Jordan Dane

It’s been crazy since the holidays between my writing deadlines, promotion for my latest release Indigo Awakening, and all the relatives coming in and out of town. But this week I’ve been saved. Elmore Leonard’s Justified is back for Season 4 and the first episode – Hole in the Wall – did not disappoint. It was “happy dance” fun.

Yes, Raylan and his bad ass Hat-itude inspires me to dig deep for insanely evocative dialogue and characters that make me cringe and laugh at the same time. I see this series as pure writer inspiration. (I love Elmore Leonard.) There were shockers in this first show. Don’t worry. No spoilers, but for anyone who saw it, I’m already filling my Constable Bob “Go To” bag with all the necessaries to kick some fictional butt in 2013.

What would you put in YOUR “go to” writer’s bag this year? Any resolutions? Here are FIVE writer things I learned from being JUSTIFIED.

1.) Never discount the importance of a good secondary character. Constable Bob is a prime example of how a well-written secondary character can steal your scenes and maybe become a spin-off.

2.) Writing one book can lead to another if you plant the seeds. Add a super hot bail bonds woman, a hotel mini-bar, and a marshal with pliable ethics and you can have a future book plot. Leave threads or seeds to another plot in your current work-in-progress. It never hurts to have ideas and it may leave readers wanting more.

3.) Dark humor is gold. When a loaded hooker comes face to face with something “grizzly” in her place of “business” or a simple phrase like “take care of him” can be construed in more than one way, a well-placed bullet can be JUSTIFIED funny.

4.) Give your anti-heroes loads of baggage and a cast of characters around them that will push their ethics to their darkest depths. Test them. Right from the start, Raylan is tempted into “helping” bring a fugitive to justice, especially if he can benefit from a little bounty money on the side and sees no harm in taking a modest gratuity. What comes next escalates his woes into pure Raylan MO when he has to cover his butt from getting caught. (Hint: If you talk too much, you get a special seat in his car.)

5.) To get a great pace going, jump into the plot without too much back story. The sheer mystery will draw readers in until your reveal. Have patience and don’t “telegraph” where you’re headed. Readers love a twist they never saw coming.

For the premiere, I followed twitter hashtag #JUSTIFIED while I watched the show to see what followers found interesting or memorable. Die hard fans are hilarious and they often quote whole lines to let everyone know what got to them. Twitterville heated up with Justified fans and I had even more fun. Many writers joined in the fun.

So tell me what you’d put in your writer’s TO GO bag for 2013—to be ready for anything like Constable Bob. Or please share what JUSTIFIED has taught you, whether you’re a reader or writer. (I’m pretty sure I’ll never ask Raylan’s daddy Arlo about what he likes to read. Just sayin’.)

Here’s a sneak preview of next week’s episode. If you have trouble viewing it, here is the Youtube link: http://youtu.be/mtMFLlk5lKk

24 thoughts on “I Am JUSTIFIED

  1. Jordan, I’m a solid Justified fan having never missed an episode. Your list should be etched into the monitor screens of every writer’s computer. #5 is a great spin-off of Rev. Bell’s “Act first, explain later” mantra. Good job!

    • Thanks, Joe. I was ecstatic as I watched this first show. Laugh out loud horrible things happen that make me excited to be a writer. I love this show.

  2. Season 2, Episode 2 – “You ever hear about a spot snipers call the ‘apricot’?”

    Season 3, Episode 3 – When Raylan lets Wynn Duffy (who’s lying down) know he’s pissed by dropping a bullet onto Wynn’s chest and telling him, “Next one’s coming faster.”

    I rewound my DVR and watched those two segments over, and over, and over. Raylan and his whole crew are badasses.

    • Ah, Jake. Great lines. I can picture those scenes. I tweeted my fav lines from this premiere as I watched the show like other fans did. What a blast! This season is setting up to be a classic. My DVR is primed & ready. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Never watched it but maybe now I will. Love TV shows that inspire me to write better. And your comment about secondary characters is spot on. But they can be sneaky in that they can steal the book.

