funny, it’s not too boring, the characters are lovely, but today, on a little walk, I thought of the exact scene that’ll turn it from a fun little Oirish romance novel into something that belts you in the belly and leaves you affected for a good while after you’ve turned off your Kindle. Because that’s basically what I’ve tried to do with all the others, so it would be a shame if I didn’t do it with this one.
PS. I promise it’s not a scene where I kill someone.
Thanks for reading this. All three of you.