The click of the basin top shutting.
Sadly I wasn’t actually on the luxury train. I was watching a PBS special where David Suchet, the actor who plays Agatha Christie’s Poirot, rides the train to experience it before acting in the movie as the detective. Apparently Agatha Christie rode the train a number of times prior to writing MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. The little details she adds, such as the clicking sound made by the basin lid being shut, are so real and true all readers can relate to them; whether they have ridden the train or not.
This is the talent of a truly great author. Mystery, of any genre, requires precise pacing in order to draw the reader into the story. The dilemma… adding details such as the above will often slow things down. So how does she do it? Let’s take an example…
…Now, weary of lying wakeful in the hot stuffiness of her overheated compartment, she got up and peered out.
This line, which takes place in the very first chapter of the novel, tells us much in the space of 19 words. She could have gone into detail about why the room was hot and stuffy, but the fact that she included the word 'compartment’ shows us instead…. This is a small space; a closed in space.
I now understand what it means to say lazy writing. The act of pulling together precise words and stripping out the
unnecessary is difficult work. It takes time and thought, hard thought, to come up with the right words. A large vocabulary helps, but is not the key. Rather, I think, it is about thoughtfulness and care… playing with words until we are satisfied we have found the right one that conveys many meanings, rather than only one. It uses metaphor and glyphs to represent feeling and ideas; so that a child can be either a mouse or a puppy…
... and a sink can be a basin or a pool.
“Is there a hurricane named Deanne?”
Interestingly enough, there isn’t… at least not technically. I was inspired to do some research on how a hurricane (the storm, not the drink) gets its names. Sadly, I am sure this, along with many other important life facts, was something I learned in school but have now forgotten.
First off… names are given to tropical storms, and when a storm is designated a hurricane by the speed of the wind it, retains the tropical storm name. Over the years there have been many different naming strategies. For example, in the Caribbean hurricanes were named after the patron saint of the day. When U.S. meteorology began they named hurricanes by latitude and longitude (imagine the fun those weatherman had giving the news.) Military meteorologists during WW II started naming hurricanes after women (probably in revenge for the song, I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of my Hair from the musical South Pacific set during the same time period).
Anyway… this stuck until 1978 when the National Weather Service decided- huh, this sort of sends the wrong signal- and began using both men and women’s names for hurricanes on a 6 year rotational schedule. So… every six
years the same hurricane names are re-used, unless one becomes devastating (such as Katrina) in which case it is taken off the list and replaced.
Want to find out if there is a hurricane named after you? Look on the National Hurricane Center. So far, Deanne hasn’t made it on the list.
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