June 23 2017

WIP #3: Dirty Fingers – Novel idea to screenplay

The plot


When Mark Farrow completes a seven-year prison term, served for the murder of his wife, he returns home to a vengeful community — a village clearly unwilling to forgive.

Discovery that his high-school sweetheart, Vivienne, has returned to the village during his absence offers Mark his only hint of optimism on a traumatic first day of freedom. This is brief, however, as he soon learns she’s now the wife of a newcomer — ruthless property developer, Keenan Devlin.

Conflict between the two men is inevitable and is triggered when the imperious businessman seeks to prevent Mark from going anywhere near his young wife. It quickly becomes clear that here’s a man who’ll stop at nothing to get his own way.

But Mark, too, is intractable. Not only does he realise Vivienne is painfully unhappy, trapped in a loveless marriage with a man she now fears, his prison term has served to toughen his already indomitable character. Rather than become deterred, Mark is bullish and obtains the help of two loyal friends to investigate Devlin’s shady business deals.

And so doing, enters dangerous waters.

As hostilities between the two men escalate with tragic consequences, events occur which cast doubt on the validity of Mark’s prison sentence. But if he didn’t commit his wife’s murder, who did? And will he get chance to find out and thereby prove his innocence before falling foul of his embittered and dangerous rival?

My own plot twist

While my literary path has taken unplanned turns, first into non-fiction, then YA fantasy fiction and screenplays, it had always been my intention to kick-start my writing with a thriller-type novel. This was to be it.

In this story, my protagonist is a man who seeks to start a new life as a landscape gardener, and who faces an antagonist involved in corrupt and illegal business practices. This led me to the title Dirty Fingers, which I extracted from an old English proverb:

He who deals in dirt has always dirty fingers.

Ditched mid-stream

I never did complete the first draft of my novel, and thirty-thousand words or so into it my enthusiasm fizzled out. Then, in a characteristic change of direction, I went on to write and self publish young adult fantasy novel, ‘The Door to Caelfyon’.

A change of direction

Not only was this switching of points mid-journey totally in-character, it was despite my initial excitement in the project. It was also regardless of the fact that I’d already sketched out the story in its entirety, all three acts, scene by scene.

I knew how events would play out, how I’d present and dramatise each scene, and I fully understood the sensual and emotional tools I’d use within each scene to create a dramatic page-turner.

It’s some time since I looked at the project, yet I consider the story to be a good one and one that I’d dearly like to tell.

Resurrection – and format switch

Since working on it, I’ve written three screenplays, of varying length and character. I’ve enjoyed creating them and they’ve allowed me to realise that, not only do I regard the medium as one of my favourite forms of writing, I do have what I consider to be marketable talent.

With this in mind then, I’ll be resurrecting Dirty Fingers in the coming weeks, blowing dust off my manuscript and life back into my characters. I’ll then recommence page one – only this time it will be Dirty Fingers the screenplay, rather than the novel.