It’s not easy to write a novel. Any writer will tell you that creating characters, developing the plot, providing closure and all of the other elements of storytelling can be challenging. And that’s not to mention things like editing and revising. But don’t let any writer (including this one) fool you into thinking there’s no enjoyment in it. There are some scenes, characters and events that are fun, or at least enjoyable to write. And that enjoyment can definitely come through in a story.
For instance, of all of the books and plays she wrote, Agatha Christie is said to have most enjoyed writing Crooked House. As she put it,
‘Writing Crooked House was pure pleasure…’
It’s clear from the novel too that she took special enjoyment in creating the story. In this novel, wealthy patriarch Aristide Leonides and his much-younger wife Brenda live with several members of their family in Three Gables, the family home. When Leonides’ grand-daughter Sophie returns to Three Gables after World War II, she finds that her grandfather has been poisoned with his own eye drops. Sophie’s fiancé Charles Hayward knows that she will not marry him until the matter of who killed Leonides is settled. So Hayward is strongly motivated to do some sleuthing. As he gets to know the various members of the family, he discovers that several of them had a good reason to want Leonides dead. This novel (in my opinion, so do feel free to differ with me if you do) has all of the ingredients that made Christie’s work so well-regarded. It’s easy to see how much she enjoyed writing it.
In Michael Connolly’s The Lincoln Lawyer, we are introduced to attorney Mickey Haller, who works out of his automobile and travels to visit his clients. In this case, the client is Hollywood playboy and real estate dealer Louis Roulet, who’s been arrested for rape and murder. On the surface of it, the case looks clear-cut, but the more Haller digs into it, the more possibility there is that, as unlikeable as he is, Roulet is not guilty. Connelly has said that he enjoyed writing Haller’s two ex-wives. One is deputy district attorney Maggie ‘McFierce’ McPherson. The other is Lorna Taylor, who works as Haller’s assistant. According to Connelly, the fact that these two women still like Haller, maybe even love him, shows that he’s got some redeeming qualities. And it’s clear that Haller respects them too. The marriages may not have been successful, but the relationships have, and it’s obvious from the way Connelly has developed these characters that he likes them.
In Patricia Stoltey’s The Desert Hedge Murders, retired circuit court judge Sylvia Thorn is reluctantly persuaded to go on a sightseeing/gambling trip with her mother Kristina’s travel group the Florida Flippers. The group has plans to visit Laughlin, Nevada, and all goes well enough at first. Then, the dead body of an unknown man is found in the bathtub of the hotel room shared by two of the Flippers. Shortly afterwards, another member of the group disappears and is later found dead in an abandoned gold mine. Partly to protect her mother and the rest of the Flippers, Thorn looks into the case and together with her brother Willie, she finds out how the two deaths are connected and what’s behind them. In one scene in the novel, Thorn, her mother and the Flippers have arrived at the Oatman Hotel in Oatman, a famous ghost town near the gold mine. They’re getting off the tour bus from Laughlin when Thorn suddenly finds herself surrounded by a group of the burros that make Oatman their home. She has another encounter with the burros later in the novel. No, the burros don’t attack, and they don’t have anything to do with the murders, but they add to the story, and I’m pretty certain it was fun to write about them.
In Anthony Bidulka’s Flight of Aquavit, Saskatoon PI Russell Quant gets a new client Daniel Guest. Guest is being blackmailed because of some secret relationships he’s had with other men. He hires Quant to find and stop the blackmailer and Quant begins to look into the case. The trail leads to New York, where Quant crosses paths with another PI Jane Cross, who lives and works in Regina. Neither is particularly enamoured of the other but as it turns out, the cases they are working on are related. So like it or not, Quant has to interact with Cross. In the end, and after a murder, Quant works out who blackmailed his client, who killed the murder victim and how Jane Cross fits in. Here is what Bidulka had to say about Jane Cross:
‘I enjoyed writing her character, especially as a foil for Russell.’
And that’s clear from the novels in which she appears. Cross is smart, interesting and absolutely unafraid. The interactions between her and Quant are sometimes tense and unpleasant, but they are engaging and sometimes really witty.
And then there’s Angela Savage’s The Half Child. That’s the second in her series featuring PI Jayne Keeney, who lives and works in Bangkok. In that novel, Keeney investigates the death of Maryanne Delbeck, who jumped (or fell, or was pushed) from the roof of the Pattaya hotel where she was living. The official police report is that Maryanne was suffering from depression and committed suicide. But her father doesn’t believe it and wants Keeney to look into the matter. Keeney travels to Pattaya and goes undercover at the orphanage/child care home where Maryanne volunteered to try to get some answers. Along with finding out what really happened to Maryanne, Keeney also finds out some very ugly truths about the child care facility. In her personal life, Keeney has begun a relationship with Rajiv Patel, who manages his uncle’s Bangkok bookshop. Throughout this case, Patel proves to be very helpful, so much so that Keeney re-thinks her relationship with him as well as her view of her work. At the end of this novel, Patel finds a way to surprise Keeney. That scene is not just fun, it’s moving, too, and I have it on very good authority that it was
‘…great fun to write…’
And that’s clear when one reads it.
Part of the reason that writers keep doing what they do is that despite the challenges, it can be a lot of fun. And when an author enjoys particular characters, scenes and so on, that comes through clearly in the story. Do you see that too? Can you tell when an author is enjoying himself or herself? If you’re a writer, which scenes or characters have you had the most fun writing?
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Sheryl Crow’s All I Wanna Do.