In which I harmonize with NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs

People are always coming up to me and saying, “Rich, you are a moderately successful writer of genre fiction–what’s the secret of your moderate success?”

OK, that sentence is pretty much entirely a lie.  But my post on Chekhov’s gun reminds me that there are rules for writing that it would behoove writers and would-be writers to follow.  And I know some of them!  I may have made up some of them myself!  So maybe I should devote an occasional post to elucidating those rules.

Which in turn reminds me of NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs.  Gibbs is of course the platonic ideal of an NCIS Special Agent (he may in fact be the platonic ideal of American guy-ness).  Men want to be Gibbs, especially when he strides into headquarters and sneaks up on the other special agents as they are exchanging some mildly inappropriate office banter and says, “Grab your gear — dead Marine in that park where there is a dead Marine almost every week.”  Women want to be with Gibbs; especially if they can be like Abby, when he brings her a cup of Caf-Pow and then pecks her on the cheek after she tells him that the knife wound that killed the Marine could only have been made by a knife manufactured in some obscure knife factory in Sarajevo, which means the Marine’s killer was that minor Bosnian character none of us had suspected was the killer until that instant.

Anyway, Gibbs has rules, which are explained in hilarious detail on the NCIS wiki. If you want to be like Gibbs (as an agent and as an American guy), follow his rules (like Rule 8: Never take anything for granted).

Now of course, as the wiki makes clear, Gibbs is allowed to break his own rules, because he is Gibbs.  If you are Shakespeare or Dickens (or, I suppose, Hideki Murakami), you don’t need no stinkin’ rules for writing.  Or, if you have them, you can break them when it suits you.  But you and I are not Gibbs or Dickens; we are Tony DiNozzo or Timothy McGee, just regular ol’ special agents trying to learn from the master.  (By the way, just because I know some rules doesn’t mean that I always follow them.  I’m more like Agent McGee trying to pass the rules along to a new probie so that he can avoid the mistakes that McGee has made and the inevitable headslaps from an exasperated Gibbs.)

So, since this is a C-based blog rather than a Fortran-based blog, let’s start with Rule 0: Write.

There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

“Writing” doesn’t mean writing blog posts about what you’re going to write about.  It doesn’t mean writing notes to yourself about what you’re going to write about.  It means, you know, writing.

I think I may need to expand on Rule 0, but I’ll do that in another post.

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4 thoughts on “In which I harmonize with NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs

  1. Pingback: Rule 37: Use names that don’t confuse your reader | richard bowker

  2. Pingback: Rules for Writing — Rule 7: Aim for the right level of believability | richard bowker

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