If Not Your Book, Then Someone Else’s

Oh the futility of avoiding your work because of what someone else might do with it!

I am an unabashed fan of Criminal Minds. Unabashed enough to admit that I leapt out of bed this morning when I remembered that last night’s episode was now available to view online and that I skipped a bit of my morning routine just to watch it before it was time to get writing.

Hashtag: No regrets. Hashtag: YOLO. Hashtag: Living my best life.

By the way, you should probably stop reading this if you don’t want spoilers because there’s a strong possibility of that.

Last night’s unsub and his accomplice were revealed to be fans of David Rossi’s bestselling books on criminology and serial killers in particular. They admit even to his work being a kind of inspiration to them which he appears to use to his advantage with confidence. Really, this makes him wonder about whether his books do more harm than good.

This came up before for Rossi when a budding criminologist (and fan of his work) stumbled onto and then into the path of a serial killer (also a fan of his work) and a guilt-riddled Rossi did everything he could to do right by her by catching her killer (and attempting to pay for her funeral).

At the end of this week’s episode, Rossi shares his concerns with the team and offer multiple examples of the good his book has done. And he shuts them down by reminding them of the Law of Porn/the Internet at the heart of the episode: If you can think of it, there is (or will be) a porn for it.

The idea being with so many books published and so many deviants in the world that the amount of harm done far outweighs somehow the number of criminologists trained and killers caught. The team says nothing in response to him because that’s how the end was scripted.

Allow me to go off script with what I would have said to Rossi in response: What happened here is not your fault. If it hadn’t been your books, it would have been someone else’s and you wouldn’t have had the advantage of knowing your books inside and out plus everything you ultimately edited out of your books.

I get this whole writer-beats-self-up-over-criminal-using-their-book-as-blueprint-for-committing-heinous-acts thing is a trope. But you know what’s also a trope: writer knows book and research behind book waaaaaay better than the criminal and catches their dumb copycat butt.

Bones, Castle, and Instinct are just three series centered on writers whose work has been misused and who then are launched into crime-solving careers. Heck, if you believe that any religious text is truly the word of God, then you could view any and all religious wars as people who were going to go to war anyway twisting God’s word to suit them.

How sh*tty must God feel, am I right?

But the replicated/inspired crimes would have happened anyway, even if they had some other writing to focus their deviant fantasizing. But by being a crime-solving writer, you have a distinct advantage because you did research. There is so much more that went into your book that the criminal can only begin to dream about while you lived with it all through the writing.

It sucks to have your words twisted and used against the things/people you value. But that’s literally every manipulative conversation ever. That’s f*cking gaslighting.

It sucks and it hurts and it makes you never want to open your mouth again.

The question isn’t whether speaking/writing does more harm than good (at least that way you can address mistakes as they arise).

The question is whether your silence does more harm than good.


Originally published at Better Storytelling.