The Page a Day Writers Group

A Window into Writing that Rivets: Confessions of a Foyle’s War Addict

Posted on: February 1, 2011

My husband and I have been enjoying the series Foyle’s War. Set in Britain during WWII, it’s an engaging, suspenseful, and thought-provoking drama revolving around the primary character, Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle. We recently listened to an interview with the series writer and creator, Anthony Horowitz, who shared his insights into his writing process. Horowitz also adapted Caroline Graham’s novels for another series we love, Midsomer Murders.

Horowitz, who reads widely as background research for WWII context, weaves real events into every episode. He explained that the details of daily life which he gleans from his research give him enormous pleasure. His enthusiasm in sleuthing details was contagious; it motivated me to get busy unearthing more details for use in my work-in-progress. When watching the episodes, these bits and bobs of life add flavor and a palpable sense of “being there” to the story.

I also found Horowitz’s thoughts on plotting Foyle’s War useful. He visualizes the plot as a bull’s-eye with concentric rings. He starts with the date and primary historical event of the episode. The first series starts with the fall of Norway in May of 1940. He then focuses on the core of the episode- who’s murdered and why, and who’s the murderer. So, the bull’s-eye is the murder and the outer ring is the larger context, the world in which the murder is set. Horowitz then works on filling in the rings with satisfying details.

“Every story we tell is based on truth, possibly excepting the murders themselves,” Horowitz says. “I always think of the murders as being the engine of the script- the reason for it but not the heart of it.”

I’m not a big history buff, but I can’t get enough of this series. Horowitz brings this era alive with characters that evolve in ways that continue to surprise. He sees his four leads as rays of light in the darkness of the WWII era. Of course, it helps that the series is superbly cast, including the fabulous Michael Kitchen as Foyle. But even the best actors can’t do much without a solid script to support them. Horowitz crafts one memorable scene after another, like a dependable book of matches sparking a flame every time. Plotlines merge seamlessly as characters grapple with moral questions without ever turning into clichés.  

Hats off to you, Anthony Horowitz!

For more on Foyle’s War: www.foyleswar.com

Happy Writing,

Ondine Brooks Kuraoka

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1 Response to "A Window into Writing that Rivets: Confessions of a Foyle’s War Addict"

Thanks for sharing Ondine. I like the bull’s eye method of plotting, I may give it a go myself (and check out the series, too).

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The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!

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