Monday, February 24, 2014

What I've Learned From TV's Castle

After floundering around, and not finding any mystery programs I liked, I finally happened on one to enjoy. It's still running, but also has quite a backlog of reruns. The old shows are a bonus, since I put them on my DVR and speed through the commercials. I have no idea why I never noticed this one before, but now I'm glad I have.

So, for today's exercise, I'm analyzing how to apply my favorite mystery show, Castle, to writing a mystery.

Rick Castle is a mega bestselling author, who not only has connections with the mayor and members of the  hoi polloi, but also likes using real life material in his mysteries. To that end, he convinces the mayor to allow him to tag along on cases with a female detective named Beckett.

Though this is a TV program, there's much to learn and apply to writing.

  • Through watching Castle, I live vicariously as a bestselling author, and hope I'll become one some day. Not every person watching the show is an author, but the glamor and notoriety Castle enjoys has a certain appeal to audiences. Readers live vicariously and many like to pretend they're famous, so you may wish to include a larger than life main character in your mystery.  
  • I love romantic elements in stories, so I enjoy the give and take romance between Castle and Beckett.   Love makes the world go round, so an author can't go wrong by including some kind of romantic element in a mystery. 
  • Each episode also includes something about his family life, and that makes Castle a more rounded character. When writing, don't forget to mention the families of any main characters, and how they relate.
  • The secondary characters at the precinct and also in Castle's home are unique and interesting. It's a good idea to make each character unique in your book, so the reader can tell them apart. If you're aiming to write a series, secondary characters are even more important.
  • Castle is self-assured, sometimes cocky, but has soft spots. It's okay if your main character has some flaws, as long as you also include evidence of the hero or heroine's worthiness.
  • Of course, the show does include a dead body or more, and Castle and Beckett use great deductive skills to solve the mystery of how and why the person(s) died. Though I'm not an expert, for the most part, what they do and say seems to makes sense and follow protocol. It's important when we construct and unravel our mystery to also make sense, so be sure to do enough research.
  • Okay, I did find what I considered a flaw in one of the episodes. It got to me, although others may not have cared. When Castle and Beckett were locked in this freezing cold storage place, they huddle up with each other. That makes sense. However, when all seemed lost, I saw her cold hands reaching out to clutch his jacket. My immediate thought was, why did she place her hands on top, and not under his jacket, or at least why didn't they hold hands for more body warmth? I suppose the director wanted the scene to be dramatic, but I also wondered why she didn't keep her hands inside her own clothes somewhere. I couldn't tell if she had pockets, which would have been the logical place to keep her hands warm. Another reason to use common sense. Make sure your characters not only make sense when solving a crime, but also in other thoughts and actions.  
So, that's how I've dissected the Castle shows I've watched so far.  I've still got about 40 left on my DVR to view. 

What about you? Do you watch Castle? Or, what particular mystery show resonates for you?

Morgan Mandel
Twitter: @MorganMandel

Amazon Author Page:


Vonnie said...

If you join crimescenewritersgroup you'll see where they have a sort of running commentary on Castle.

Angela said...

All good points! I love Castle- and enjoyed the fact that they got the characters together without screwing it up like they did Moonlighting.

Lynn Cahoon said...

Love Castle. And interesting comment about the difference in Moonlighting.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I haven't watched Castle but reading your blog made me want to do so. Like you, I love mysteries that have an element of romance. I also enjoy a bit of humor. I won't watch or read grisly serial killer plot lines. That doesn't mean I don't want a story with bite and meaning. I try to write meaningful work myself. My 4th Kim Reynolds mystery THE BAD WIFE will be published in April and I've made every effort to provide a quality read. I can't say any TV show influenced the writing of it though--based more on real life events.

Morgan Mandel said...

Since I started watching Castle, I've found lots of others who also watch the show. Funny, how characters can become like real people. After you watch them for a while, you want to know what happens to them.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

It's a fun show, however I've read some of the forensic experts comments that the forensics are sometimes wacko, especially the things the coroner comes up with. Doesn't matter to me really. Just don't use the show for research.

Anonymous said...

I love Castle, too, Morgan! One of the interesting lessons I've learned from it is how they gather clues that lead them one place, only to find that a dead end and discover new clues taking them some other place. Sometimes, they go back to an earlier suspect, but not always. The one steadfast rule, though, is whoever the culprit is, they must at least make an appearance early on. It's no fair when you bring somebody out of the woodwork to be the bad guy, and we've never seen nor heard of him!

Morgan Mandel said...

Since I'm not a forensics expert, I can enjoy the show without worrying about the details. Actually, the interaction is what I like the most, although it's nice to learn the villain. And I agree with Patricia about not dragging someone into the story from nowhere, because that's not fair!

Nancy Sweetland said...

Hi, Morgan - I love Castle, too. But I really love the critique that Lee Lofland puts up after every show, which points out the good (and bad) things about police procedure so we don't write the wrong stuff like they sometimes do. His cohort, Melanie, also comments on the romance side of the stories. Check out - you can get the critiques going way back if you want.

Morgan Mandel said...

Thanks, Nancy. I looked up Lee's site. Very informative. He knows his stuff. Since I watch the show more for the relationship aspect, and don't have expertise about procedures, I can enjoy the experience without grimacing over errors. I wonder why the producers don't use a qualified person like Lee to check stuff out. Maybe he should offer his services for a fee.