Thursday, December 24, 2009

And A Merry Murder to You!

It seems a pity to pass Christmas and enter the New Year without a new post. I am actually in a good mood these days. Enjoying a season I haven't always enjoyed. Relaxing into it.

I recently watched a TV show I hadn't seen before, a repeat of one of those endless crime-solving fiction genre features I used to disdain but have come to love. Two thoughts:

The first has to do with the species itself, in this case the crime-solving genre. I don't even remember the name of the show, but I was amazed, sinking into it, at how immediately pleasurable it was. I knew exactly the format that would be followed.

The murder is shown upfront (I myself prefer that the murder already have been committed and merely discovered in the first scene, as I am so very not into slasher stuff.) Then the detectives/federal agents/cops (all mavericks, of course) step in to solve it. The first suspects investigated almost always turn out to not be the true culprits, frenzied forensics are performed, pieces are puzzled, machinations ensue, bad guys are chased, guns blaze, and the crime is is finally solved via fast action in the last five minutes of the show, When All Is Revealed. The main characters themselves are all of a type that transfer easily from different show to different show, i.e. NCIS, Criminal Minds, Bones, etc. So, turning on something I have never before seen, I see, in effect, something I have already seen many, many times. Which oddly makes me very happy.

I think it is the comfort of repetition, like the child who needs to hear the same story told over and over. An explanation of the unexplainable. In this case, an explanation of death, even though death, of course, is never explainable.

My mother was an avid reader of mysteries. For most of my adult life, I thumbed my nose at them. One reason I thumbed my nose at them was because I was a snob--they weren't literature. The other reason is even more embarrassing than that: I can't follow them! This is never the fault of the novel. No, when I read I seem to have a brain piece missing that simply can't compute the convoluted details of a crime scene and the subsequent investigation. I do sometimes read mysteries written for young adults or children, and I have better luck with them, but even there I sometimes finish the book not really catching the fine details of plot, not knowing without doubt who did what to whom. Embarrassing!

So it is interesting that two years after my mother's death, I am deeply, albeit visually, immersed in mysteries on TV.

My second thought about genre TV has to do with the actors. Watching the above mentioned, title-forgotten piece of crime-solving TV show, I saw a familiar face. Someone who had been prominently featured a few years back on a different kind of TV show --a genre Science Fiction piece--now popping up in a much smaller, probably one-time role on a different show. This happens every so often, that I'll spot a familiar face that almost made it to the "top," then slid back down to the minors.

This, my friends, is exactly what happens to many, if not most, writers. It helps me understand my own career as a writer when I see actors--and these are good actors, not just pretty faces--take whatever role they can get. Only a very few make it to Major Celebrity, People Magazine, Entertainment Tonight, Movie Status. Most struggle to land the next part, in whatever show is out there. Because that is what they do and love: act.

Writers write. I am not the first writer to see that glazed look, that expression of dismissal/disappointment/boredom that comes over a person's face when I tell them I'm a published novelist but that a.) I write for teenagers, b.) I'm not rich and c.) I'm not the next J.K. Rowling and will never be. Like some other writers (not all, of course) I often simply don't mention that I am a writer at all. It's just easier that way. But an actor's face is right there! You see it or you don't. They are getting parts or not, they are featured or not. And the proof of success or failure is on display for everyone to see. Ouch.

So while I don't always admit I am a writer, I am often glad I am not an actor. Writers can hide all the complications, twists, turn-arounds, stumbles and out-right failures a little bit better. Which helps.

And so, perched on the verge of a new year, about to venture into the fresh territory ahead, I wish all writers and actors--and everyone else--magnificent success. But if success doesn't find you, I wish you small, safe, and private stumbles.