I had a flash of inspiration about my new book, and I have American musician William Beckett to thank for it!
I went to see him at the Immortal Bar in Bangkok last Wednesday. My daughter is a huge fan so I was on chauffeur/bodyguard duty. Like all good dads I kept out of the way and stood at the back while she hugged the stage.
The show was awesome. He’s one hell of a performer and I can see why my daughter is a fan. He’s got a website HERE. He’s got that magical way of connecting with an audience, plus he’s a terrific musician. Reminded me a bit of David Byrne of Talking Heads, but that’s me showing my age!
I had a great time and the audience loved him. Anyway, about midway through the show he decided to explain how the last chord can change a sad song into a happy song.
I’m no musician, but I got what he was saying. And he showed how by playing one sort of chord you felt happy, and another sort of chord and you felt sad - no matter what the words of the song were. Again I’m no musician but it sounded as if the happy chord was going up and the sad chord was going down. He did both versions and I got it right away.
That got me thinking that the same sort of thing applies to books. (And I guess movies). You can have the saddest story imaginable but if you can end it on a happy note than the reader comes away with a good feeling. And the thing is, I really need that for the book that I’m just about to start writing. It’s the fourth in the Jack Nightingale supernatural detective story and it’s going to be dark. Really dark. So dark that I worry that the reader might come away so down that it’ll spoil the book for them.
But Bill’s technique solves my problem – if I can have an uplifting final few words, it can reverse the whole feel of the book. So for the first time in my writing life I’ve written the ending first! And if I’m right, it’s pretty much how it will appear, word for word, in the book when it’s published in February next year.
Anyway, here’s the ending of my next book. All I have to do now is to write the first 100,000 words!
‘I’m not sure that I can live with what I’ve done, Mrs Steadman.’
‘You did the right thing, Mr Nightingale.’
‘Even so.’ Nightingale shrugged.
‘I might be able to help.’
‘I could make you forget. It would be as if it never happened.’
‘But it did happen.’
Mrs Steadman nodded. ‘Yes, it did. And because it happened the world is a better place. But I can take away the memory.’
Nightingale forced a smile. ‘You can do that?’
‘I can do pretty much anything I want,’ she said. ‘Providing my motives are pure.’
‘Then I think I’d like you to do it,’ he said.
She tilted her head on one side. ‘It’s done,’ she said.
‘You’re an angel, Mrs Steadman.’
‘So they say, Mr Nightingale. So they say.’
And here's my daughter with the man himself!