Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Fregoli Delusion: Progress Report #2

As I mentioned in my previous post last night, this week I began to write the third novel in the Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel series, The Fregoli Delusion, and I promised to provide a running commentary on my progress.

Today was a family-related day, so I spent less time than yesterday at the keyboard. As I mentioned in a much earlier post, I'm the primary caregiver for my remaining parent, who has Alzheimer's Disease. We've been fortunate to be able to arrange home care every day and now the amount of time I'm responsible for meal preparation, dispensing meds and so on has been reduced. Today I went over to the apartment and did the housework, vacuumed and cleaned the floors, did the dishes, prepared the meds for the week, went shopping for a few things missing from the fridge, then had a nice visit.

So today my output was only two pages. But I feel very good about it, and I'll tell you why. When I woke up this morning I felt terrific, energized. Although I knew a big chunk of time would be spent away from home, I also knew exactly what I would write today. I could feel it. I couldn't wait to get to the keyboard. The outline, you see, is my friend. It keeps the story living inside my brain like a shimmering, bright thread. It's like listening to your favourite song. An interruption comes and you press Pause, but the song is still bouncing in your head and when the interruption is over and you press Play, it carries on exactly where you left off.

I love this. When I'm writing a book, when it's Game On and the story is getting told, I feel very alive. Everything around me resonates. I turn on the radio and they're talking about something that catches my interest. I turn the pieces around in my head, wondering if I can fit them in somewhere. I see a face on the street and a character begins to stir in my mind. My brain is on hyperdrive and everything is fuel.

Today I began Chapter Five. This chapter is important in the early portion of the book because it will relate to a significant theme regarding Karen Stainer and her devotion to law enforcement. Karen is aggressive, tough, and self-confident but not everyone thinks it's a good idea to be a police Lifer. The Job can consume you, if you're not careful. Cross the line between cop and civilian, go too far, and you might never find your way back. Has this happened to Karen? This theme is part of the overall story arc of the series.

Chapters must begin well. Much has been said, in the context of literary agents and attracting notice, that the first five pages of your novel are crucially important. The axiom states that if the first five pages suck, chances are the rest of the manuscript will suck. There's a certain truth to this notion, at least as far as the corollary is concerned, in that if your first five pages are good, they set the tone for a good book. In the same way I believe that the first few pages of each chapter must also work well. They must establish the tone of the chapter, identify clearly to the reader what's happening next, and bring them right into the fun.

This chapter finds Hank Donaghue arriving at a particularly horrific crime scene in Chinatown where a home invasion has resulted in four homicides. It will turn out that the case belongs to someone else, but Hank is there to support one of his detectives, who is in distress. I needed to set the proper tone. I only got two pages in, but I found the tone. Short sentences, few modifiers, steady movement forward. Tomorrow is a full writing day, and the rest of the chapter should get written. We will see.

As a teaser before I go, I should explain the basic premise of The Fregoli Delusion.

Fregoli Syndrome is a rare delusional misidentification syndrome, or DMS, in which a person believes that they are being persecuted by a someone who assumes multiple disguises while stalking them. In other words, they have a paranoid belief that a specific person, say John Smith, has it in for them. They will see someone else on the street, a stranger or even someone they know, and believe that this person is John Smith in disguise, plotting to do them harm.

So what would you do if you were a homicide detective investigating the murder of a very important person, you had a single witness who saw a man running from the scene and no other concrete leads, and you were told this witness suffers from Fregoli Syndrome and his testimony is worthless because the man he has identified is the person he believes is persecuting him? If you're Karen Stainer, that is, and your gut tells you the witness is reliable, despite what everyone else says?

Stick around. You're going to want to read this one when it's done.


  1. It's been a really long time since I read a crime novel but your premise is so interesting. I hope the writing goes well. I'm going to take a leaf out of your book and focus on my writing and leave the blogging for the evening.

  2. Thanks for the best wishes, Lan. Knock on wood! I hope your writing goes well, also. I'll keep checking on your blog. m