Moments of Character

For the last few months, I’ve been rewatching some of my favorite detective procedurals as “research” for the mystery I am working on. (I use the air quotes around research because it’s also just because I enjoy them.) At the moment, I’m working my way through Bones, and I love the bits of character development that come in the small moments.

For those of you who have never seen the show, Cam joins the show in the second season. She takes over for the previous head of the Forensics division; previously a coroner, she works with the flesh. Now, Cam is not even my favorite character (and I mean no disrespect to the actress, who is fabulous). Angela, Hodgins, and Sweets are my top three. But there are moments where Cam is just so…human? Funny? Relatable? That I can’t help but admire the writing.

Because Cam is, essentially, the regular duck in a pond of geniuses, she’s often the one most viewers, me included, can relate to easily. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve watched this series, but this moment still gets me every time:

  • ANGELA: Then, I’ll recalibrate and get a digital rendering of the bones inside, which I can enhance. 
  • DAISY: You’ve found out how to show what bone damage came from the actual crushing of the car. 
  • ANGELA: Factoring in the pounds per square inch of force exerted by the car crusher. 
  • DAISY: Oh, I hope you’ve included the car’s frame and the tensile strength of the v*ctim’s skeletal structure. 
  • ANGELA: I’ll make a note. 
  • CAM: Well, I programmed my phone to get the five-day forecast.

One of her funniest moments, though is when Booth is beating up a hockey player for playing dirty and taking hits on his guys: 

  • BRENNAN: I do not know how I feel about this. 
  • SWEETS: It’s very primal. 
  • CAM: I like it. Just a little too much.

Probably my favorite moment of Cam’s, the one I relate to the most, is when a body is brought in and suddenly erupts in tiny spiders (I’m incredibly arachnophobic). Hodgins explains that the cold clay that encased the body held the spider eggs, and the heat in the lab caused them to hatch. For the entirety of this scene, Cam is clearly uncomfortable. She’s scratching, she’s taking steps back.

  • HODGINS: These bad boys are Frontinella communis; they’re non-poisonous. 
  • CAM: Yeah, still with those gross spider faces and legs, though… 
  • HODGINS: This spider’s not found in the area where the body was discovered. 
  • CAM: (scratching) Any idea how to…uh…remove the body from the sediment? 
  • HODGINS: Well, I mean, if we remove the moisture from the clay, then it should just fall away without affecting the bones, at all. I just need four dehumidifiers. (notices CAM scratching) You okay, there, Dr. Saroyan? 
  • CAM: Yeah, I’m just…itchy all over. I’m gonna go burn all of these clothes. And maybe my hair.

I always tell my students that good writers are good readers/consumers. When we find something that works for us in what we are reading (or watching or listening to), pay attention. Then figure out how they did it so that we can create such moments in our own work. These are such small moments, but they reveal so much of the character.

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