by Toni L.P. Kelner / Leigh Perry
I occurred to me tonight that my family has been having an odd assortment of conversations this past few days. Maybe it's been being kept inside by the dreadful weather of ludicrous cold followed by snow followed by ludicrous cold. Maybe it's having survived the holiday season followed by colds for three of the four of us. Maybe it's the fact that for a few more weeks, we will have four adult Kelners living in one house before one moves to Atlanta, and later on, another goes off to be a Monster Camper (more on that later). Maybe it's just the way we roll.
Tonight, for example, we watched and then picked apart "The White Rabbit Job," an episode of Leverage. Now Leverage is one of our favorite shows, and we've been bingeing on it during the aforementioned cold-snap/snow-storm/cold-snap period. But we agreed that "The White Rabbit Job" is problematic. If you're not familiar with the show, it's about a group of thieves--a mastermind, a hitter, a grifter, a hacker, and a thief--who help people. They pull all kinds of elaborate cons, but in this one, they were messing with a guy's mind, trying to turn him back into the nice guy he used to be. It turned out all right in the end, of course, and there's a lot of elements in the show that we admire greatly, but messing with somebody's mind? Ew! Still, we agreed that the episode demonstrated real character growth for the main characters, which is something we like to see in a show.
That segued into a discussion of how one can actually change a person, via therapy or intervention or giving survey-based feedback. Steve is a management consultant, and has given professional feedback to scores of people over the years, and talked about how even negative feedback can be given in a way that's palatable to the subject. And a lot of what he was saying, I pointed out, applied really well to giving editorial feedback.
Next up was a discussion of people we'd like to give feedback to with a stick. Really, a padded stick Valerie uses as a Monster Camper. (Really, I'll explain that soon.) Without naming names, one might say that one's co-worker could benefit from a firm talking-to, but we'd really rather use the stick. I think those violent urges in myself are a lot the reason I find mystery writing so darned satisfying. I can't really chase down a loved one's co-worker with a stick or other weapon, but I can torment them in my books. Ah, the time I killed off an ex-boyfriend.... Good times. (Country Comes to Town, if you're curious.)
From there, it went on to other uses of Val's padded stick--technically a padded bo staff she uses at her summer camp, which is a live-action role-play camp. (Think real life Dungeons and Dragons.) Valerie is a junior counselor of sorts, known as a Monster Camper. (I told you I'd explain it!) At some point, one of the younger campers yelled, "Murder in the night!" and used his own padded weapon to smack a male camper in what is known as the no-no zone. I kind of filed that away because I'm contemplating setting a Family Skeleton mystery at a similar summer camp, and that sounded like a fun piece of business. Well, not for the guy slammed in the no-no zone, of course
From there, we discussed the fact that Viking society considered all nighttime killings to be murder--a daytime killing could be manslaughter. That factoid was something Steve used in his Viking mystery short story "Death at the Althing."
As bedtime approached and broke up our erudite discussion, I realized that it wasn't totally random conversation after all. Because no matter what we were discussing, editing or character design or writing made it into the mix. It's all story telling, and that's what conversation is all about.