Many an author is grateful for their world experiences, whether through career or travel. When I was at university I landed a rather unusual job working with a crew who ran the dry dock at Devonport, across the harbour from Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city. My job was to help work the pumps, grease the gears and help shore up the boats as they settled on the floor of the dry dock as the water was pumped out. I was about nineteen years of age at the time and never thought I would be able to use the experience in a novel. One day, while working on a chapter in my latest thriller, I realised how valuable my time in the dry dock was. It helped bring a chapter to life and give it authenticity—a measure of detail that few people would have.
I guess that writing is the sum of experience and observation? I am forever grateful for this part time, and very humble, work in the naval dockyard. The crew I worked with gave me rich memories that came back to life when I was struggling for ideas for my latest novel. All experience, whether a struggle or triumph, does count. It acts like building blocks for your mind, allowing original and creative writing to flow.
3 WISE MEN features real locations, real cafes, and real hotels , etc. in order to give authenticity to the novel. The plot is also plausible and based on a genuine ancient document.
The sense of place – places that reader have heard about or visited – was essential for me as a writer. In fact, one idea for the story was dropped – simply because it was a far-fetched possibility that our protagonist would be able to circumvent the security in place. I had checked it out carefully and realized that there was a slim chance of getting past the guards, but this was highly unlikely.
I hope the exotic locations and real places give 3 WISE MEN that touch of reality that I was looking for. Even the airline and train schedules needed to be correct. Some research took a while!
Finally, I was grateful to Galimard in Grasse for allowing me the rights to use their company name in 3 WISE MEN.
protagonist noun: protagonist; plural noun: protagonists
~the leading character or one of the major characters in a play, film, novel, etc.
~an advocate or champion of a particular cause or idea
In 3 WISE MEN, the protagonist is a scientist, and his breakthrough formula is based on a genuine ancient document. He becomes the victim of two unfortunate, and unexpected, events – both of which also cause him some headaches! Therefore, he is vulnerable and flawed, so readers will identify with him. He might well be the guy next door. This makes him ‘compelling’.
Our protagonist is caught up in a web of intrigue and danger. He must use his skills to get out in time to make his critical meeting. But, to complicate matters, he also has to deal with a lady who joined him on the train – and she is becoming rather ‘forward’. How forward will she get?
Perhaps our protagonist is also compelling because his innocent family gets caught up in his dilemma?
Oh, I will have to read more to find out!
Aha – the plot thickens! Well, so it should. I was once asked whether the plot for 3 WISE MEN was clear before I started writing, or did it grow as the word count increased? It is best to answer this in two ways:
- The two basic ideas were floating around in my mind for about 2 years.
- My wife and I visited locations in the south of France, but I did not start writing the book until we were taking the train from Nice to Paris a few days later. It may have been the sunshine, or the lovely swims in the Mediterranean that set the writing wheels in motion – or, it could have been the train wheels engaging with the writing cogs? Originally, I hoped to have the book largely written before embarking on the trip. This approach simply didn’t work for me. There are so many details that are needed for an authentic thriller, that I needed to see the main places firsthand. Here is one brief example of a cafe that we came across one day, but it was a Sunday and it was closed. So, we made a point of visiting it the next day, and it proved to be a great meeting place for Jak to catch up with an old teaching colleague of his. They both taught together at the University of Milan, which if the pinkish-red building on the left in this photo.
[novel extract: “His favorite café – the Bar Arcibaldo – was just across the street from the university entrance, and Jak was delighted to enter and finally shake off the cold air. Not only was this a good place to relax, but it was also an opportunity to enjoy the company of fellow university students and lecturers who frequently gathered here between classes and at the end of their academic day.] Note: “Nun Te Pago” means “Not paid.”
- When faced with a “what do I write next?” scenario, I tended to wait a few days until the basic ideas flowed. This was usually in the morning. Once I had the next step in the plot worked out I would type furiously to get it all down. Sometimes, things happened that I had not expected in the plot. Hopefully, neither will the reader be expecting them!