What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

20 January 2011

Strangers in the Day

(This is post number 800. *throws confetti* But really, I just had post #700 the other day! What happened?)

A few days ago, there was an NCIS rerun of the episode "Cover Story". The story revolves around McGee's novel, which is a work in progress.

In the course of investigating a murder, McGee realises that the deceased petty officer is one of the characters in his novel-- or rather, the real-life person who McGee saw at the coffee shop & turned into a character. And before they can figure it out, another person turns up dead. So Gibbs forces a confession out of McGee that he bases all his characters on people he sees or knows, which means the entire team is in danger. Not only that, but the characters being killed are in the work in progress, so someone is getting their hands on McGee's draft without him knowing it. Which means all the team have to be protected while McGee scrambles to find his deranged fan.

As much as I love NCIS, the writing is pretty hit-or-miss. And they managed both in this episode. I'm not sure if they have a low opinion of novelists, or if they are making fun of badly-written crime novels, or if they just don't read and therefore don't know what novels are like. I imagine it's option #2 and the idea is that McGee is not that great of a writer even though he's had success with the unwashed masses. (Having said that, the pacing of this episode was great and the ending was fantastic.)

But never mind that. McGee has a moment of breakdown when he fusses for a minute about how he practically killed these men himself, only to be slapped sensible (figuratively) by Gibbs. And I was glad about that, because among my many beliefs about one's responsibility to humankind is that while one should be careful with one's sphere of influence, the rhetor (what? I have to use my major from time to time) cannot be held responsible for the crazies among the hearers.

Here's the bit that annoyed me: In the progress of the case, the team finds out about the real life of the petty officer, and McGee says to Ducky, "Everything I wrote was wrong." Um, duh. Because if it had been true, you would have owed the petty officer a lot of money when a book based on his life without his permission turned up on the bestseller list, McDufus. Ducky replies with one of the most sensible lines of the episode: "No, everything you wrote was fiction."

I can't say that this episode caused me to see the light regarding casually putting a perfect stranger into a novel. If anything, it gave me inspiration; McGee's interpretation of the petty officer's life, based on seeing him in the coffee shop for a couple of minutes every morning, was far off from the man's actual life. Honestly, it's fun to see someone on the bus or in the store and make up a story about their whole day-- where they live, where they work, what they're doing next, what they're having for dinner. I've invented entire extended families, complete with a crazy aunt, for the person sitting next to me on the bus. It's cool to have this kind of inspiration and freedom-- to see a person and create a world around them. And that's the fun part of being a writer. Too bad McGee got burned that way.

Does anyone else make up backstories for random people on the street?

8 comments:

Meredith said...

Happy 800 posts! ::tosses confetti!::

And, yeah, I totally do the same thing! When we were younger, "make up the backstory" was a game my siblings and I would play while waiting for a table at restaurants with our parents. :)

Grandpa said...

800, wow, that's a lot of post - prolific! Well done!

I'm not a novelist so cannot answer that question.

I haven't seen this particular episode. Which season is it from? Here they are rehashing seasons 1-4, which is ok, as I had missed quite a number of them.

Misty said...

Absolutely... As a I writer I often find myself pulling people into stories...

Su said...

@Meredith: Thanks! Also, what a great game for kids to play! I'm going to remember that. :)

@Grandpa: Thanks! I hadn't seen it, either, and I was surprised about that! I thought we had seen all of them! It's season 4, episode 20.

@Misty: That has to be one of the best things about being a writer.

erica and christy said...

I saw that episode quite awhile ago and sort-of remember the quote. Yes, Ducky is very wise. :)

We posted about how your envision your characters last week - wasn't it you that said we should just carry a camera around (sorry if it wasn't)?? Great idea (just use a discrete one).
erica

Su said...

I remember reading that post... and that sounds like something I would say, but I don't actually remember writing it. :) But yes, a good idea for those of us (me!) without good memories or a gift for getting the description right the first time.

la super fabulosa mikaela said...

Wow! 800?! I just started and that seems so far away! Congrats!

Su said...

It will come faster than you know!