I am delighted to be a part of the Hide and Seek blog tour. It’s a terrific three part read, all about secrets and lies within a family.
Today the author Amy Bird talks about the structure of the novel
The concerto novel – structure in Hide and Seek
Usually in fiction, exposition is a dirty word. It is reserved for the most unglamorous revelation of facts, or the shoehorning in of plot points. But for Hide and Seek, I have named the first part of my three-part novel Exposition. Why? The music-lovers amongst you may have some clue if I say that parts 2 and 3 are ‘development’ and ‘recapitulation’ respectively. Yes, that’s right. Hide and Seek uses the structure of a concerto.
This is not an arbitrary choice. At the centre of the mysteries in Hide and Seek is a fictitious piano concerto, recorded by the great (also fictitious) Max Reigate. I am a great believer in the structure of a novel somehow reflecting the subject matter. In Yours is Mine, there was an identity exchange between two women, and so I wrote it from the two different points of view of the women. In Three Steps Behind You, a wannabe crime writer has hidden secrets in his third book, and is working on the fourth and so I structured each part into books – the reader sees his chilling backlist and his even more frightening work in progress. For Hide and Seek, then, I wanted to make the concerto that is so integral to the characters’ lives an equally integral part of the book, driving both readers and characters forward, as we discover the secrets the concerto hides.
This is much more than simply dividing the book into three parts and labelling them. Each part remains true to its title. In part one, the main themes and motifs of the book are drawn out and the factual set-up is established. In the development section, those themes are twisted and turned into new and surprising shapes, thanks to our characters’ psyches. And in the recapitulation, we return to the main theme, as strong as ever, but viewed in a fresh light. Now we know what really happened. And what might happen again.
Deeper than that, the characters in the novel represent the instruments used in the concerto. The concerto in question is for piano with strings and woodwind. The novel is told from the point of view of three separate characters, each allied with one of those segments of the orchestra. See if you can work out which is which. The pace of the sections matches the traditional tempo of a concerto: in the first part, the pace is fast, accelerating towards the end, with forceful, dramatic passages; the second part is moodier, more quietly sinister as the main theme is developed; and then we spill into the brisk and intense third part, accelerating and accelerating until the final haunting passage. And of course, the three-chord, hammering motif of this particular concerto is ever-present, in ever more alarming ways.
The big question, of course, was what key this fictitious concerto should be set in. Like any writer of the darker side of human life, I naturally gravitated to the minor key. I then looked into traditional associations of different key signatures. I wanted one that was romantic, crashing, bold and disturbing. There were several candidates, but upon listening to Tchaikovsky’s piano concerto in B-flat minor, I knew that was the one for Max Reigate. Fiery, striking, and dangerous. Lest anyone say Max Reigate was too much of a traditionalist for following in Tchaikovsky’s footsteps, he also worked on a concerto for piano alone. But the other instruments were very much implemented in the final tune.
And now, helping to bring out the concerto structure even more, Hide and Seek is available in three ‘chunks’ – discerning readers can download the fist chunk, part, or movement, for free. Then the second chunk, for just 99p, and finally the third one for £1.89. Hopefully the concerto structure will draw readers along, just as it allowed me to get to the very core of the novel – and to explore what lengths the characters would be driven to by the music’s unrelenting rhythm.
Competition – win a trip to Paris
All about Amy Bird
Having moved all over the UK as a child, she now lives in North London with her husband, dividing her time between working part-time as a lawyer and writing.