NCIS is a Great Teacher

Posted: February 8, 2012 in For writers
Tags: , , , , , ,

Like many in America, I watched the 200th episode of NCIS last night.  As a writer, part of my job is to read constantly, and to watch good television and movies as examples of plot and character development.  NCIS is one of my favorite shows.  It has it all, great writing and directing, a fabulous ensemble cast, and just the right amount of humor in between the pathos caused by the human stories behind murder.  For those of you who don’t know the show, NCIS stands for Naval Criminal Investigative Service.   The NCIS agents investigate crimes against US Navy personnel or Marines.  **** Spoiler Alert ***** If you haven’t yet watched the show, you’d better fire up your Tivo instead of reading this blog.  Go now.  Have fun watching.

Still here?  Good.  I hope you enjoyed the show as much as I did.  The 200th episode took the main character, Leroy Gethro Gibbs, through “what if” scenarios, showing him some of the consequences of the decisions he made and the consequences had he taken another path.  One of the scenarios reminded me of the story line I’m writing into my newest book.  When Gibbs was very young, he went to Mexico and assassinated the drug cartel overlord who had killed his wife and daughter before his wife could testify against the drug lord in a murder trial.  Gibbs has grown into the kind of man whom everyone admires, tough but compassionate, a crusader for justice, but he is also flawed by this seemingly righteous revenge killing during his youth.  He removed a very bad man from this earth, but he did it without the due process of law. Does that make him a killer or… well, that’s for you to judge.

Gibbs became the hero that he is because after the killing he returned to find his home was still empty of the people he loved.  Revenge did nothing to change that, so he dedicated his life to helping the victims find justice.

In my newest book, (here’s another spoiler alert……) the woman who is killed has a path similar to Gibbs’.  She was abused and took action against her abuser.  Unlike Gibbs, she found relief from her pain, or so she thought.  You’ll have to read the book to see how that story line develops.

Now I’m to the point where her daughter is about to learn of her mother’s secret past.  The daughter, Rebecca, is a sweetheart who you will like instantly.  She is a grade school teacher with two young sons and a loving husband.  To have the police arrive at her door with the news that her mother has been murdered has rocked her world more than she could ever have imagined.  But the worst pain hasn’t begun.  She is soon going to learn about her mother’s past, to discover that the life she had lived had been based on a lie.  The person who had brought her into this world, who had loved and guided her, will turn out to have lived a secret life of evil and corruption.  What happens when your world is turned inside out?  That’s what I have to portray next, the pain of the innocent child betrayed.

I thought of my story line while I watched NCIS last night.  All of the “what if” scenarios the show portrayed percolated in my brain as I slept.  I want to go back and rewrite a little of the mother-daughter history to give more insight into their relationship.  When I write the revelation of her mother’s past, I want Rebecca’s confusion, pain and eventual horror to be palpable.  I want the “what if” to pop out in your mind when you read the story.

Thanks, NCIS, for helping me spice up my story line.  You’re a great teacher.


Read a sample of my last book, an Alice Anne  mystery:  “The Banker’s Murder List.”

  1. mjspringett says:

    thank you for revealing your “secrets”, this is a wonderful blog and you are a great teacher, MJ

  2. Margie says:

    I LOVE NCIS!!! My favorite show hands down. We can watch the reruns eight thousand times and never tire of them and this top notch cast. I adore Abby and her relationship with Gibbs, would run off with Mark Harman, LOL, and….well, I love em’ all! Go for it Chris! Margie

  3. […] show was all about the What Ifs in Leroy Gethro Gibbs (main character) life.  See Chris’s blog NCIS is a Great Teacher for more […]

  4. Kate Kresse says:

    love that show, the cast, the quirks, the writing….loved your post about it and your writing, Chris.

  5. ntexas99 says:

    I don’t watch the show, but found this post very interesting in that it reflects a behind the scenes view into how some story lines are built or perfected. Good stuff.

  6. Margie says:

    I’m a big fan of NCIS too. Here in Canada we are equally fortunate to have the detective series, “Murdoch Mysteries”. Set in the late 1800’s in Toronto, Murdoch solves crimes by using the latest forensic techniques of the time!

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