Posts Tagged With: golden boy

He’s Baaaaaaackkkkk – dun dun dunnnnnnn….

Sorry about the absence. I know y’all have just been screeching and screaming without me. But i’m back. I scrapped the idea of doing stuff on the weekends and it’s officially back to thursday for the regular mystery blog, provided my cats don’t object. They are currently objecting. To heck with them.

Another good reason i’ve been gone is i was undergoing some unpleasantness. I’m not going to go into the unpleasantness. You can imagine whatever. Personally i think James Patterson was poisoning me. Or maybe the cast and crew for Golden Boy. But i’m back now. Patterson – you’ve failed. Golden Boy – guess who gets the last laugh? Me! Cuz you’re cancelled! Muahahahaha!!!! You will not be police commissioner of New York by the time you’re thirty two you dreadful little cleft chin twit!!!!

In other news Mystery and Procedural TV fans, CSI New York is dead too. Who killed it? I’m sure some lab tech will show up any second now with the lab results. five…four…three…two… ah here it is. Apparently toxic levels of insufferabilisis was discovered in it’s viewer intake valve which caused a massive seizure of the whocares muscle, basically paralyzing the victim until it expired from dryness and boredom.

Let the new season of nausea begin!

First we have the first entry into ‘reality tv mystery’. Yeah. You knew it had to happen sometime. I don’t even remember what the show was called. I only know i ain’t watching it. Basically it looks like a dinner mystery. Only on TV. Oh joy. Second we have Motive which is all about… well… Motive apparently. Who cares about Motive in a homicide? That’s right. No one. But i’m a little intrigued by this one because the lead character seems a little spunky and frankly we’ve had such a dry white season of dour plodding investigators in TV Crime Drama i’m willing to give almost anything a chance. In better news though, Major Crimes is due to make a return. Which is fabulous. You want to write character, watch that show. Honestly. It may not have all the reality that you’re looking for but the assortment of the cast is really terrific and well acted.

But seeing as we have a show called motive… let’s talk a little about it shall we?

Yeah. No one cares about motive. Personally, when I’m writing a mystery the first thing I like to do is figure out the motive. And then throw it in the trash. The only time I didn’t (and even then I tried really hard to shy away from it) was Too Much Peace of Mind (Meg Brown Mystery #2) So long as we don’t give a fig about motive we can talk about the REAL motive. What is the damned story about? That’s motive. That’s the thing you’re going to reach for and pour everything through. Writerly types call it theme. I call it the reason you chose to write that story.

I’m going to be honest here. I usually have no idea what the story is about until the draft is finished and I’m editing it. Then, all of a sudden, I’m reading along and it hits me. I LOVE it when that happens. It’s like hitting a vein of gold. A vein of gold that your characters usually spent the whole first draft screaming and waving at you and trying to point out. My characters love it too. I can almost hear them sigh with exhausted relief from the pages.

Finding the motive is the key to setting up the first rewrite or edit in my opinion. If you haven’t found it, seriously consider throwing the thing in the trash. Or get your head examined. In preemptive answer to the writerly types who protest and say ‘Theme!’: I hate theme. Every time I think -or see- the word in any of the books ‘on writing’ it fills me with confusion. The rare times I’ve tried to start writing with a ‘theme’ it’s gone terrifically wrong – like a twisted awful train wreck that claims the lives of all my characters. Nay, I say. I like to start with motive. Not the motive of the killer or killers, about which I sometimes stumble into, but my motive.

Writing stories is a poetical exploration of your own psyche, which is just a fancy way of saying you’re trying to tell yourself something that you don’t know how to say out loud. You might think of it like a parable for your skull. When done right it becomes a parable for other people’s skulls too, and fertilizer. I don’t like it much when a story has a point, per se, or when it leads you to a ‘moral’ of the story. I prefer it when I can look into the rusting beer cans in the quarry and find a diamond rattling within. Joyce’s Dubliners follows this sort of model and of those stories The Dead is pretty much the be all end all. Damn thing broke my heart the first time I read it and I’m still haunted by Michael Furey standing in the snow. But I’d be damned if I could tell anyone what it’s about, nor would I want to.

