There is a delicious early stage in the process of writing a novel in which I meet the cast. By that I mean that the main characters are starting to gather shape and substance.

I haven’t yet thought of a title for the new book and the plot is still nebulous in my head, but with this one I’ve decided to first pick a location, then the lead characters and only then to cook up the details of the plot.

So, it is set in Renaissance Venice and my main character is a detective called Dante Logetti. These facts established, I next start to work out who Dante is, his background, who his associates are as well as the hue of his enemies.

I like to fill pages and pages with notes about my lead characters. I sketch out their childhood, schooldays, interests, family histories, tastes, and secret pleasures. 90% of this never appears in the novel itself, but it is essential because, through this process, I get to know my characters. If I know them I can judge accurately (I hope) what it is they would do under stress. I can anticipate their reaction to whatever is thrown at them.

It’s only when I have this stage done that I can think of all the terrifying and life-threatening situations I can throw them into. I think you’d agree, it would be unfair to do that to them without preparing them first!

Michael White. Sept 2012.

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