At a recent Bouchercon panel the writer Ken Wishnia made the comment – after a complaint that cops aren’t presented realistically on TV – that no one’s job is presented realistically on TV.
High school teachers watch Glee and say they don’t break into song nearly that often, delivery guys watch Law & Order and say they’d stop unloading the truck for thirty seconds while talking to homicide detectives, and I’m pretty sure zombies watch The Walking Dead and say, come on, we’re not that easy to kill.
But this is a blog about crime fiction so our concern is how crime and criminal investigations are presented in fiction so—no wait, that isn’t right. This is a blog about fiction so our concern is storytelling.
The distance to which the characters and events in fiction stray from the realistic portrayal has everything to do with story.
Everything serves the story.
So I think most of the time when the criticism is that the characters aren’t realistic the real complaint is that the story isn’t working.
And for me, what usually causes the biggest problems with the story is when I’m not completely clear on exactly what story it is I’m trying to tell. Part way through writing a novel I usually get lost and end up throwing a lot out as I make my way back. And sometimes, I guess, I don’t make my way all the way back enough.
Anyway, after meeting Ken at Bouchercon I read the first of his “Filomena Buscarsela mysteries,” 23 Shades of Black and now I’m going to read the rest of them.
They’re very realistic.