I am very clear about this: I make things up for a living. That is to say, nothing you'll read from me (with the possible exception of this blog and my two non-fiction books) is true. None of it happened and none of those people--again, with one exception I used with permission--is real. My job, as I see it, is to amuse and entertain. Reality just gets in the way of that.
That's why I have not seen any episodes of The Making of a Murderer or The Jinx. I have not listened to Serial, either "season." I'm not watching any of the current The People vs. O.J. Simpson. I'm not even a fan of In Cold Blood in any incarnation.
True crime honestly doesn't interest me. I understand that some people love the details of the case and want to know whether the accused (there always seems to be an accused) "did it," whether the victim will--despite remaining dead--get justice. I'm not saying those people shouldn't find all this stuff absolutely riveting. It's a perfectly legitimate form of storytelling and for those who find something in it, more power to you.
It's just not for me, that's all.
I do tend to read non-fiction, partly because fiction reading has become something of a busman's holiday for me. I've always said that I don't read much crime fiction because I don't want someone else's voice in my head when I'm writing (and these days, luckily, I'm pretty much always writing), and I do mean that. Even subconsciously there should be no plot point seepage into my own work. I wouldn't ever steal an idea from another writer on a conscious level but I don't want even the possibility to exist.
Also, one of the reasons a person gets into this game is that nobody's writing the book you want to read, so you have to write it yourself. And that is not insignificant. I do write the kind of book that keeps me interested, largely because you deal with it for a few hours but I have to live with the story for months. I trust that by not boring myself I will hopefully not bore the reader.
But the non-fiction I read tends to be in the areas of historical profiles or biographies. True crime never enters into the mix. Frankly, it's a little depressing for me to begin with and I'm not interested in speculating (as so much of the current crop seems to expect the consumer to do) on whether the party at the center of the investigation is guilty or not. One of the things I've always liked about crime fiction is that we pretty much always get to find out who the culprit is at the end of the story. There is rarely a question left open. In fact, editors have been very clear with me about not leaving anything dangling at the end of a book, even in a series novel. So you get your closure no matter what.
Also, true crime tends to deal with the sensational events, almost always murders, that are meant to pique the public's imagination through the hideous nature of the crime and/or the spectacularly bizarre personalities at the center of the issue. In that way true crime is not all that different from crime fiction. We focus on strange, or at least unusual, crimes (almost always murders although I'd love to write one without) and oversized personalities. The problem is, as Joseph Mankiewicz once noted, "the difference between life and movies is that a script has to make sense and life doesn't".
I'm not interested in getting that close to a sociopath. I prefer a little humor in what I use to fill that "free time" I keep hearing about. For me, the idea of getting that deep into a situation in which someone actually lost his or her life is deflating: Maybe the guilty party is caught; maybe not. Either way, the victim stays dead and I find that disturbing. Yes, people should be exposed and punished when they do something wrong, especially that wrong. But does it make everything okay? Not really.
In fiction, we can make the victim someone nobody liked or someone inconsequential. If we want, we can invite the reader (audience) to care about the victim and offer some idea of restoration in the criminal's comeuppance. A writer can focus on any aspect of the story (I prefer to emphasize character and hopefully humor) and downplay others (like death and terror). That's me. I'm not suggesting it has to be you.
So I won't be checking in on any of the real-life murderers on TV these days. In fact, I don't watch any "reality programming" because I can't think of one that's not insulting to my intelligence or simply uninteresting. Again, this is a matter of personal taste. I will watch some stuff I can't even call a "guilty pleasure" and wouldn't recommend to you at all. But it fills a need for me (and no, I'm not talking about porn).
That's why I'm not a fan of the true crime genre. So if you refer to whomever that murderer who was made might be or some other "famous" killer and I look blank, you'll know why.
In my head, I'm busy making up something else.
P.S. Opening Day is 7 days from today.