Jury Duty and the Art of the Novel

I’ve been called for jury duty.

I’ve served before, and I consider it a privilege. Not an unmitigated privilege, of course – waiting around, transportation woes, more waiting, making sure my hearing aids have sufficient battery, wait some more, and then argue with five or eleven other people about what we heard and what it means.

But consider the alternatives. Ducking stools? Trial by combat? The judge listening only to the highest-status person in the case?

Thus, a privilege.

Besides, I suck at combat. And I can’t hold my breath as long as I used to.

But as a storyteller, I enjoy – not sure that’s the right word, but close enough – I enjoy listening to each side attempting to spin a coherent narrative while the other side tries to blow up said narrative. It’s like I’m typing my story but the word processor is deleting phrases and altering paragraphs on its own accord. (I’m told that Word users can pay extra for this feature. Microsoft is calling it Copilot.)

Obviously, I can’t talk about the case. (No, it’s not that case. Believe me, I’d be frantically turning my experience into a book in the expectation that I can write faster than any of the other jurors.)

But the case doesn’t matter, in a storytelling sense. Conflict galore. Characters you want to see get their comeuppance. Other characters who aren’t those lawyers.

And lots of filler, a/k/a waiting around.

But I’ve been watching taut tales turned into eight- to ten-hour Netflix and Amazon marathons, so I’m used to waiting. Waiting has become a constant, that and paying rabid attention to six-inch screens.

Here’s hoping you never need a jury. But if you do, and if I’m on it, I promise to listen to your story, and maybe write an Amazon review.