Flatland 11

Flatland - an unfinished String City manuscript

Being the eleventh in a series charting the writing of a new fantasy detective story.

A good session this morning. I’ve doubled my word count to 6,000 and most of what I’ve written feels pretty tight. Having cracked the mysterious opening, I’ve written a couple of scenes in my detective hero’s office. In the first he starts puzzling out the case solo. We move into the second when the janitor turns up, giving our hero a foil to bounce his ideas off and a friendly ear to hear the story of how his wife died and why he never goes home. Good backstory this, and added depth to the PI’s character.

At the same time, he’s obsessed with Pheme, the femme fatale. I’ve only just noticed the similarity between the words Pheme and femme. Complete coincidence – I chose Pheme for its mythological roots (check it out). But it makes me smile. On the subject of Pheme, before I started in earnest this morning I did a quick ‘sexy pass’ over the seduction scene, making sure I was taking every opportunity to turn up the heat. For example, I took this …

She pulled the robe tight about herself again.

… and turned it into this …

She applied the robe to herself again.

I love tinkering with the prose like this, real micromanagement. I’ll do these ‘passes’ at all kinds of levels, usually one at a time. If a scene needs to be sexy or scary or whimsical, review it purely with that single quality in mind. Make every word count towards that goal. With these detective stories, I’ll do several ‘hard-boil’ passes – that means cutting things down to the pith, dialling up the noir.

So things are moving nicely. Next up is a brief passage where our hero and his new friend Edwin the janitor explore the apartment building in search of the kidnapped Pheme, with no success. In the course of the search they spot something outside, on the horizon of the flattened city, that’s a clue to her whereabouts. To solve the case, they’re gonna have to go there. Could be dangerous, possibly messy.

A final note. I have know whodunnit, and have a vague idea how they’ll be caught. But I think I’m missing an extra twist. I’ll conclude the story without it and thread something back in once I can see where the gap is. Sometimes you have to write backwards, you know?

Read the complete Flatland diaries:

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