Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Day Eighty-Six: 21,731 Words

1,055 words. Five pages. All man.

Kept going with the autopsy scene today, though I didn’t quite finish it. The examination of Cole’s body and Sydney Bessette’s sudden departure segued unexpectedly—but nicely—into an unplanned discussion between Dow and Doctor Greystone where the stakes of the investigation are more fully developed. It’s nice. Did some developing that I hadn’t quite thought to do so early.

Stakes are important to a novel, and they have to be raised periodically. It’s what keeps things going when the reader’s interest can possibly begin to flag. Now, at the center of A Body Up the Well, I have the inherent primary conflict of Cole’s murder and the resulting investigation to solve it. The stakes are basic: If Dow and Bessette don’t solve the murder, the killer goes free.

That can carry things for a while, but—after too long—one begins to wonder why so much detail and attention is being dedicated to a single murder investigation. The response is to make things bigger. To give the characters more reason to get the right result, and to increase the scope of the investigation. I raise the stakes. In this case, it’s by introducing the central conceit of the novel that Cole’s death is the first murder in space. It isn’t just a human tragedy, it’s a brewing PR nightmare for everyone involved, and it becomes an even larger one if the detectives don’t catch the killer.

So, that’s what I’ve done in this conversation. I’ve introduced Dow, who is largely ignorant of the history of space exploration, to the idea that this is the first murder, that it is a Big Deal. It explains why the head of the local UN Security Force is partnering herself with him full time, and it raises his personal investment in an investigation that he has, thus far, largely viewed as something of an annoyance. It’s enough to carry the story a little bit further, until the reasons for Cole’s death begin to emerge and the narrative’s stakes and scope expand again.

 

-Sean

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