You may have noticed the gap between my previous blog and this one. Let me explain.
Are you sitting comfortably? Because I'm not and that's where this begins. At the start of 2018, I fell down three stairs at home. Such a small number and yet it had such a massive impact. Despite numerous doctors' appointments, physio sessions and special cushions, I still haven't returned to the heady days when I could walk through the park without a second thought, when I could dance without wincing and when I could sit in front of my laptap, writing a blog without needing a break for some stretching exercises. Pain saps concentration and rips schedules asunder.
It's been five months and I haven't been completely lax in that time. I attended Crime at the Castle - a fabulous day at Glamis Castle with brilliant talks/workshops and the best menu I've ever had at any conference! I might have been taking painkillers in the break and may have had to spend the next day in bed recovering from the winding staircases but it was worth it: Chris Longmuir; Michael Malone; Denise Mina and Lin Anderson were just some of the highlights.
From a writing perspective, I have written more chapters of my novel. I have tentatively planned the next five books in the series; and I have started squirreling away articles and research for the next book.
I've also recently started editing and playing with the structure of my novel. Plot cards are being moved around faster than the fabulous card scene in Now You See Me 2.
True crime documentaries always evoke questions - about innocence and guilt; justice and truth. But The Staircase has raised more questions than most. Not least because one of the editors entered into a relationship with Peterson once filming had ended. That relationship has thrown a spotlight on to the narrative process. Would a different editor have framed Peterson's story differently? Can viewers spot a bias towards innocence in the scenes included? What about those tantalisingly unknown scenes that must have been consigned to the cutting room floor?
For an aspiring crime writer, the debate around The Staircase is as important as the details of the prosecution. The Staircase shows that life can be messy and surprising. It also illustrates that an audience demands certain conventions to be followed. They don't want to feel their sympathies are being unfairly manipulated or that information is being withheld.
Like a magician revealing his tricks, the relationship between The Staircase's editor and its subject has revealed the wizard behind the curtain. It's a welcome reminder, as I sit surrounded by plot cards, to look again at where I'm directing readers, at whether my first few chapters represent the road I intend them to travel and if I have balanced the different story strands correctly. Of course, it's perfectly acceptable to have an unreliable narrator or to misdirect readers if that's the author's intention.
Just as I've learnt how to take care where I place my feet on steps, I'm also learning how to be sensitive to where I place my characters and plot points for maximum impact.
As for my view on Mr Peterson? The last few months have taught me how quickly and easily a fall down a small number of steps can cause an injury. However, life has taught me that men like Mr Peterson are not to be trusted.
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