Appetizer for the Crime Writer

 

If you are a true crime lover, a prolific blogger or budding author, everyone has to have a place to start. There are several considerations before you begin.  Taking a page from my presentation,“Marketing 101 for Your Crime,” I share a little of the recipe that works for me. If you are having writer’s block, or just need a way to find that new fascinating topic this could be your roadmap!

What topic is personally interesting to you?  If it fascinates you, chances are, your passion will come through and others will feel the same. You must be invested in your topic or don’t bother.

What is unique or unusual? Is everyone talking about one issue ad nauseam?  Well, that may not be your topic. It’s not mine, as such issues bring up my low tolerance for boredom. You can pave the way to being a trend setter if you find a crime that is intriguing but not well publicized.

Is it related to current events? Does it need to be related to the hot topic of the day?  At times, in the aftermath of a mass event, it is appropriate to write about your perspective on the devastating crime. To ignore can be seen as indifferent, and yet to get mired in the details can serve to take away your resiliency. It is a fine line to walk.  Your crime topic doesn’t always need to be the hot topic. You can select your topics and build signature pieces.

Is your topic historical or nostalgia based?  Some authors have created a genre all their own by focusing on the history of mystery or on a particular  geographic area where they are based. Nostalgia is always a favorite as a distraction to current events. Who doesn’t love to hear about a cold case crime? How things used to be in decades past, a long time missing persons case brought to resolution or a historic area where a famous crime took place?

 Does it have heart and human interest?  This is a very important element to me. It’s fine to report the cold hard facts. It’s not cool to report unsubstantiated rumor or fake news. In my opinion what gives a story texture, richness and longevity is to find the heart, the human element, including the back story.  To capture the feelings and emotions, good or bad, and place them in context is in keeping with the nature of storytelling and what capture’s readers attention. Without heart and human interest, often a story is one-sided, unbalanced and frequently sensational leaning heavily on the violence of the perpetrator and omitting the victim.

Is it “just another crime” or are there elements that make it more intriguing? Never take a crime at face value. Research, dig for more from reputable sources. There are unknown facts, elements of interests if you only think out of the box. What else are you wondering about that relates? If not much is known on the surface, find out about the individual characters, the geographic area, the history of the similar crimes, etc.  

The trick is, how can you make “just another crime” like looking at a prism?

Will the topic have staying power? Is the crime you want to write about unusual or are there commonalities over time?  Can it be re-introduced when a similar crime happens? Is it a case with many permutations over time? Are there many lessons to be learned if they were only exposed? There are selected pieces that stand the test of time, no matter what is happening in the real world. Longevity can be your friend.

Is the topic controversial or provocative?  Although as authors we all have a particular style, at times it’s good to shake things up a bit. If the story is not “mainstream” it does not mean that you have to agree with the content. Our job is to inform, build awareness, entertain and hopefully be a pathway for change as needed. Life is not plain vanilla and therefore we should not shy away from the controversial. Be daring!

Will your writing offend others, and if so, do you care? A writer should be diverse and sensitive to others. However, in this climate of all things hypersensitivity to political correctness, it is a personal decision as to how far you want to push the envelope. If you push too far will it damage your reputation? On the other hand, you might think that writing is a fluid experience able to withstand the ebb and flow of opinions. It’s your choice.  Choose wisely.

As the writer, do you have a personal stake in the topic and does that make it better or worse? A personal stake usually means you are engaged; you’re invested. This topic resonates with you and you are going to write something great. I love when I find a topic with which I can immediately identify. It seems to write itself in no time at all.

But, a personal stake topic can also become a forum to vent a negative experience that stays with you.  If you can format it in such a way to turn it around in the end to say “lesson learned, learn from my experience”, all the better. If it is a topic that pushes all of your buttons and you can’t step outside of it to present another side of the issue as well, perhaps it should be tabled.

Can other elements and information be pulled in to increase audience appeal?  I use this approach all the time with all of my posts with an eye toward how can I use this in a different way? What element can I highlight that is topical as a means of recycling. Part of the approach should utilize interesting colorful graphics, not just your same ol’ signature graphic. Always make it interesting.  

A post that seemingly has minimal appeal used in one way, may hit the mark at another time. It’s all about timing, and using creativity to make memorable pieces.

