Guest Post: Writing my Fingers to the Bones

Today we have a guest post from mystery writer J.D. Frost.  Regular readers of this blog will recognize J.D. as a loyal reader and commenter.  J.D. is currently working on at least two, and despite my constant entreatries, he does not at the moment have a website or blog I can point you to read.   I was thrilled when I read his guest post submission because he shares a lot of wisdom in it.  So here you go:

Writing my Fingers to the Bones

by J.D. Frost

Television is more addictive than potato chips ever
pretended to be. For a while we didn’t watch ours. I put it in the spare
bedroom, nailed the door shut and taped black plastic film over the opening.
You know how it creeps around the edges of the door, like that incessant fog in
those late-night monster flicks. You can’t be too careful.

But somehow my wife saw an episode of Bones and,
to my horror, she liked it! When Christmas 2012 came around, instead of an
electric hand vac, I bought her DVDs of the first season. Now every night at
ten—more regular than most things in my life—we watch an episode on her
computer. We are now on season five.

At first, determined not to let those Hollywood tricksters
take the edge off my piercing intellect (clearing throat), I only cast a
sideways glance at the screen. I might as well have been staring at a swinging
watch, for the show soon had me under its spell.  That left me wondering how to elicit that same wide-eyed
concentration from my readers. I flipped on my analytical switch and came up
with a list.

♦Make your characters strong. Temperance Brennan, aka
Bones, longs for a world ruled purely by science. Underneath, she is very
fragile, but that is a side she steadfastly guards. Booth, her FBI sidekick, is
a rock of reliability. He has a sense of humor, but is also quick with a gun
and a business attitude when needed. Angela is socially wise; Hodgins is quick
to anger, a bit insecure because of his small stature. As episodes progress, nuances
emerge but the gist of each character is carved in stone.

♦Write in scenes. Charlotte has suggested this many
times. When I think of scene in Bones, I think of locale: the
crime scene, the lab, the Royal Diner.…

♦Write scenes within the scenes. After the remains
are found, the arrival of Temperance and Booth is a scene within the scene. As
they approach the body, they banter about something totally unrelated to the
deceased. Keep in mind that though the location may be exotic and very busy,
what we are really interested in is what they say.

♦Conflict—doesn’t every writer’s cousin talk about
the importance of this? A famous writer, whose name I can’t recall, once said:
Everybody wants something. A doorman wishes to leave early. A cook hopes his
diners enjoy their food. The desires of each character influence how they
interact with the major players. To generate sizzle put two major characters on
a colision course.

Don’t feel too guilty about digging your TV out of the spare
bedroom. If your partner screams at you, demanding to know why you aren’t writing,
trying to earn that 7¢ ebook royalty, tell them it’s research.

J.D. Frost is a mystery writer from near the Rocket City.

Image by angelrravelor from everystockphoto.

, , , , ,

10 Responses to Guest Post: Writing my Fingers to the Bones

  1. Jessica Baverstock 05/02/2013 at 03:44 #

    I totally agree. Television shows can definitely be considered research! 😀

    I love chatting with my family and other writers about things that work in TV shows and more importantly *why* they worked.

    I especially love those ‘scenes within scenes’ that you mentioned. Writing for the screen means you have to be tight and make each scene do several things at the same time. Conversations, props and plot points all have to be woven in and out seamlessly.

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who is fascinated by TV shows. If JD has been won over, then I know I’m on solid ground! 😀

  2. Charlotte Dixon 05/02/2013 at 07:36 #

    I also think it helps that there are some great shows on TV at the moment– a couple of my favs are Castle and the Big Bang Theory.  I've also been watching PBS series lately, including Mr. Selfridge and The Bletchley Circle.  Good stuff!  Thanks, J.D., for a great post.

  3. Square-Peg Karen 05/02/2013 at 09:07 #

    Love this J.D.! I don’t write fiction, but am intrigued by posts like yours (and Charlotte’s) – they help me know why I love books that I love (point to things I would never have realized).

  4. J.D. 05/02/2013 at 17:25 #

    Thanks Karen. You’ve got a great website. Books, both fiction and non, can help us look at ourselves. With those insights we can lead healthier, happier lives.

  5. Jessica Baverstock 05/02/2013 at 19:54 #

    I love Castle too! They’re getting more adventurous with some of their plots and every now and then there’s a great minor character who steals the show.

    In a recent ep I was watching, they visit the house of a couple who have just got divorced. The scene escalates into an argument between the couple and they start smashing objects and tearing up paintings out of spite. It was very funny and a great example of a ‘talking head avoidance device’ (that’s what Elizabeth George calls them if memory serves).

  6. Charlotte Dixon 05/04/2013 at 08:57 #

    I think that’s one thing that TV writers do very well–figure out ways to avoid the talking head thing I see so often in manuscripts. This sounds like a clever contrivance!

  7. Derek 05/05/2013 at 03:38 #

    Great post. Inspiring. I have always found TV to be a great source of material and ideas full of examples of character and story structures – well, that’s my excuse for watching nearly every evening. :-)

  8. Charlotte Dixon 05/05/2013 at 08:40 #

    I use that excuse, too, Derek!  Works for me.

  9. Lisa Novelline 05/07/2013 at 08:38 #

    Enjoyed post very much. Regarding television, though… still not a fan 😉

  10. Charlotte Dixon 05/07/2013 at 08:55 #

    I used to feel the exact same way, Lisa, so I understand!  But there is some good stuff on the tube these days, really!

Leave a Reply