Friday, September 23, 2011

Writers on screen

Since writers tend to be nerdy and meta, most of us love stories about fictional authors. It's not all that unusual to find books where the main character is a writer. I think most of Stephen King's books are like that. Making your main character a writer might straddle the line between meta and jumping the shark, and it's easy to blame it on the adage write what you know. This is, after all, what we know. It can work really well as long as you don't make that character too much of a Mary Sue, but that can be said for any and every character. It's more unusual to see writers portrayed in TV and movies so it's always kind of neat when it happens, especially when it's something popular. There are two TV shows right now where the main character is a writer. One of them I like, one of them I love.

Bones - Dr. Temperance Brennan - is a forensic anthropologist who works with the FBI to solve murders, and she's also a best-selling crime novelist. That premise is no more of a stretch than any other TV show so okay, fine. My problem with Bones is that I have a very hard time accepting her as a writer. She displays very little empathy or basic understanding of human emotions and motivations. That's part of who she is, and that's fine, but it makes me glad they rarely mention her books. It's barely a part of the show, which is a good thing because it's completely unbelievable to me that she could write books anyone would want to publish, much less read. If you're going to write you have got to have empathy. There's no way around that. It's so important, the subject needs it's own post. Anyway, Bones is an interesting character but I'm glad they don't delve into her writing too much or it might distract from my enjoyment of David Boreanaz. Don't get me wrong, I like the show and the character, but I wouldn't want to read a book by Bones.

The show I love that's about a writer is of course Castle. Another best-selling crime novelist, Richard Castle used his connections with the mayor to score himself a permanent ride-along with NYPD detective Kate Beckett so he can use her as inspiration for his new series. He's got charm, he's got brains, he's got a bullet proof vest labeled writer, and yes, he has empathy. Loads of it. He's also obsessive, which may be as important a requirement as empathy. The show is mostly light-hearted and built around the characters rather than the cases, though the ongoing investigation into the murder of Beckett's mother is proving to be a heavy hitter. Those episodes are always intense and now because of that case Castle has his own version of what I call a murder wall. You know that trope in movies and TV where somebody is obsessively investigating a crime they're not supposed to for whatever reason and they've got a big whiteboard or a wall or in Castle's case a huge digital screen with all of the evidence and leads on it? I know it's a cliché but I don't care, I love it. What's really great about Castle is Nathan Fillion, who is thirty-one flavors of awesome as the eponymous character. I might cringe when they show him signing the cover of a book instead of the inside, but Fillion makes me believe Castle really could have written that book. In fact, I found the first Nikki Heat book at the library and read it. Nikki Heat is the series Castle writes about Beckett and the book was just like the show, only with sexytimes between the Castle and Beckett characters, and good grief that's meta. (Castleception!) 

What to get the writer who has everything: a bullet proof vest.
Do you have any favorite fictional authors?


PamelaTurner said...

Is Temperance Brennan supposed to be modeled after Patricia Cornwell? I've no idea because I don't watch the show. Just curious. :-)

Sonya Clark said...

She's modeled after Kathy Reichs, a forensic anthropologist who writes a book series about a forensic anthropologist who works with law enforcement to solve crimes. Yes, really. It's a long running series, though I've never read any of them. And the author is also a producer or consultant for the show. It's all very uber-meta, which I should have included in my original post. ;)

Sara-Jayne Townsend said...

I am a fan of Kathy Reichs's books, and I can't watch Bones for that reason - it doesn't bear much resemblance to the books.

In the books, Temperance Brennan is a forensic anthropologist who commutes between North Carolina and Montreal, she's not a writer, and the character of Booth doesn't exist.