I like to think of story in terms of poetry. Sure I write Genre fiction, specifically Mystery, but I tend to think that’s the perfect thing for finding your own motives. Poetry, like a homicide scene, concerns itself with trapped moments. Mystery follows details and what do we know about details? Yeah. That old chestnut. My happiest moments in writing come from those little details – a smell, a very specific sight, something found, something discovered. Like a diamond in a rusted beer can at the bottom of a quarry. How did it get there? You get a rare chance to be metaphoric and to blow up metaphor at the same time, you get to turn over the stones in your head and that’s what your own motive will do. Knowing it will help you search those paragraphs for the things you didn’t even know you were putting there. Once you know your motive for writing a story you can make the thing pop.

Okay. In all fairness to those of you who’ve read it: The Ice Cage had a lot of killers motive in it. Meg does figure out why Northcutt was murdered, but there were many reasons. The trick was to put the killer – or killers – in the room with the victim at the time of the murder. Something I’m sure you’ve heard about all the time on cop shows both real and imagined. The ‘timeline’.

Nope. Figure out why YOU’RE writing it, then hone that, bury it, let it stew like kimchee.

Well that’s all I’ve got right now. Oh. One last little thing. If you were hoping to find any more Murp Day teasers coming up, they’ve been postponed. I have been working on them – obsessing over them is really more accurate – but i think i am going to try to polish the novel they are related to before letting them seep out. If you’re REALLY curious as to what happens with Nate and Bobby at the stadium just send me a comment and we’ll see what we can do about your curiosity.

Categories: Mystery, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Golden Blah – What Fresh Hell Is This?

You know me. Since starting the mystery/writing blog thingy I feel obligated to test the wheels on every new crime show drama thing out there. This is probably a big mistake on my part but someone has to do it. I’m a pretty critical guy and I hate talking about things I don’t like – even though I seem to be doing a lot of that lately. But here’s another one. Golden Boy on CBS Created by Nicholas Wooten who apparently has a long and distinguished career in writing crime dramas; which is why it’s so irritating that in all that time he has yet to do a good one. (By the way, Nicholas Wooten – I loved Chuck. More like that please!)

I’m going to be up front with y’all. I only managed to get through 15-20 minutes of this which is pretty bad when it’s only an hour-long show. Something about the main character just made me want to punch him in the face. From what I gathered of those 15-20 minutes the show is about a junior detective on a homicide squad in some city. I don’t know which city. Maybe they explained that at some other point after I’d stopped watching but who cares? He’s 20 something: boyish good looks, the personality of a clean diaper with ambitions of becoming a filthy dirty stinky diaper. We’re informed that he’s ‘the youngest homicide officer in history’ or something and is destined (through flash forwards) to become the youngest police commissioner seven years down the line. Gee, that’s original. Which means that even in the flash forwards where the same boyish clean diaper is allegedly older he’s STILL only been a cop for a grand total of ten years. And yet somehow he looks like a poorly aged, dippier version of the same kid. Only with a limp and played with an absurd amount of affected gravitas that we’re assuming is his acquired ‘wisdom’.

uh huh.

He’s partnered with the seriously underused Chi McBride who is STILL waiting patiently for a decent cop show to sink his teeth into. Someone give this guy a job. Please. Something with legs. That isn’t hobbled by lumbering plot. Something. Anything. FOR GOD’S SAKE USE THIS ACTOR!!!! I want to see Chi smile again! Remember Andre Braugher as Pembleton? That smile? How you just knew that whoever he was talking to was in trouble? Ahh… those were the days. Before they did the shark thing. Anyway – I digress. Chi was born to play a cop. He did a terrific job as a teacher in the briefly amazing Boston Public and you knew, even back then, that it was just a matter of time till someone pinned a TV Badge on the guy. You just hoped that when they did it would be something worth watching.

It isn’t.

So what was so wrong with the 20 minutes that I watched? Well… I’m not an expert. I’ve never been a cop but it seems to me a bad idea to leave your partner at a diner to dash off to tackle a potential thief without so much as a radio call, or a “hey! That guy might be a thief!” Nope. You see someone climbing out a window carrying a backpack and wearing a hoodie and it’s off to the races. Naturally the 20 something detective with the dreamy eyes, wavy hair and that cute dimpled chin has no trouble chasing down the 15-year-old ‘cute but tough and street-smart’ thief. When he does they discover she has information! A Body!

You don’t say.

They go find the body that the girl found. It’s a girl! Have you ever noticed that crime drama’s really only have two victims? The average age of the drama victim is between 15 and 22 if it’s female and 28  to 45 if it’s a male. And aren’t they just always attractive? Do they have different cop shows that track down the suspects in ugly people’s homicides? They must. It must be on one of those cable channels I don’t get.

