If you haven’t watched Justified, check it out. It’s a goldmine for writers. The FX series is based on Elmore Leonard’s short story, Fire in the Hole, and three books, including Raylan. In fact, all the actors wore wrist bands that read WWED — What Would Elmore Do?— to stay true to the creator’s vision.
Elmore Leonard worked on the show till his death in 2013.
The series follows Raylan Givens, a U.S. Marshal, played by Timothy Olyphant, who returns to his hometown of Kentucky to take on the local criminal element. Boyd Crowder, an old friend, proves to be his toughest nemesis. Raylan may be the hero, but Boyd, the villain, steals almost every scene. Boyd is calm, funny, and deadly. The back-and-forth between Boyd and Raylan is absolutely mesmerizing. Elmore Leonard did a masterful job of creating these two characters.
I’m not sure if we mere mortals could pull off such a memorable character like Boyd, but he sure is inspiring. Aside from Leonard’s expert characterization, the remarkable talent of Walton Goggins never lets you see the full picture as clearly as you think you do. Just when you’ve figured Boyd out, he switches sides and teams up with Raylan to bring down a bad guy.
Writing Tip: The best villains have at least one endearing characteristic.
To Elmore Leonard’s credit, Raylon also blurs the line between hero and anti-hero.
Writing Tip: The best heroes are flawed.
Fun fact: Walton Goggins only signed on for the pilot episode, in which Boyd was supposed to die, but Elmore Leonard wanted to explore the character in more depth. The rest, as they say, is history.
Boyd Crowder’s Characterization
Rap sheet: Silver-tongued bank robber turned low-level Kentucky kingpin with higher aspirations and an occasional religious “born again” streak.
Superpower: Nobody who knows this many 50c words has fewer compunctions about stabbing you in the back. Nobody likely to stab you in the back knows this many 50c words.
Kryptonite: He’s desperately in love with his former sister-in-law.
Writing Tip: When crafting characters think outside the box.
What makes Boyd truly stand out is his poetic dialogue, which we’ll get to in a sec. First, let’s look at a few of his one-liners.
Arguing with a man who has renounced reason is like giving medicine to the dead.
I believe you dictate the river of fate through your own actions.
I’ve learned to think without arguing with myself.
A man who speaks out both sides of his mouth deserves to have it permanently shut.
I’ve been accused of bein’ a lot of things. Inarticulate ain’t one of ’em.
He’s right! I should probably note: Until you’re as famous as Elmore Leonard, attempting the following dialogue in your WIP might not work. 😉
Boyd: Well, well, well… I hesitate to ask what brings us the pleasure of this divine coincidence that we find ourselves crossing paths this fine spring morning.
Translation: What are you doing here?
Boyd: I fear, my brother, I am in a quandary as to your inner thoughts and the impact of said ruminations on your future actions in this here hollow.
Translation: What’s up?
Boyd: Mr. Augustine, seeing as how Drew Thompson’s already in the Marshalls’ custody, why you’re cutting off the tail of my cousin and offering him up is opaque to me.
Translation: What do you want?
Boyd: I fear that within my belly stirs the emanations of desire for a product that sates the ache within.
Translation: I’m hungry.
Boyd: Well, my darling, being a lowly omnivore like yourself, I shall choose from this glorious list of animal flesh—the edible prize that men have hunted and killed for centuries, incidentally—a rounded flesh of cow, slipped within a doughy mattress, saddled with cheddar.
Translation: I’ll have a cheeseburger.
Boyd: Be that as it may, I sense within me a growing, nagging torpor that seeks a temporary hibernation in a solitary area for comfort and slumber.
Translation: I’m going to bed.
Make no mistake. Boyd is a dangerous guy. Check out one of the best murder speeches ever written.
That’s a rap, folks! May 2021 be your most successful year yet.
Have you watched Justified or read Fire in the Hole?
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