Tag Archives: The Secret Keeper

Writing The Secret Keeper (Part 1)

Full steam ahead on The Secret Keeper, the shadow-puppet web/TV series I’m writing for Rough Magic Theatre. Episode One – IE “The Pilot” – is written and has been signed off.

We’ve begun to storyboard the episode and settle on the different puppet types and effects we’re going to employ to bring it to life – it’s extremely exciting and is going to look so distinct and unique. For more information on the creation of the puppets and the production itself visit puppetlady.wordpress.com.

But what about that writing process?

Originally the show was going to be a continuation of characters and ideas I’d used in “The Santa Beneath the Ice”, a short novella I wrote many years ago based in 1900 New York. I was keen to re-visit and expand on the world I’d created for that story and I did draft a basic treatment with a mystery set in a slum hospital.

It was decided, however, that the amount of research and the work needed to accurately re-create the accents (RMT being a British outfit) would be too much.

Collette Knowles (AD of Rough Magic) and I sat down and hashed out a basic scenario based on genres we both enjoyed and ideas that we both agreed hadn’t really been tried before. The basic premise became: “What would the world be like many years after civilisation ceased to exist? And what would that world be like if nobody knew how things worked any more but were faced with a threat that needed people to know this stuff?”

This morphed into the idea that the most important (or feared) people left on the planet would be the ones who still knew things – people who still collected and read books (the internet being long, long gone),… Librarians.

The threat then became a murder mystery and our protagonist became the last person on earth to read detective fiction and criminology books.

That was where it began,…. then came the process of forming that notion into an actual script. And the biggest hurdle?

Whodunnit.

A huge array of colourful and exciting characters span into life during early spit-balling sessions but a murder mystery stands or falls on,… well, the mystery. I knew who died very early on. I knew why it mattered. What I didn’t know was why he had to die and who would really benefit from him snuffing it.

Weeks rolled by with me dwelling on this single issue! I have a new admiration for people who write detective fiction for a living – how do you keep all those plates spinning?

Because every descision creates ripples in your script and those ripples bounce off the shorelines of your story in unexpected and chaotic ways. Being a mystery, you’ve got to make sure that the killer isn’t so obvious that your audience catches on immediately (I’m looking at you, film version of “From Hell”) but not so left-field that your audience feels cheated. It all has to make logical sense when you look back at it.

This is a major headache.

The moment you say X does this you have to justify Y’s reaction or Z’s deduction. You have to think “well if X did this then how did they get that thing there?”

My initial decisions worked out perfectly,… right up to a casual remark. “X’s motivations don’t really fit him very well.” And they were right – I needed to re-write X’s motivations.

That single character re-alignment impacted the entire mystery. Suddenly I needed to write in new characters and new scenes. Suddenly I needed new antagonists and new reasoning. Suddenly the Whodunnit was just too damn complicated.

So I did what writers frequently do,… I started again,…

To be continued – see you next week!