For me, three key elements support a conventional narrative, each critical to the recounting of a good tale.
- The characters. Love them or hate them, they must be interesting enough for the reader to want to know how their story pans out.
- The world in which they live. Location isn’t enough — that’s a two-dimensional thing. A world is about more than looks. It has atmosphere, aromas, weather, temperature, a feel for the way locals respond to the changing seasons. It’s important to me that this is unique to the story. Or to put it another way, if you could pick up the narrative and shift it from Venice to London or even Rome then I’d feel I hadn’t quite got this bit right.
- Events. The challenges our characters must face along the way in pursuit of the resolution. Events, again, that should often be unique to the world in which they take place.
Every conventional story, be it crime, thriller, horror, sci-fi or mainstream novel, sits on that structural tripod. What makes each different may be the balance between the three. In one of those breakneck, read-in-a-flash thrillers which The Medici Murders isn’t, events are often uppermost, a series of non-stop shocks and twists designed to get you to rip through the book at top speed.
But here I’m focusing more on characters and the unique world that is Venice. There are plenty of twists and turns along the way. But I also want to transport the reader to those dark and cobbled alleys during Carnival, to let them smell the salty winter air, relish the cicchetti and the bitter-sweet taste of spritz, to become absorbed in one of the most extraordinary cities on earth as a very Venetian mystery unwinds around them.