    • You’d definitely be inspired. If you can catch ep 1 of this season, you will crack up.

      Good point about not letting characters steal scenes when it can diminish your overall plot. You have to make every word count and watch for a good balance.

  4. Rules from Justified:

    Don’t be afraid to tinker with major plot elements. The pilot for this series was the EL story Fire in the Hole. A crucial scene between Raylan and Boyd was originally shot according the story, but was changed afterward. Had they followed that initial storyline to say that a key relationship in the series – between Raylan and Boyd – would be entirely different would be an understatement.

    2. There are no throwaway characters. Even the most minor characters in Justified are fully realized. There is no “Cop 1”.

    From the other night:

    You might wanna rethink that bear suit.

    Loved Constable Bob’s cruiser.

    • Love your JUSTIFIED rules. Spot on. The mere fact that Elmore Leonard had initiated these characters from a book of short stories and created a whole world and story lines around them is a testament to your points.

      And yes, there are NO THROWAWAYS. When you write with the idea that you’re creating characters as PART OF the world you are building, that makes every one of them an adventure. Thanks for your comment and rules to add. Well done.

  5. I never watched it either, but I don’t watch TV at all really.

    I will say though, that a good secondary character, whether they’re a side kick, a comic relief character, or a romantic interest can often make the story much deeper. I am listening to Louis L’Amour’s ‘Sacketts’ series right now and love how he has so many recurring secondary characters throughout the series. It lends a sense of reality, as true life does not all happen with only one character but is multi-dimensional like that as well.

    In my own work I have a character who started out as a secondary/comic relief and developed into a major character that appears in 4 out of 5 of my books and a couple short stories as well. CIA under cover agent/hitman Kharzai Ghiassi has turned out to be the reader favourite out of all of my characters.

    speaking of characters…my newest audiobook narration just went live at Amazon/Audible.com. It is also my first ever totally British narration, as in the whole thing is accented with a British voice. Check out “The Winter Prince”, a YA story of King Arthur and Mordred. Very deep, very realistic, very thought provoking read.

    • Basil–I know you live in God’s country Alaska, but you should really make an exception and find an hour to watch this show just once…or record it. It’s a writer’s kind of show.

      Good luck with your YA audio book. Glad to see you’re dipping a toe into the YA world. With your imagination, you’re a natural.

  6. Good afternoon, Jordan! I’m a Justified fan as well…I have the show’s theme music set at my phone ring tone. I love the adversarial aspect of the relationship between Raylan and Boyd. When one is on screen, I miss the other. And when they interact…

    • Wow, Joe. I’d love to have that ring tone. HA! Great idea.

      I also am an amazed fan at how much Boyd resonates with me. Man, that guy is dark, but he has a strange loyalty to Raylan yet still manages to mess with him. There is not much that separates these two, which make them both amazing anti-hero character studies. Great point, Joe.

  7. Love your five gems of advice, Jordan! I’ll be sending my thriller-writer clients here to read them. And now I’d better start watching Justified! Thanks for both the great tips and the TV series recommendation!

    • Hi Jodie–Great to see you here on TKZ, a great blog to refer to your clients. We’re a very supportive online writing community.

      You can’t go wrong with an Elmore Leonard TV show or book.

  8. I’m a huge Justified fan. Loved the opener, although I missed Art; hope he’s back next episode.

    What makes this superior storytelling is that all the witty/mordant dialog and crazy/dark actions arise from characters who are rooted. Eg, Mags Bennett from last season could and did do some dark dark stuff but it was all prepared in her apple pie.

  9. Hi Toni. Mags is one of my favorite characters. So darkly menacing with just a look of her motherly eye. She’s a total contradiction between her matriarch persona and her death dealing reactions without warning. (SHIVER) Thanks for your comment.

  10. Chiming in late here and I feel like I am slow on the uptake as I’ve never watched any of Justified! Looks like I’d better start!

    • I think you have to be a quirky twisted crime fiction author to get addicted to this show, but I get giddy with anticipation for each season. My husband loves it too. (I don’t know what that says about US.)

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