they fight crime? okay

Lori Rader-Day wrote this post at the Debutante Ball website, and it made me think, particularly the “They Fight Crime” thing.

He’s a low-rent lawyer who became a lower-rent private detective.

She’s a witch who once possessed him with magic and nearly ruined his life.

They fight crime!

Well, actually they solve mysteries. His name is Tony Peterson and hers is Cassandra Collins, and the stories are wonderful.

They’re part of the series of Dark Shadows audio dramas that Big Finish Productions puts out. The progression of the relationship between Tony and Cassandra over the several stories is actually quite believable (within the general supernatural framework, of course).

The actors help, of course — I wonder if the reason this became a little series within the overall series of the audio stories was because of how Lara Parker and Jerry Lacy played against each other in the first one.

I have also enjoyed the series because they have tended to use very traditional mystery forms. The first one was a classic “limited number of suspects trapped on an island cut off from the rest of the world” story, and the last (it seems to be the last anyway…) was a “cozy” mystery, set in a small English village — and it even includes an elderly woman, very kindly, who solves mysteries. I could not figure out what she was doing there — Tony and Cassandra are the detectives, after all — but at the end it made perfect sense.

There’s a lot of wit in the writing (all of the stories about Tony and Cassandra were written by the same writer), but it never goes over the line into comedy. This is Dark Shadows, after all — this is not the world of sparkly, non-lethal vampires and happy endings. Tony and Cassandra are having fun traveling around the world, bickering and solving supernatural mysteries together, but it will not end well. That’s always in the background, balancing out the humor.

In the last story, the investigation is going to take them to the village church. Tony offers to make an excuse, but Cassandra says no, she’ll go. She’s his partner and it would look strange if she didn’t go to the… church with him. Then he says, “You’re not going to burst into flames or anything, are you?”

She laughs. “Of course not,” she says. “Don’t be absurd. It’s just been a long time since I’ve been in a… church.” You can hear the (very uncharacteristic) uncertainty in her voice through the rest of the scene, as if she herself wasn’t 100% sure what might happen when she stepped inside the doors.

Anyway, the point of all this is that, yes, the “They Solve Crimes” ideas sound stupid, but there are no magically good ideas anyway — it’s all in how you write it. (And, by the same token, there’s no idea so great that you can’t screw it up by writing it badly.)

So, if you want to write about the adventures of a bisexual magician’s assistant with no name and a mentally unstable barbarian in a wheelchair, go right ahead. Just write it well.

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One Response to they fight crime? okay

  1. Pingback: storytelling lessons from big finish » Anthony Lee Collins

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