What groups can benefit from your writing or broadcasting (regarding podcasts?) If you are a member of Facebook Groups, non profits, civic and business groups and special interest hobby groups, the sky’s the limit in terms of benefit.  Do you want to meet other writers and share ideas? Do you want to demonstrate a skill? Do you want to promote a good cause? Do you want to increase outreach or help in a fundraising effort? Well, then, all of these can be accomplished by your love and skill with the written word.


 

Donna R. Gore, M.A.

Donna R. Gore, M.A.

 

To schedule a presentation with me at your future event or  conference please contact:

ImaginePublicity,  Telephone: 843.808.0859  Email:  contact@imaginepublicity.com

 

  

 

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Stalkers in the Movies

Stalker

As a crime topic in and of itself, we don’t hear much about stalking. It may be part of an intimate partner or family violence crime. Stalking was officially recognized as a separate crime in California in 1990. This crime can include a myriad of unwanted behaviors such as –writing, calling, accosting, harassing, threatening in person or via use of social media, following a person, spying, waiting at locations, leaving, sending unwanted flowers or other gifts. 

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics as of February 2016, 14 people in 1,000 are typically stalked within a 12 month period. Actual prosecution differs from state to state regarding the amount of emotional distress, fear or reasonable expectation of fear.  The range of prosecutable behaviors can range establishing the benchmark of emotional distress, establishing fear of death or severe bodily harm. BJS data indicates that those at highest risk of being stalked are those who are separated or divorced (34 in 1,000 people).  Those women ages 18 to 24 – 1 in 6 women are stalking victims while 1 in 19 men are stalked). 

This blog will discuss two examples taken from the big screen in different eras. Both films were billed as psychological thrillers.

  1. “Play Misty for Me”- Released November , 1971 ; Initial Budget – $950,000, Box Office Gross- $10.6 Million

   Starring: Client Eastwood, Jessica Walter and Donna Mills. 

Summary –A radio disc jockey, Dave Garver, broadcasting from a studio in Carmel by the Sea gets entangled with the wrong woman, Evelyn Draper, who wreaks havoc on every aspect of his life.  She begins her staking as a repeat caller, requesting the song ”Misty,” followed by a date, casual sex, after which she “just shows up” at his home,  restaurants with business associates,  she escalates her psycho demands,  there’s a suicide attempt, an invasion of Dave’s home and subsequent murder of his housekeeper.. more trouble, plot twists and turns.  (‘Don’t want to be a Spoiler!)

Trailer – for “Play Misty for Me”  “Get Off my Back…”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFLwJpW6cDw

  1. “Notes on A Scandal” Released December, 2006; Initial Budget – $15 Million, Box Office Gross- $49,752,391 Million. Filmed in London.

Starring: Judi Dench,   (Barbara Covett), Cate Blanchett ( Sheba Hart,  and Bill Nighy (Richard Hart)

In my opinion, this movie is an intellectual treatment of a topic with many  sophisticated layers as compared  to “Play Misty for Me.” Examples of the layers include the cultural British realm, a bohemian family with a child with Downs Syndrome,  an affair featuring an older woman pairing  with young adolescent, (versus the usual older man meets girl adolescent)  and a spinster, manipulating, obsessive, lonely lesbian school teacher who “blackmails in the name of love” thus creating yet another fantasy relationship in her mind alone, a knock down drag out fight. And…there is also a history, a back story of Barbara’s prior  torrid want to be love affairs  before setting her sights on the new teacher in town, Shelby.

Barbara looks for the weakness, the most vulnerable in her prey, weaves her tangled deceitful  web, feigning friendship, she inappropriately inserts herself in other’s lives as all stalkers do, and uses a dangerous affair initiated by Sheba to seemingly get what she wants.  There is a very effective use of voiceover narrative throughout this movie by the character of Barbara,  self talk and extensive diary entries. 

I will not reveal more, as it is so effective to view this movie live and in person. 

Trailer- Notes on a Scandal- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVcHKNgViyU

Postscript-  Why, why, why do movie producers delight in always portraying lesbians as psychos? It’s so unfair!   The extraordinarily talented Judi Dench  is “family” although it is not clear whether she is L or Bi…and it clearly does not matter!  I’m waiting for that mainstream “normal lesbian movie” maybe  by the time I’m 90. 

As for stalking, it is not letting go turned criminal. Watch out for stalkers. They may say they are motivated by love, but the cause is rooted in mental health issues , the inability to move on and inability to form healthy relationships.

