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.