Funny the things that inspire us as writers. Back in December, 2012, I posted about how many years of watching soap operas has influenced my writing. (Blame It On Too Many Soap Operas and My Misspent Youth.) Yes, growing up in the golden age of television had an effect on me, but it wasn’t just watching the soaps. I watched a lot of detective shows too. I was even reminiscing about it the other day with a friend.
As a teen and young adult, I loved watching Columbo and the original Hawaii Five-O. Both shows were very well written, and even though both used formula writing, the scrips were still good enough to keep me coming back week after week. And, unlike detective shows of today, there were no overtly graphic images. No bodies laid out on the autopsy table. No gory, mutilated or half burned corpses appearing on camera. Good writing doesn’t need that kind of visual imagery. Facial expressions or comments made by other characters will tell us what we need to know, and our imaginations can do the rest–probably better than the guy who designed that fake corpse.
What made Columbo great was the bumbling title character, brilliantly portrayed by the late Peter Falk, along with all the bad guys who thought they could outsmart him. What made the show fun was the way Lt. Columbo solved the crime by seizing on some obscure, overlooked detail that even surprised the audience. And along with spectacular scenery, Hawaii Five-O also had well thought out plot lines. While the characters may have been as well developed as Lt. Columbo, there was one unforgettable nemeses named Wo Fat. Kudos to the script writers of both.
Crime stories make for great drama as they create the ultimate conflict. That’s why I’ve always included crime subplots in my novels. Whether it’s Gillian’s murderous ex-husband on a rampage in The Reunion, Scott’s jilted wife’s twisted scheming in The Deception, or the revenge seeking Denise wreaking havoc in The Journey, these crime subplots create the tension, and the drama, that keeps you turning the pages. Look for more in my next novel, The Betrayal. Until then, happy reading. (And by the way, you can rent old episodes of Columbo and Hawaii Five-O from Netflix.)