Naturally the girl is wrapped in a cloth. Cut to commercial. When we get back to commercial I really started to lose it. We have no idea how much time has passed between the scene in which the body is discovered and that one but it can’t be much as Chi and the Golden Boy are filling someone in on the details of what they found. The body hasn’t been moved yet. It’s about five feet away on a storage rack. And pretty much the whole world is standing there doing stuff. There has to be a word for this scene set up in TV Cop-land. I think I’ll call it the collective circle jerk: where idiots stand around telling people stuff. You see an uniformed cop standing next to the body talking to someone – who knows who? The whoever-she-is is taking notes about something. There are several other folks wandering around looking like they’re trying to find a purpose. There is Chi, the Golden Boy and some superior cop figure in front telling each other things that we already know from watching the stuff we’ve already seen. The only thing missing from this crime scene is a juggling clown. Oh yeah and evidence techs, or investigators or anyone doing anything constructive.

Something else happens. They go back to the squad room where one detective doesn’t like Chi and the Golden Boy and they have words. This guy is a jerk. He’s a hot head. We know because he looks like a cop hot head which we’ve seen a thousand times or more. He thinks he finds out something about the girl who found the body! Oh, she’s holding something back! I won’t tell my fellow investigators about this – I’ll interview her myself!

You can guess what happens next. Because he’s a hot head. He kicks the chair out. He slaps her in the face. We’re shocked. This is SO edgy! He’s out of control! He sure is. He just lost the case, the witness and one viewer who is now blogging about how stupid it is.

Yeah. I know. You have to crunch edgy drama into an hour. Interviews are hours long affairs. I get it. You’re trying to speed things along. But this is writing folks. It’s editing. Use your damned brains. If you’ve ever pulled your hair out over a script or a story – even if you’re a total noob about it – you know that things have to get cut, prodded, folded, molded, punched, beaten, sliced and diced. I admit I’m terrible at it myself. I hate doing it because i always find MORE to the story rather than less. But you have to do it. Particularly in script writing when one line of dialog must stand in for three different plot points. Unfortunately in crime shows you have people who use the interview and interrogation as a beat in an action sequence. They have no concept of how to write something engaging without the violence. And yet they’ve HAD examples of it! I refer you back to the Pembleton smile, how he watched his interviewees. He didn’t smack the crap out of them. He just smiled. And wasn’t that better? WAY more satisfying?

Golden Boy is dumb. That much shouldn’t be surprising. As much as I dislike the ‘consultant’ breed of detective shows I often find them entertaining because it’s about more than the investigation (sometimes TOO much more but that’s a different topic). The consultant shows, insulting as they are, can often lend insight into things: the way Castle just riffs off silly ideas, the way Patrick Jane reads people, the way Whatsisname from Psych or Monk observes things. They can be fun. They can add good stuff to your writing and let you think about things in a different way. But a procedural that is garbage is worse. It gives rise to the consultant shows because who wouldn’t need a consultant if your homicide squad was as hapless as these guys? I mean I presume you will be using that witness in prosecuting a suspect when you get one right? What do you think will happen in discovery when opposing counsel gets a hold of the taped interview? Why didn’t you frigging think about that before you wrote the damned scene?

I get it. Believe me. I’m still learning as much as I can about this whenever I can. It’s not easy. It’s complicated. It’s intimidating – especially if you aren’t now nor have you ever been a detective. It involves all sort of fact based stuff. Sometimes it doesn’t seem terribly dramatic and you really have to fight the old Raymond Chandler urge to bring in the guy with the gun. But go back and look at the scene. Find the drama. There’s a reason you wrote it to begin with. A reason you chose to include it. Maybe that reason doesn’t stand anymore and you can cut it or maybe there is something there that you can punch up but please try to keep it simple and focused. Look hard at the fact based stuff. You’ll find it can be fun and rewarding. Chains of evidence? How do I use that to make things go crappy. Juries? What the hell happened in the brain of Juror number 5 that made this whole thing go pear-shaped?

One way or another these shows all follow a similar pattern: they take something that is inherently dramatic already and then add drama to it. In my opinion, it’s one of the biggest sins you can make  as a writer. It’s like Titanic or Pearl Harbor which I’ve written about before. You don’t need anything else. Tell the story well, tell it right and the drama should be right there – without heaping reality show antics on top of things. I’m not even saying i’m any good at this myself. But you really have to try it to get better or hang up the pen.

Categories: Movies, Mystery | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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