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Saturday, 20 June 2015

Behind the Text 4 PHOENIX

Long Live Internet Publishing

Last time I described how the first Jonas Forbes thriller was written way back in 1977 and then abandoned. It lay nestled in a drawer awaiting resurrection for 30 years.

Go forward to 2009 and I decided to launch the original as an e-book, toning down some of the original ‘sex & violence’ and fitting it more firmly into 1965. It was to be part of a series for which I'd produced short plot outlines – over time the series became extended & the plot lines amazingly distorted when 1 actually started writing. Three characters appear in virtually all the thrillers – Jonas Forbes, Vanessa Holmes nee Clarke & John Wyatt. The first story actually written finished up as 11/16 and that meant problems, especially as the others were not written sequentially.

If you go down this particular ‘primrose path’, it doesn’t quite lead to ‘destruction’ but here are some of the pitfalls I fell into & how to climb out, perhaps:

One character married twice so don’t get the wrong spouse in any book.

 One character married and had 3 daughters. Get the details correct.

 People’s abilities change with the years.  Get the details correct.

Careers develop. John Wyatt (aka me!) moves from Detective Sergeant to Detective Chief Superintendent between 1956 & 1973 so make sure he’s at the right level. I think I may have over-promoted the man!

 The same character may appear in several books (e.g. Tim Ripley or Lt. Boykov) but beware of all the above problems.

 Societies, including institutions, politics, personalities and history, change over time so don’t get muddled.

So how might you limit the effect of problems like the above?

Work sequentially. If I’d started the series in 1965 Jonas would have had a much shorter career & I‘d  have had far less fun with the research. So I rejected what’s usually the wise policy.

Keep DETAILED analyses of key characters. I ‘know’ where Jonas went to school (more than 10 years in front of myself at a school in Croydon), his early jobs, his physique, habits & preferences etc.

Produce a list of characters in each book including EXACTLY where they’re described & key events. They MIGHT reappear further along the line & this is essential for checking details..

Keep notes on details of the settings. In my case, for example, it included accounts of sections, leaders etc. of both the KGB & GRU Soviet security systems over the period.

Note down minor details to drop into the narrative. In my case, these included Che Guevara’s command of English, the 1958 French railway system in 1958, Mafia terminology, phrases in a variety of languages & UK TV in 1959. The internet has made such research (exciting in itself) all much easier.

I seem to have gone on for far too long. Next time, I’ll look at the first book chronologically in the ‘Jonas Forbes Saga’ and how it DOESN’T fit in with the others.
N. B. In this Blog individual books in passing may be identified as BOOK 7 etc.
which link to lists in every book.


Bob Hyslop

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