I wear a few hats. I’m a wife and a mom who juggles life as an author and speaker. Beyond writing, I facilitate a critique group and participate in another. I’m active in ministry work, this season has me lending a hand with youth ministry. Even in my downtime I’ve confessed here that I watch TV shows and movies thinking about what I would have done differently. In all these things I observe not only my own actions, but others.
In the last two weeks it has been the NCIS franchise that reminded me something central about relationships, both in real life and in writing.
A healthy relationship is going to take time when it comes time to sharing.
When I critique, one thing I’m on the lookout for is a lot of “information dump.” I’m a reader first, and I’m constantly thinking of the reader when I critique. I don’t want them cheated out of getting to know the very best about a character, even if that character isn’t a good person. When I see too much information thrown at the reader at once, I’ll suggest they consider sprinkling this information throughout the story. It can be done with dialogue or conflict within the story.
NCIS is a master with this. The flagship show is over 12 years old. It’s an ensemble cast and they each have their own quirks, histories, and traits that make them fan favorites.
SPOILER ALERT—If you didn’t watch the 3/14 NCIS episode or the 3/20 NCIS LA episode, be warned. I’m going to share plot details…
Mark Harmon’s Leroy Jethro Gibbs is a complicated man and after all these years, we’re still learning about him. Would we have loved him as much if he had a rare moment of glib chat with Duckie and shared everything about him? His military life? His marriages? His grief over the murders of his first wife and daughter? All in one conversation? I don’t think so.
Last week Gibbs dropped a hint that he was having trouble sleeping. We saw scenes of him with a counselor and a vet suffering from PTSD. With sprinkles here and there, and keeping in mind there have been 12 years worth of these, the episode ended by showing something only us and Gibbs knew—he was trying to sleep in the same bed he shared with his first wife, something he had not been able to do. I loved it. It was a major reveal 12 years in the making. It made me think it could be why he spends so much time in the basement working on the boat. Is the upstairs too hard for him? Too many memories?
The same happened this week with NCIS LA. “G” Callan and his background have been a huge mystery since the show started. An episode here, a clue there, we learned tidbits about him, but not too much. This season the door for his life pushed a little more. Without shouting it, we watched G finally find his biological dad. But the biggest mystery was still out there.
What does “G” stand for?
This week we got our answer. The show is around 7 years old, and we finally learned the lead protagonist’s name. Grecia Callan. Talk about sprinkles. But you know what, so worth the wait.
It reminds me of high school. Girls tell their friends about a boy asking them out. They’ve not only said yes, they’ve shared every detail about their lives right down to the colors they want for the wedding. Information dump? Um, yeah. And usually the guy is out of there before she can book the chapel.
I’m going to be married 20 years in August. I’m still learning things about my husband. I’m grateful I didn’t find everything out right away. There are rich experiences that deepen my perspective when I find something new out about him.
I think that goes for relationships in general. Fiction ones. TV. Dating. Marriage. Resist the urge to information dump. The relationship is worth it!