Layers of Life

Winter has arrived in the Shire and it is quite the adventure. I knew it was going to be cold up here, considering that summer was cool and pleasant but I completely underestimated the coldness of the house. The thick old walls were designed to keep everything (and everyone) cool throughout the scorching Portuguese summers, which means the cross ventilation is a killer in winter. Much as Cherry and I tried to tide the coldness over with just blankets, there came a point where the fireplace became a nightly necessity, and so did the heater in my office during the day. Either way it is a slow death, either close your eyes and use up the pellets (which have almost tripled in price since last year) or mess up the electricity bill. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. So I wear layers of clothing, wrap up in blankets, and have a hot mug of something next to me while I work.

Layers of Life ©FrogDiva Photography

Layers are important, not just in clothing but when writing a book as well. This week has been quite the roller coaster, weaving in and out of layers of the book and the minds of my characters. Needless to say, the more time I spend in their worlds, the more I love my main team. It will be hard to let go of them when this book is finished. But my point is that the complexity of a story is an intricate tapestry of interwoven layers. Each one has to be developed carefully, with attention to detail, in order for them to function well together. I think of it as a 3D puzzle, where you have to form the individual panels first before you attempt to assemble the structure. It’s not just the story layers, but the personalities of the characters as well. They have an intimate core that only few can reach, then their individual professions and then comes their role and power (or lack thereof) in the story.

I project a lot of myself my characters, and this is emotionally draining. They agonise over a decision, so do I. Their pain is mine – after all, I created it. But it is like living in to different worlds at the moment, and sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night wondering whether I am in my own bed or in the middle of one of the chapters of my book. When I wandered into the hardware store the other day, when passing the tools section I didn’t stop and admire as I usually do, but contemplated each item as possible instruments of torture. I felt myself wondering whether other crime authors did the same thing, but I can’t imagine going about it any other way. I need to hold things in my hand and well the weight and my body’s reaction to them in order to write about them, or place them in a character’s hand. I am a tactile writer, and need to touch before I can translate into words. This is also why I avoid writing about places I’ve never been to. Layers of life that translate into layers of fiction.

Layers life life, love and friendship. They are my word, world and work. You need to put in the work in order for them to transcend into words and create worlds. Nothing happens overnight. Anyone who tries to rush through the journey of life will inevitably stumble and fall. Take the risks, seize the day, savour the flavours, and find your fire.

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