Chapter 4 was hard to write. It’s main purpose was to explain what had happened to Mike and Lauren Gates, but in the end I took a page from the book of the great Hitchcock (and later, Spielberg): it’s scarier when you don’t see it.
The chapter largely follows Kane as he wakes on a normal morning and moves towards the eventual knowledge of his parents’ demise. I started with rats in the ceiling – partly as an homage to Lovecraft and partly due to having had the same experience of rats in the ceiling myself. Then it was important to introduce some of Kane’s recent past, so we feel we know him as a person. Originally the reference to the break-up with his girlfriend was pretty concise, but over time I decided I needed to focus more on Kane as a macho larrikin (misogynist, if you like), and January Bell expanded as a character. As did his bad treatment of her. In essence, I moved January from being a psycho ex, to someone who is just reacting to being treated badly. Later, at the end of the novel, Kane’s realisation of this becomes part of his redemption.
The rest of the morning provides more background to Kane as a person. By the time I got to the detectives arriving, I was panicking a bit about what they would say. I didn’t want this to be too cold or clinical, and I didn’t want Kane’s reaction to be too cliched. You can see this in the time it takes from the first knock until Kane answers the door – that’s my procrastination as much as Kane’s!
When the door opens, my mind goes blank. So does Kane’s. And the two detectives’. So they all stand there, trapped in a tragi-comedy. To break this, Dylan appears at the top of the stairs. At this point, the Hitchcock/Spielberg factor kicked in, and I realised that the reader already knows how this conversation/reaction goes down. We’ve seen it enough on TV and in movies. I don’t have to write it. “Leave it to the imagination of the reader,” says Alfred. “Jump to Chapter 5, in which Kane and Dylan are dealing with the news after the fact,” adds Steven. “That’s much more interesting.”
Great idea, fellas! How can I ignore the advice of two of the greatest film-makers in history?
And so we leave Kane and Dylan to deal with the tragic news in private.