Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


I wonder...when a story's being told in first person, how descriptive can you really be? The fact is, the guy who's telling the story isn't always going to pay attention to his surroundings. But at the same time, you want the reader to have an idea of where he is and how it appears. I was able to strike a balance in "The Lyons' Den" because Ace was telling the story, and he's a pulp detective kind of guy who used snide asides to describe things -- like Tad's SUV being a Cadillac, the kind that looks like an ice-breaker, or ceilings that vanish into darkness to give a place a Gothic feel, even though it was more Frank Lloyd Wright than Wilkie Collins (Gothic mystery writer of the mid-19th Century who never met a word he couldn't use a dozen times in one paragraph).

I'm wondering this because Vinnie's first real job once he's out of high school is in a bank, so he went into a long detailed discussion of how it looks. But would he even care? He's an 18 year old kid in New York in 1968 who's more interested in girls and making some cash than what a building looks like. I'm wondering if I'm being untrue to the character?

I had that happen with Bobby in "Bobby Carapisi." He's a jock who loves playing baseball and loves his wife, and she'd be the one who would decorate the house. But I want people to know what it looks like, so I had him only barely describe it and in stages through the books. Like it's in a gated neighborhood and had lots of space and a deck to sit on to watch the sun go down (he really loves sunsets). I think the reader gets the impression it's mainly white and open, even though I don't really say so. And he never describes his locker room or hotel rooms or even the cabin he and Donna escape to for a while except to say it looked like it was part of the hillside. I wondered if that was enough...and still do.

Looks like I'm having some of the same battles all over again. How much do I do of this and how little can I get away with on that. Must be this way on every book. I'm having it in "Place of Safety" but that one's using Brendan's sense of the details in life to work around it. When he finally sees his Aunt's home in Houston for the first time from the outside, it freezes him to the spot at how open and spacious the area is, compared to the hovel he and his brothers and sisters lived in. I guess each character works this out for himself.

Eventually, I'll be transferring a police-mystery into book form. It has a female lead...and I'm thinking of telling it in third person. I can't see it being told in first; it's too wide-ranging and I can't think of a cute way around the limitations of first person. That one will be relatively easy, I'm sure.

I took a nap when I got home and feel a lot better. That friggin' pie must've had something mean in it, or something I was allergic to. I'm still aching in the belly, a bit.

No comments: