NOT YOUR USUAL SUSPECTS

A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

We find our genre delightfully, dangerously, and deliciously exciting - join us here, if you do too!


Julie Moffet . Clare London . Cathy Perkins . Jean Harrington . Daryl Anderson . Nico Rosso . Maureen A. Miller . Sandy Parks . Lisa Q Mathews . Sharon Calvin . Lynne Connolly . Janis Patterson

Monday, July 20, 2015

If Seinfeld Can, Why Can't I?

by Janis Patterson

While The Husband loved the TV show Seinfeld and still occasionally watches DVDs of it, I found it stultifyingly boring and even more uninteresting. It was heralded as a show about nothing, and as far as I am concerned it definitely succeeded. However, it was undeniably popular. (Does that say something about me, or about everyone else?) I much prefer shows in which the actors are attractive, shows in which there is something going on – explosions, genuine humor, dead bodies, passionate kisses on a sunset beach... something!

Still, I have to admit that the show did something right to be so popular and on the air for so long, so I've decided to explore its particular trope and find out what made it so successful. Except I can't find what it is. All I can find is that it is regarded as a show about nothing. (Perhaps a metaphor for the supposed emptiness of modern urban life?)

Okay, I can run with that. Most of our lives are filled with nothing. Oh, we're busy all the time, usually with things that seem important at the time but have little cosmic impact. Things like deciding what to serve for dinner tonight. (Always a biggie for me, as The Husband is a very picky eater and I am a rather indifferent cook.) Shopping for same. Making lunches in the morning. Laundry – what gets tumble dried and what gets line dried and if any of it gets bleach. Deciding if I really want that cute pair of shoes we saw at the mall. Trying to switch the appointment for a much-needed oil change because that's the only day I can take an elderly neighbor to a much-more needed dental appointment.

See? All important at that minute, all demanding your immediate attention, but in the grand scheme of things generally dismissed as the minutiae of life. Six months – heck, six weeks – afterward, are you going to remember if you had that oil change on Wednesday or Friday, or if those shoes were the red ones or the blue ones?

So what does this digression have to do with murder? Because everything in a murder is important. How many times does the detective (professional or amateur) bring the miscreant to justice by reason of a single fact uttered some time before? Jessica Fletcher was a master of this – a throwaway line uttered perhaps days ago in the storyline, perhaps at the very beginning of the show, and she remembers it. Worse, I can't remember it at all. Of course, now that I write mysteries my 'sleuth' instinct is honed to dangerous acuity, watching every line and usually being able to figure out what is a clue. That, however, is a reader/viewer trick, trained by far too many hours spent absorbing other people's stories.

Real detectives, however, don't have that luxury. They can't automatically know that the fact so-and-so wore red shoes on Tuesday is important. They have to give every bit of information weight. They don't have editors and beta readers and directors and cinematographers giving focus to every necessary nuance. I think that's the main reason most real-life cases are not wound up in 20 chapters or 47 minutes. There is too much everything to deal with and that unfortunately translates to nothing to deal with.

So – I am getting too close to saying something instead of sticking with my intended policy of blogging today on nothing. That's perhaps fortunate, as I have nothing else to say.


Stay cool this during this hot July, write well, read widely and don't get overwhelmed by nothing.

6 comments:

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Susan,

I think Seinfeld is more meaningful to people to live in NYC. There's so much of
New Yorkers here. I think it appeals more strongly to people living in big
cities in general. I enjoyed the series and still catch reruns now and then. Larry David captured something unique. It reminds me that setting is very important and regionalism has appeal.

Alice Duncan said...

At least you watched Seinfeld once or twice. I've never seen an episode. I swear, I live under a rock. No Jessica Fletcher here, either. In fact, my own personal fictional sleuths are more like me than they are Jessica. We never notice anything. Makes it tough to plot sometimes. Enjoyed the blog!

Cathy Perkins said...

The things I remember from Seinfeld (not a big TV person) are the bits that became touchstone lines - No soup for you! or explaining "shrinkage."
As for the rest? {Shrug} Moments, event, places people can relate to? Clearly the show resonated for a reason. In a way, isn't that what most of us try to do? Make a connection with a story/character?

Anne Marie Becker said...

This reminds me of a talk I heard recently about crime scene investigations. I can't imagine how you process a scene, especially since most of them don't involve a closed off, small room. You never know which little bit of info or piece of whatever could be important. I would love to take a class on it sometime!

And I love those books where some seemingly unimportant fact mentioned in the initial chapters is important later. I try to do that with my books when I can. I love when things come full circle. ;)

Marcelle Dubé said...

I never "got" Seinfeld. Even today, that show baffles me. As for the seemingly unimportant throw-away line... I'd be a lousy investigator, as I'd never remember the clue. God knows how I write mysteries.

jean harrington said...

I'll be the spoiler here. I loved Seinfeld for its wit. But, then, I'm married to an Irishman and live with wit daily. Maybe I'm addicted.

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