In the words of performer Bonnie Raitt –

 “…’Cause I can’t make you love me if you don’t; You can’t make your heart feel something it won’t…” 

  

References – http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=973

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Play_Misty_for_Me

http://www.lyricsfreak.com/b/bonnie+raitt/i+cant+make+you+love+me_20022611.html

Musings and Music of Favorite Crime Dramas- Law & Order; Cagney & Lacey and Others….


“In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups:  the police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.” 

Twenty years ago, Ladyjustice was in her 30’s and probably thought that she was “hot stuff” in her career and actively crusading for crime victims on the side, as the 1981 “murder date” wasn’t that long ago in time. 

During that era, a new drama series featuring the role of police and prosecutors was a new concept.  Now, thanks to the initial show and its series of spinoffs, this show’s genre is “old hat”. Law and Order premiered in September 1990 and aired its final episode in May 2010. Law and Order will go down in history as the longest consecutive running drama series in the U. S. to be tied with Gunsmoke… with Jim Arness (another law and order man… with a horse). 

Old hat aside, the original Law and Order, particularly the characters from the 1990’s are like “a comfortable pair of slippers.”  This blogger can have a great day…or a very frustrating day and take comfort in the old friends/characters like Detective Lenny Briscoe, DA’s Jack McCoy, Adam Schiff, “Rogers” the smart aleck medical examiner with no first name and the plethora of female DAs over the past 20 years. 

Had Ladyjustice had the discipline to memorize all of the former cases and statues, perhaps she would have been Donna R. Gore, ADA.  But alas, a homicide and future passion for justice wasn’t in the cards in Ladyjustice’s early 20’s.   Coming close to something, like a paid career in crime victim advocacy “only counts in horseshoes…”  Thus far… 

All TV shows take liberties with the truth “for the sake of entertainment”. However, with the original Law and Order, the actors seemed so passionate and real against the backdrop of gritty New York City.  This blogger therefore chooses to focus on its overall merits with fondness.  

Ladyjustice’s favorite detective team was Lenny Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) and Mike Logan (Chris Noth).  The older-younger generation, Jewish-Catholic banter was always entertaining. And, who can top Sam Waterston’s passionate closing statements or S. Epatha Merkerson’s sarcastic remarks? 

All viewers knew that the disclaimer in the beginning that the story bearing any resemblance to “ripped from the headlines” was not purely fictional.

(They once did a story on a corrupt Governor (before it was commonplace) that coincided with the real life prosecution of a former Governor of Connecticut. (FYI, he “served his time”, just like Martha Stewart and is now a well paid municipal economic consultant and political talk radio host!) 

The best lines were usually delivered at the end of the show’s opening and elsewhere by Lenny Briscoe, Anita Van Buren and Adam Schiff.

 

Lenny Briscoe: Dialogue Excerpts:   

(2003) (To a reluctant witness) “There’s no such thing as hooker-client confidentiality.”

(1994) (Talking about a suspect out of state) “’New Hampshire? I spent a year there one weekend.” 

(1998) (Talking to psychiatrist Emil Skoda)

Skoda: “You saw him. (7 year old suspect) He can’t connect the dots. He can’t grasp that others exist past his own needs.”

Briscoe: ‘Sounds like half of the people I know…”

 

Anita Van Buren: Dialogue Excerpts: 

(Season 19-Episode 8)   DA Jack McCoy “Eight and a half million, that’s how many children are sold into slavery each year.”

Van Buren: “Well, this plantation has closed.” 

(Season 16-Episode 7) Det. Joe Fontana: “He seems like a pretty stand up guy.” Van Buren: “Yeah, well so did Scott Peterson.” 

(Unknown Episode) Van Buren: “I’d better go. I’m late for my daily spanking on One Place Plaza.”

 

DA Adam Schiff: Dialogue Excerpts: 

Schiff: “A motive pulled straight from the tabloids….And what about means and opportunity? Are you getting that from comic books? 

Schiff:  “Clarence Darrow had Leopold and Loeb.  And who do we have?”

McCoy:  “Beavis and Butthead” 

Schiff:  “(The week) started with a murder, ends with an execution.  You got what you wanted. Take the rest of the week off.”

McCoy: “It’s Friday, Adam.”

Schiff: So it is…  ‘See you on Monday.”

