I tried watching LIE TO ME last night and found it disappointing on a number of levels. One that sticks in my mind this morning is the protag's lack of any real reason to begin an investigation. I know, TV shows have to get into the action quickly, and we're supposed to believe that this man has an instinct for such things. I will let it go.

In my own work, however, I try for a higher standard. I ask myself, "Are my protags justified?" in each step of the mystery. In the first place, there should be cause to suspect murder. That one's usually easy: a knife sticking out of a guy's back is probably not self-inflicted. Then, as they zero in on suspects, I try to be sure I've provided a reason for it: either that suspect has a motive, is acting oddly, or was in the vicinty. A good opportunity for red herrings comes when the sleuth has his own agenda, he doesn't like the guy and therefore focuses on him for personal reasons. But I try to give a plausible explanation of what premise the protags are following.

Here's an example. My protag, Simon, is called in to investigate a death that may be from poison (Tudor era, no autopsy). He learns that X benefited from the man's death, but X was far away at the time of the murder. I want Simon to retrace X's trip so he can discover an important clue to what's going on. BUT I'm aware as the puppeteer in all this that I have to give Simon a good reason to do it. It can't be a whim. In every conclusion that is made, the reader has to agree that it's logical, given the circumstances. If just once the reader thinks, "Where in heck did he come up with that?" you've lost the logic, and it isn't a mystery anymore, it's a fairy tale.

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Comment by P.J. on April 12, 2009 at 11:59am
You are probably right about that. But guys just don't wear tight pants any more, as they did in the 60's . . . it's all these baggy, loose, grampa pants stuff that just don't show off ANY assets. Still, in the long run, a good mind goes a lot farther than a good butt. And a (twisted) sense of humor is a big plus.
Comment by Dana King on April 11, 2009 at 5:41am
PI,
Except for the spike heels (which I actually think are stupid), wouldn't you also go for the tight pants and shirts unbuttoned halfway down to the navel? The better to reveal the ripped abs. :)
Comment by P.J. on April 11, 2009 at 4:59am
I'm thinking that Dana is recruiting MALE cops, or lesbians . . . I'd personally prefer my cops to have the kind of physique often seen on bodice ripper covers, and a mind as finely tuned as his abs are ripped. But that's just me.
Comment by Dana King on April 3, 2009 at 4:11am
Sure would make it easier to recruit cops if they did.
Comment by Peg Herring on April 3, 2009 at 3:59am
What? You mean real crimefighter girls don't wear tight pants, spike heels, and unbutton their shirts halfway down to the navel?
Comment by Dana King on April 3, 2009 at 2:34am
I rarely watch a TV mystery anymore, in part for the reasons you described. Between reading crime fiction and researching for my writing, I can't bear to watch the holes in the stories. Not just factual inaccuracies (for which CSI is famous), but leaps of logic. TV is deluged with crime shows, but on the rare occasions when i catch one, I'm almost left thinking, "Who are they kidding here?"

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