A funny thing happened while I was writing MASKING FOR TROUBLE. I got called for Jury Duty. I had hit that murky middle part of the manuscript and was actually happy for the distraction. I hoped that shaking up my regular routine would help me, but I also knew I had an excuse for not working. Truthfully, it could have gone either way.
I got up early and walked to the Metro stop, and then rode it to the courthouse. I ate a Pop-Tart for lunch and spent the rest of my time writing in the courtyard. I sat through jury selection only to be told that we would continue the process the next day.
I was fascinated by the process. A rumpled lawyer who appeared leaned back so far in his chair I thought it would break. A second lawyer who looked perfectly put together from his bowtie to his tailored suit. A third lawyer (it was a confusing case) who jumped in every once in a while, just to remind us that his client wasn’t happy with either of the brothers who were suing each other. The longer I sat in the back of the courthouse studying the people involved, the more I realized it was exactly what I needed to shake myself out of the murky middle. I took notes on how people were dressed (“Lawyer costumes”), how they acted, what they said. I watched a quiet woman in head- to-toe pink politely answer a lawyer who questioned her when she said she owned property. (“Do you mean your husband owns property?” “No, it’s mine. I formed a limited liability corporation and manage four properties in Los Angeles.”) (That’ll teach the lawyer to make judgements of women dressed in head-to-toe pink!)
By the time jury selection was complete, I was one of two people who hadn’t been selected. The group was dismissed for lunch. I could have caught the Metro home and gone about the rest of my week. But something about the process appealed to my sense of adventure. I wanted to see how this case unfolded. (Plus, I kind of liked getting out of the house.) I showed up at the courthouse every day for the next week and sat in the back. I took notes and revisited my synopsis. And during lunch breaks, I navigated the murky middle of my manuscript and came out the other side.
The case went on for almost two weeks. Revisions and other responsibilities kept me from attending during the second week but I made arrangements with one of the jurors to tell me the outcome. I finished MASKING FOR TROUBLE in the month that followed and there’s no doubt that, while there’s no court case scene in my book, the experience impacted the story.
Lessons learned: get out of the house. Experience new things. Watch. Learn. Take Notes. And never underestimate a woman dressed in head-to-toe pink.