 

For Law and Order aficionados, the “da-dum” clunky musical chord that is interspersed throughout is a well known signature


Cagney and Lacey: 

(Jazzy “Dueling trumpet and Clarinet Theme”- Listen!)

 

Speaking of very cool groundbreaking crime drama shows and enticing music, Cagney and Lacey, the three times cancelled and the only show resurrected by fans, is Lady Justice’s all time favorite!  (In fact, LJ was lucky enough to purchase the entire collection!) 

A few years ago, Ladyjustice was fortunate to participate in a LGBT cruise with R Family Vacations with the former couple, Rosie and Kelly O’Donnell.  During that voyage, Cindy Lauper and Sharon Gless were special guests, “Ambassadors” if you will.  Sharon, for the PFLAG’s Straight for Equality Program, (http://community.pflag.org/page.aspx?pid=565), as Sharon

is the proud grandmother of a lesbian granddaughter.  This blogger had the opportunity to interact with Ms. Gless and she actually signed a placard LJ created for a “hero costume,” unbeknownst that Sharon was even attending the cruise! 

This crime drama was the drama with heart, intensity, real social issues, and chemistry between two very different characters.   These elements were the keys to success when women and television desperately needed serious, intelligent shows versus silliness (Like talking cars). 

Just For Fun….  Watch and Listen!

(Bet you can’t watch it just once!) 

***For the benefit of “youngsters and others, the ultimate visual- musical synopsis-spoof of Cagney and Lacey Tribute  can be heard in the following YouTube duet (3 min; 52 secs)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tY5rlBV7RKY&NR=1

 

In case you didn’t know the “Christine Cagney story”, here’s a brief bio from the Internet Movie Database; 

Christine Cagney is the youngest child of Detective Charlie Cagney. She comes from a privileged background and was raised in a posh home in New York along with her brother Brian, and was a debutant much to the disgust of the tomboy. Her upbringing demonstrates itself in episodes that show her ability to speak French, knowledge of art and classical music, and interest in opera etc. She is also a sports fan, often sporting a New York Yankees coat or hat that shows her tomboy characteristics.

Cagney’s parents divorced when she was young and Chris’ closeness with her father wedges a gap between Chris and both her mother and brother. She was raised Catholic, attended a Nun-run school, and although she rarely practices (during the “Don’t I Know You?” episode she admits her last confession was almost twenty years ago) the beliefs are still somewhat engraved in her. She briefly got in trouble with the police during her rebellious teen years where she spent a night in a jail cell, but then turns her attention and efforts into becoming the first female police commissioner. She attends university, and while she’s away studying in Paris, her mother dies and she does not return home for the funeral. After university she returns to New York and is teamed with Detective Mary Beth Lacey. Her commitment and determination drives her quickly into becoming a Sergeant and she continues to scale the police academy ladder often putting off her personal life. During the episode “Choices” where she thinks she is pregnant she confesses to sometimes wanting a husband and child, but more often than not being happy with her free and single life. Through out the seasons we meet many of Chris’ boyfriends, most memorably a fellow Detective who struggles with a cocaine addiction, a lawyer who proposes marriage only to be turned down, and a recovered alcoholic plumber.

Charlie Cagney is a sort of role model for his daughter, and so when it is revealed that he sometimes took bribes while on the beat, it’s a devastating blow to Chris. Although Chris inherited a large sum of money from her mother and lives comfortably, Charlie struggles with both a low income and an inability to manage his finances. Chris and Brian both provide for him, and look after him during his illnesses and bouts with alcoholism.

Chris has her fair share of drama during the seasons she’s shot, raped, discusses a previous violent relationship, and suffers from her own alcoholism which really kicks in when her father dies. She reconnects with older brother Brian who lives on the West Coast whom she hasn’t seen in over 12 years and goes through many hard cases and emotional times with her partner Mary Beth Lacey. Her ambition and determination are juxtaposed with her vulnerability and need to fit in amongst the boys in the squad. This mix of qualities, both help and hinder the character and she is centered somewhat by partner Lacey. Together the pair work well and fit together with the season finale of the series leaving them with a chance of becoming part of a special crime unit.

 

And last but not least…..  

Ladyjustice was schooled on justice while as a youngster, watching a million episodes of Perry Mason and Ironsides with her grandmother. 

Ladyjustice used to say that there will be no “Ava Maria” at her funeral…. Instead, please do the Perry Mason piano melodies and the funky version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” 


Ladyjustice Signing off for now…..