I can’t speak for other authors – I write because I love to write, but that doesn’t mean that people will want to read what I’ve written. So that leaves an interesting puzzle on the table. Write because I love to write, but create a story people want to read.
I started my career as an author writing action stories because, as a kid, I loved The Bourne Identity. In fact I loved it so much I read it all through high school. I mean it – I started in grade 8, and I finished it in grade 12. Needless to say, reading wasn’t my favorite hobby and I didn’t read very fast either. But once I read the book (finally, after 5 years), I knew I wanted to be an author and write my own stories.
My first novel was all about the plot and the action. Lost Soul – Immortality is a story that emerged from a dream I had, which resulted in chapter 1 of the book, and the rest of the story evolved from there. Still, I knew there had to be more to writing than just characters, action and plot. After all, you get to create characters that tell readers about your world. The world that exists inside your head. The world where your own constructs, opinions, colours and codes exist. So when I wrote my second book, and my first crime thriller, I tried something different.
Porter’s Rule: Slave to the City is a crime story with a difference or two. I started this one with no plot in mind at all, but a simple universal truth around which I wanted to build a story – No good deed goes unpunished. I chose the detective / crime genre to tell this story simply because it seemed to be the most popular amongst readers. The thread of the story is simple enough. Detective Matt Porter can’t help stepping in to save the victims of injustice, and in this case, the victim of bullying by the rich and powerful. To make the story more captivating, Matt Porter is resolute to stay single, and lives by his own code, his own set of rules. This sets the scene for a man wrestling with his own demons as we follow him through the story. One of his unbreakable rules is Rule 2 – All women are trouble. No exception. (Don’t hate me – it’s just a story). And of course, the victim of the bullying that he can’t help stepping to save is the beautiful Grace, with her long red hair and those sad and irresistible green eyes. What happens next – well that’s for you to read.
When you write, there’s a voice, a narrator’s voice, in your head as the story unfolds. But when a reader gets hold of your story, the narrator’s voice changes completely into the reader’s own interpretation of the tone, the pace, the writing style, and I always find it very interesting when people talk about scenes they’ve read, but have interpreted the narrator’s voice very differently to the way I wrote it. This becomes even more crucial in Porter’s Rule: Slave to the City, because the narrator’s voice is Matt Porter’s, the main character. The book is written in First Person, and this creates all kinds of challenges, but opens up limitless possibilities in terms of where you can take the reader into the world of the narrator. You can intersperse action with thoughts, conversation with opinions – basically anything that happens can filter through the main character’s lens and add a dimension of depth to the story. This part I found both challenging and liberating, because I could colour the reader’s perspective on the world through the cynical worldview of the main character.
One limiting factor, though, is that when the story is written in first person, you can never leave the point of view of the main character, so there’s no “Meanwhile, in Paris…” – if the main character isn’t there, the reader doesn’t know about it, which makes for a very interesting canvas to tell a crime story. You only follow the detective around, and you’re never in the camp of the villain, the antagonists or incidental characters. That main character is on camera the whole time, and he’d better be interesting. Very interesting.
A final note about writing, especially when you have kids – they think that everything is about you, so you’d better be careful what you say about your ex-wife! I found I had to act a very different role when writing this character so it wasn’t my voice in the book, but rather, a credible character, deserving of the role of hero of the novel. I really got lambasted for this in Garage Band (my third book, not part of this series, but also well worth a read) when the main character and his wife are described. My kids automatically assumed I was talking about my ex-wife and it took me months of explaining and convincing that I was trying to paint a picture of a man in a dismal situation that leads him to do what he does in the story and had nothing to do with their mother. I still don’t think they believe me.
And then there’s the plot. So you have a universal truth, a main character with his flaws, weaknesses, and limitations, you have the potential love interest, and then there’s the plot. Set in a fictitious town in California, Matt Porter is solving a case which turns out into so much more than just a crime story. I found myself drawing complicated diagrams, much like the ones you see on the whiteboards of Chicago PD just to keep track of who knows who, so I could develop a credible crime, real criminals, and a plot that wasn’t just like every other one you see in the movies and read in cheap detective novels. Every time I found myself about to write a cliché, I went back to the drawing board, and looked for another angle.
All this, I hope, makes for a very interesting read as the story doesn’t go the way one would predict, and the character develops intensely as you delve into the mind of Detective Matt Porter and his world.
There’s already a sequel to Slave to the City which launches early 2017, so for readers who get hooked, there’s more in store. Of course for the sequel, I had to make sure that the plot was entertaining, different, and engaging. Fans won’t be disappointed, until the end, when you’ll be banging on my door for book 3, which is being written as we speak. Well not right now, because I’m writing this article, but you know what I mean.
So, get your hands on Porter’s Rule: Slave to the City, and get stuck into the world of Matt Porter. Slave to the City is available at Exclusive Books, on Amazon for both the Kindle generation and in paperback, and from www.adamrabinowitz.co.za if you want a signed copy.