In a society of dwindling attention spans, tiny screens, and micro-jitters, context and complexity would seem to be more precious than ever. But do you imagine that a whole landscape, or a sequenced saga, can be conveyed with the tools -- fact sheets, zap-texting, power-points, Twitter feeds, 15-second video intrusions -- relied upon by business operatives?
When you force-feed a plate of information quickly, or break a whole into 30 pieces over a week’s time, you are typically working against context and wisdom. Claiming an audience, even one a writer thinks he or she knows, by accumulating “likes” and sprinkling birdseed is likely to fall short.
Meanwhile, the manuscript needs to be completed. What to do?
How do we avoid the pressure to collapse our scope and narrative? How can a whole story be told -- via nonfiction print book, e-book, or calm and cool website with connected chapters and essays -- in ways that both attract and hold your audience? Obsessed with that inquiry, and also needing a fresh design for a modern history project, I went to where tens of millions of Americans are still paying attention.
From May 2013 to August 2016, I absorbed roughly 1,250 detective radio and television episodes. Starting with Sherlock Holmes, I spent time only with fictional characters that have endured for decades (leaving out all but one newcomer since 1980).
Rather than read the Conan Doyle originals, I stuck with the video versions of Messrs. Holmes and Watson, Lestrade and Moriarty. A few other novels -- by Charles Dickens, and by Laurie R. King, who 20 years ago helped Sherlock Holmes find married contentment with detective Mary Russell -- were accessed in audiobook form.
I come out the other side of Suspense Radio and crime-drama DVD-land urging the diligent nonfiction writer to zero in on four things: CHARACTERS, DIALOGUE, PACING and PLOT. Complexity and contradictions can be "accurately dramatized" after you get to know some mix of Malden, Mannix, Marlowe, Marvin, Mary (Russell), McGarrett, McMahon, McMillan -- along with greats whose actual or character monikers don’t start with an M.
No, I’m not out to become another Ed McBain or Leonard Freeman (it’s way too late for that). I remain a nonfiction book editor. I still gravitate toward writers who are searching for evolving truths in a documentable way.
All the same, this website will make use of crime fiction principles in ways I never thought plausible. The experiment will run until 2020, and longer if clients and collaborators buy in. That’s why you shouldn’t expect a page or two of "tips." More like Trips -- because we can't travel from the realms of Reality, all the way to Escapism, and back again, several times, without doing a lot of literary rending, blending, and up-ending.
So what’s on tap? For starters, two mostly fictional characters in an intense exchange. This exchange constructively clashes the surreal and escapist realms of the Scriptwriter (TSW) with the documented-trends devotion of the globally aware Futurist (FTR).
We nonfiction types never get to use it, but here's the disclaimer: "Any relation between my two characters and any real person, alive or dead, is meant benignly." As composites, "TSW" and "FTR" aren't even initials, but professional codes. Every other item in their dialogue -- including economic events, media products, and the quotes from an e-mail and Business Week -- is real.
I serve as choreographer and transcriber, and am not fictional.
Also see -- www.ExactingEditor.com/Detectives-Part-One.pdf
-- Frank Gregorsky, September 2016