Friday 6th November - Day 2
Woke at 4.00am and spent a while considering the merits of writing in the present tense as opposed to the past tense. Drifted back to sleep. Idiot! Had to draft 200 words of text for an advert in a local magazine and was then bothered by a phishing call from a woman on behalf, or so she maintained, of Amazon. She wasn’t, though she was extremely convincing. By the time I’d dealt with all that, I was late at my desk: the grandmother clock chimed nine.
Spent much of the day working on character backstory development: a slow drawing back of the curtains which allows characters to justify their actions; a dribble and drip of information that accumulates into a pond of reference, that helps the reader understand the character. Most of the villains I’ve met, or have designed, fall into two categories: premeditated and spontaneous. The former is calculating – the career or serial criminal; the latter is reactive, the kind who acts without thinking and therefore relies on confirmation bias as a means to justify his or her actions. Whoever he or she is, it is also important to remember that your villain defines your hero; for without the one, the other wouldn’t need to exist.
When it comes to character development it is also important not to base your characters on people you’ve met, as this limits the breadth of their development. Perhaps it is better to derive them from compendiums of people you’ve known; that way you can add, subtract and alter as your narrative demands.
In the initial draft of Ontreto, I cast one of my central characters as the owner of a boat yard on Lipari, an island just to the north of Sicily. He came from the small village of Capistello, had wavy, jet-black hair and was known as Il Corvo, the raven. Before going to publication, I sent the manuscript to Ariana Longo who, along with her father, owned and managed the hotel we frequented. I asked her to read it through to ensure my colloquialisms were correct. They were. However, there was a snag. This man I had invented actually existed. What was I to do? I took advice from a friend, a lawyer for the Press Association. His advice: perhaps you’d best change him, rather than end up either on the end of a protracted lawsuit – the norm for Italy – or a bullet in the back of the head. Later, at the launch of the novel at the cultural centre in Lipari, Ariana introduced me to Il Corvo; at least that was both his sobriquet and the name of his boat. Angelo Plautillo was beside himself with anger: apparently, I had denied him the immortality my words on a page would have granted him.
The moral of this story is that when it comes to writing fiction, erring on the side of caution is prudent: ‘the raven’, therefore, became ‘the sailmaker’.
You couldn’t write it.
Ciao. Until tomorrow.