If Walls Could Talk: What Inspires You?
It feels like it’s been a bit since I last came and sat on the wall and chatted with you. Let’s cut right to the chase: I’m going to chat with you about something I spent the entire Summer and Autumn doing.
In the realm of writing, I’ve been on some of my highest highs and lowest lows this year. In the Spring, I felt like I was having some of the greatest productivity I’ve had in years. Then, I hit June and, some things happened. They sent me into a low spot.
So, I decided to go and search for my muse. Dig into some of the things that have inspired me over the years.
This journey may have involved me watching 26 seasons of television.
Yes, you read that number right.
Sometimes, when I’m watching TV, I get a bit obsessive. I love binge watching. I tend to put things on in the background and work on various projects while things. Sometimes, mass-binging messes with your head. I learned the hard way years ago. Don’t try to binge Psych and Lie To Me. For a while after that, I was profiling almost constantly and not doing it intentionally. I freaked someone out because I caught something in their body language and made an off-hand comment. Both Shawn Spencer and Dr. Cal Lightman are experts in their own way. While the stories are fictionalized, the science is real. I’m not an expert, but having those shows swimming around in my head sure gave me the confidence to act like one.
Maybe someday, I’ll write about someone who can profile. It seems like a fun skill set.
Sometimes, I’d only watch a few episodes a day. Other times I’d sit around watch a half season in one go.
I’ve said it so many times, I adore television. I watch entirely too much of it and I love studying it and figuring out what makes it tick. In fact, I spent my day off this week watching all the new pilots so I could get a feel for what networks are looking for.
There’s a handful of shows that could claim they’ve influenced my writing career. I binged Criminal Minds while writing Notches. Bones was the one to really introduce me to Forensic Anthropology. Psych actually was the one who encouraged me to write a police procedural (which is funny considering it’s a PI show, and its police aspects are about as far from procedural as you can get).
I’ve said it a few times and I’ll probably be saying it for as long as I continue to write. I owe Steve Franks and the cast of Psych a debt I’ll never be able to repay. On top of helping me through a hard time , it was my love of Psych that helped me to begin to create Notches. Which is hard to believe considering Notches is far darker than most of Psych. But that was my first crime drama (though let’s be real, it’s a dramedy, at least at first). And when I was looking at those submission guidelines that would help craft Notches, my thought was “I could write a mystery like Psych.” In fact, I might have even said that exact sentence to James.
Then Notches seemed well-received and I realized that maybe I could write in my grandfather’s genre of choice. And I’ve stayed and I’ve grown so much since that first book.
But, when I crafted the pitch for Notches…
I realized I needed to study serial killers.
With a few exceptions, Psych doesn’t really touch on serial killers and that’s a different beast than a one-off murder investigation. And after all, it’s Psych, a hard science crime drama that tries to emulate real cases and procedures for a realistic, if fictionalized, picture it is not. So, I turned to Criminal Minds.
And boy did I take a lot of what I saw there and apply it to how Detective Deidre Torando approached her investigation. It shaped my writing in another way. For the most part, I write serial cases instead of one-offs. There’s differences between the two. And honestly? I don’t understand how writers can write several hundred pages and only be investigating a single, solitary murder.
But to each their own.
Obviously, there’s so much more you need to study when you approach a real crime subject. You need to look at true crime, of course, but you especially need to look at the actual procedures, paperwork, and foundation documents that make up a field of study. But Criminal Minds let me see how all of this works in a narrative, and that was invaluable to me.
And then there’s Supernatural. I think I turned it on that first time because a lot of people I knew were watching it and I wanted to see what the big deal was. But that show helped ignite a passion for mythology and folklore. And while I disagree with their takes on many things over their 15 season run, I do still watch.
But this summer I rewatched Bones and Supernatural. The latter was because the final season is airing and I decided to join a ton of fans in doing that rewatch to prepare. I’ve also started catching back up on Criminal Minds but since I have until midseason to do that, I’ve moved a bit slower on it. It’s been fun coming back and getting in touch with these bits that inspired me, that caught my interest.
To circle back and see if these shows that inspired me once could do it again.
Remember earlier this year when I talked about going back to basics?
I think, in some senses, this was me doing that in another way.
I also could see how I’ve grown as a writer and how much more I know about television. I caught things I didn’t the first time and followed Bones’ complicated science better without having to wait for the slightly dumbed down version Booth would get.
But here’s the golden question.
Did it help?
I think so. I think that spending time looking into what inspired me to create Rosella and what inspired me to write mysteries in the first place has helped me try and claw my way out of this funk.
What inspired you to write?
For me, these shows helped. Another one of my inspirations was my grandfather. The two of us were avid readers. I still am. But I remember that even into his mid-to-late 80s he’d stay up too late reading. We read the Boxcar Children mysteries together and he even put up with my Mary Kate and Ashley Detective phase.
I remember that day I got my copy of the anthology that held my first short story. The day Notches and All The Petty Myths came out. I cried. I may at major writing milestones. Because he passed away six months almost to the day before my first story appeared in print. And one of my biggest regrets will always be that I’ll never have the chance to run into his room with something I wrote in my hands and show him.
But seriously, why do you write? What drives you to do this crazy thing? What got you started? Where do you want to go with it?
Does it set your soul on fire? Do you find it fun? Is it a part of you that without it you’d feel a hole? Maybe you see it more as a hobby and there’s nothing wrong with that.
What inspires you?
And when was the last time you paid them a visit?
Perhaps it’s time for you to take a visit back to some old friends whether they be books, movies, or television shows. Maybe if you’re stuck on a project, find what inspired you to do it and circle back to it.
But returning to what inspires you might just be what you need to continue writing. The joy of our muses is that they tend to have a lot of lessons that they can teach us.
Perhaps you just need to visit and be ready to learn.