Monday, October 09, 2006

BC: A Criminal Mind



Some time ago Fed Ex brought me a flat package from the Philippines. Right address, wrong name. I stood in my kitchen and eyed it warily. I didn’t know the sender, didn’t know anybody in that country. It had to be a bomb. Or a threatening note from some crazed stalker. I opened it with caution, at the same time laughing at myself. Girl, you watch too much crime. Turned out the package held sale papers for a car—in pesos. Who knows how these people got my address, but it wasn’t intended for me.

So then my brain got to working. Unknown package, sent by mistake. Opener sees something she shouldn’t see. Hm . . .

Here's another incident that happened more recently. I was jogging (I swear, the strangest things happen when I jog. And I'm just trying to mind my own business), when I spied a large manila folder in the middle of the road, not far from the parking lot entrance to a medical building. My active mind imagined an immediate scenario--someone in a hurry, placing the file on top of his car, then forgetting it and driving away. I wasn't very far from home at the time and didn't want to carry the thing on my entire run. Plus I figured whoever lost it would soon realize what he'd done and come looking for it. So I left it where it lay. But on the way back, after almost my entire five-mile run--there lay the package, still in the middle of the road. I went over to retrieve it, thinking I'd tote it home. I could probably find a name inside and make a phone call to the owner.

The contents? Original X-rays on a patient's spine, and the doctor's interpreted results--which didn't look too positive. In other words, very private information. I checked the name and address of the doc, thinking maybe his office was in the nearby medical building. But no--the address was two towns away.

I toted the thing home to call the doctor's office. During that short distance, my brain ran faster than my legs. Imagine this weird concidence: some patient two towns away has X-rays--and I, a total stranger, wind up with the results in my hand. What if that patient were a well-known and highly paid football player? Or a politician running for office? What if this information, leaked to the press, would completely ruin some famous person's career? And then what if someone found out I had this information, because I made the innocent phone call to the doctor's office--and came after me to silence me . . .?

Such is my life of writing Seatbelt Suspense™. I get a nosebleed, I think blood splatter patterns. I see someone on a cell phone, I think--Do you know how your movements can be traced? In short, crime is always on my mind.

My life has become constant research as to how crimes are solved and sent through the legal system. I’ll cut out articles in the paper about some unique crime or twist in a trial. I watch Court TV—Forensic Files, The Investigators, The System, etc., and programs such as Cold Case Files on A&E. I take notes and throw ’em in my idea boxes sitting on my credenza. I have learned some way cool stuff. All kinds of poisons, how killers think, legal system antics and forensics galore. To me the forensics are the most interesting. How one tiny fiber solved a case. Or how a branch on a tree proved a murder, when the body had never been found. What blood splatter shows us; gun residue issues; toxicology tests; how an anthropologist determines sex, age, and gender from a skeleton. I could go on and on.

I am careful not to taint my constant research. So I don’t watch TV crime dramas—CSI, Law and Order, etc. These shows may be based on reality, but they must adhere to the conventions of fiction in one hour of TV. So they’ll fudge on certain techniques, or who does what. In order to keep characters to a minimum, they’ll have the techies doing things that other specialists would do. I’ve had a critiquer read one of my books and make a comment as to how a crime would have been investigated—“Well, anybody who watches Law and Order would know that . . .”

Blat. Push wrong answer buzzer here.

My husband can’t understand it. “How do you watch those horrible shows?” Especially with my high degree of empathy for people. Well, how does anyone working in the crime field do it? You shut off the emotions and look at it purely analytically. Solving the crime is like piecing together a mind-boggling puzzle. It’s fascinating. Meanwhile he--and my friends--have learned to live with me. Anytime someone says something that triggers my brain, and my eyes glaze over and veer up and to the left--they know I'm spinning some new crazed scenario. Happened again just yesterday. One friend just shook her head at the other. "And she looks so normal."

Enter the criminal mind if you dare. Read the first chapters to all Brandilyn Collins's Seatbelt Suspense™ novels at: http://www.brandilyncollins.com/. Members of the BHCC (Big Honkin' Chickens Club) need not apply.

14 Comments:

At 8:45 AM, Blogger Michelle Pendergrass said...

I knew I liked you for some reason. ;)

I used to get into the forensics a lot more than I do now. I'm more whacked out and warped than I used to be.

 
At 9:23 AM, Blogger Kristy Dykes said...

When I watch too many of those shows, I get nightmares. People are chasing me. Sometimes those hokey Lifetime movies do that to me too.

Thanks for a great post. I love the What If references, the M.O. of every writer.

 
At 9:40 AM, Blogger Cara Putman said...

The best part about hanging out with other writers was learning that my mind wasn't as weird as I thought it was. Such a relief to know I'm not the only one who runs with what if scenarios. Now if only I could direct those better :-)

 
At 10:15 AM, Blogger Patricia W. said...

I like the way your mind works. (Not sure what that says about me.)

Keep writing!

 
At 10:58 AM, Blogger Heather said...

I get nightmares, too, when I watch those shows. But then those nightmares become book ideas.

 
At 11:26 AM, Blogger Richard Mabry said...

The way you happen to be around when unusual things happen reminds me of what Coach Bill Parcells' father used to say to him: "Son, I know you never look for trouble, but you always seem to be in the neighborhood when it happens."
I'm certain that wierd things happen to you only by pure chance, Brandilyn, but then I begin to think....
Oh, well. Thanks for the way you put those wierd things to good use.

 
At 12:35 PM, Blogger Ron Estrada said...

Recently there were several murders at some bed & breakfast in one of the New England states. Turns out it was the chef. I'm showing the article to my wife, practically bouncing up and down and saying, "Isn't this great?" She thinks I've gone 'round the twist.

 
At 2:09 PM, Blogger Ane Mulligan said...

ROFLOL - this member of the BHCC is trying, Brandilyn. I'm starting by reading a paragraph at a time. :o) I just have so much trouble turning off that empathizer.

 
At 2:34 PM, Blogger Gina Holmes said...

This post reminds me of when I was at a birthday party at this sweet Christian, homeschool family's house. The sweet little cherubs were whacking away at a pinata and I leaned into her and said, how freaky would it be if instead of candy a head fell out?

I chuckled and she moved to the other side of the yard. Well, it would be freaky. Geesh.

 
At 5:22 PM, Blogger Lynette Sowell said...

What is scary is that there are those of us who understand. My dh is used to it by now. :) I think it is far more criminal NOT to use the imagination.

 
At 12:11 AM, Blogger Janet Rubin said...

This is great, Brandilyn. You've inspired me to research more. By the way, my hubby is a fireman. He thought I was a sicko the other day because I was working on my novel and I kept asking him things like, "How can I get this lady to catch on fire?"

 
At 12:39 AM, Blogger ~ Brandilyn Collins said...

And I thought I had the only sick mind around.

 
At 1:29 AM, Blogger Bonnie Calhoun said...

Brandilyn...you're as normal as I am...uh,er...jeez...I don't know if that's a good thing or not...LOL!

 
At 8:54 PM, Blogger brendalottakamaggiebrendan said...

Oh goodness! My mind thinks the same way, although I write historical romance. Almost every day when I get to work to unlock the office building, I turn off the alarm, flip on the lights, walk down the hall to turn on the computers in the workroom, and almost always imagine a dead body lying there! Or someone will come out of one of the offices to hold me hostage or something! LOL!! Or Scream outloutd!

 

Post a Comment

<< Home