December 8, 2009


So they asked me to tell you why I wrote THE GOOD GUY, which is not as easy to explain as, say, why the last car I bought was a Ford.

I wanted to write a story with a runaway-train pace, involving mistaken identity. In the first chapter, the lead, Timothy Carrier, is in fact twice mistaken for the wrong man, putting him in such a harrowing situation that, I hope, the reader is firmly hooked.

In this case, the story hook might more correctly be called the seed. Usually, a writer grows his plot from such a seed. Because I don’t outline, I instead concentrate on a swift pace and on growing a character who charms and intrigues me.

By the end of chapter one, I need to have affection for the lead if I’m to let him (or her) take me on a journey. Once the character comes alive, he goes places that I never would have imagined in a sterile plot outline.

From characters grow themes and subtext. I’m not interested in a novel that is about nothing but story. The characters, by their actions and beliefs, because of strengths and weaknesses, soon reveal to me what the novel is about under the surface.

One of the themes of THE GOOD GUY is that the quality of a person’s character inevitably shapes his destiny even if he would prefer to retreat from that destiny and lead an eventless life. As Timothy Carrier, says: “Things have a way of happening that force you to be what you are.”

To emphasize this truth, I did not use traditional methods of character revelation, no back stories in narration or in dialogue until late in the text. All the characters have secrets. My hope was that readers would warm to the characters based solely on their actions and reactions, and become so delighted with them that the succinct back stories, when they came, would have emotional power.

This is also a book about our ability—or inability—to know evil when we see it, and about how we can be distracted from genuine threats by false fears. This is a book about the importance of living every day as though it is the most important day of your life. As Albert Camus said: “I shall tell you a great secret, my friend. Do not wait for the last judgment, it takes place every day.”

That is why I began to write THE GOOD GUY. After two chapters, I continued to write because the twists and turns, the surprises, the love story, and the comic moments kept me entertained. I have a low boredom threshold, and I have been known to throw away a half-completed novel manuscript if it doesn’t grip me. I sob a lot, but I throw it away.

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