Spy Novel: small detail to make believable

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Spy Novel: Character building

Today I was puttying the gaps in my spy novel. Not that my hours have been productive volume wise. More importantly I’ve fleshed out many small incremental details of my characters and environment that compound to help layer a believable story over. I may not use the fact my protagonist never checks the use by dates when buying food, or he hasn’t opened the glovebox in his car (I’ll ask him tomorrow). However, today I used a story from when he was ten. He drew in the family’s atlas housed behind glass doors in the dining room’s cabinet with permanent marker. I also discovered he likes to mock his landlord’s Boston accent.

No detail is too small it can’t be deleted during a re-write, or the editing stage.

I also focused on the streets where some of my characters live: near a busy intersection? Do kids play on it? Underneath a flight path? What about streetscape: types of trees (colours, leaf pattern (?), evergreen or deciduous), the smell of upturned garbage cans. What are the neighbours like? Is it one-way, any roadworks, pot holes, quirky bends or features (one character carved an entrance through a hedge large enough to drag a set of golf clubs through to the 7th hole opposite his house – goes to the heart of a man). Typically I add more detail after the first draft. Like drawing a figure. First you might lightly draw an outline of a pose and add some muscle bulk to see how it looks. You don’t want to slow down your idea by concentrating too much on, say, an ankle. Your focus is pulled back–forest, not the trees–so you can visualise how your story fills the page. Later you might go back and only draw the ankle, if it’s a worthy enough ankle.

Today I looked up restaurant and fast food menus to see what local cuisine is popular (or not), the cost, and trading times – can’t walk in and buy a 12 inch meatball sub from Emilio’s at 1:28 AM when they close at 1AM, or order an Obama on rye across the road from the specialty deli, beer and wine place until they finish serving breakfast.

C. Hubbard