“Where is he?”
I tend to do this a lot, start one-shots with a line of dialogue.
Sighing heavily, Gus stared back at the deceptively petite blonde woman defiantly glaring at him, her determination written all over her face.
Personally, I like to write Juliet as intimidating when she wants to be – she’s such a strong character.
“He’s not here,” he replied quietly.
“I can see that,” Juliet retorted, her tone clearly frustrated. She paced over to Shawn’s desk, her fingers involuntarily reaching out to touch the papers strewn haphazardly on it as well as his discarded laptop and a ridiculously forlorn-looking, dog-shaped bobblehead – all bearing evidence to their owner’s abandonment. She turned back around. “But where is he?”
I always have trouble describing things on Shawn’s desk – perhaps I don’t think randomly enough! So I generally come up with some fairly odd and probably not very effective items.
Gus leaned back in his chair, his expression weary. Staring at the floor, he thought back on the past few days. Considering how uneventful they had been, he ought to be completely rested for once. Instead, he was exhausted.
I love to write Gus worried about Shawn. We only see glimpses in the show, and I like to explore what he thinks when Shawn is hurting. It’s a creative exercise.
Realizing Juliet was still waiting for an answer, Gus said, “He made me promise not to tell.”
Juliet’s eyes widened before she took an impatient step toward him. “This isn’t third grade, Gus. He shouldn’t be alone.”
Wincing, Gus pinched the bridge of his nose. “I know that, Juliet. But it’s what he wants. He won’t even let me stay with him. He rarely ever even takes my calls or answers my texts. The idiot…” he muttered under his breath.
When I first started writing Psychfic, I tended to explain everything – what the characters were thinking, feeling, etc. But I have learned – or hope I have (thanks partially, I must give credit, to CK) – to let some of that unfold more naturally. Here, I wanted to reveal how they are concerned for Shawn without jumping right into saying why, letting it build.
Staring at the man, Juliet heard his frustrated concern, even the underlying hurt at basically being rejected by the friend he’d known for decades. Her expression softened as she rested her hands on Gus’s desk and leaned towards him.
My image of Juliet’s character is of someone who is very intuitive and can read people extremely well, both because of her job and because of natural ability.
“Tell me where he is, Gus. Let me try.”
Meeting Juliet’s earnest, unwavering gaze, Gus fought the battle between his loyalty to Shawn and his anxiety for him. He hadn’t been able to get through to him, but maybe she…
Still unsure if he was making the right decision, Gus pulled out a piece of paper and started writing directions.
It’s been relatively recently that I’ve been including more of the Gus/Juliet relationship. I tended to avoid it for some reasons, but I feel I have more of a handle on it now – or, at least, how I imagine it being in the future. I think, once Gus comes around to the idea of Juliet and Shawn together, he will see the reasons they complement each other. Also, Shawn doesn’t have many real friends, and I think Gus appreciates others who see what he does in Shawn.
Not for the first time since she had gotten in her car, Juliet wondered if she was doing the right thing.
Ah, always the underlying conflict between Shawn and Juliet – is it time? What do I really feel? Does he feel the same?
She had immediately set out to the lake after bullying Shawn’s whereabouts out of Gus. He was apparently staying at a cabin there owned by a former client.
Or, rather, he was hiding out at a cabin was more like it.
My attempt – whether successful, I don’t know – to include information with emotional development.
Juliet might have expected many things from Shawn Spencer, even taking off to parts unknown, but running away to the woods alone wasn’t one of them.
But, then again, this wasn’t a normal situation.
No, this was the first time he’d failed completely at a case.
Her fingers clutched tightly around the steering wheel, Juliet recalled the day it had all started. She and Lassiter had been assigned to a kidnapping, and the Chief had called in Shawn and Gus shortly thereafter. Juliet had listened anxiously while Shawn confidently gave his word to the distraught young single mother that they would find her little girl. At the time, she’d worried he was promising too much, but his assurance seemed to calm the woman, give her hope.
Too much hope, as it turned out.
They worked around the clock, teamed up with the FBI, and exhausted all their resources. Shawn had practically haunted the station for days, his typical humor getting sharper and sharper as time went on.
But, despite their efforts, the trail went dead.
No psychic visions.
Just a blank wall.
The mother had broken down when they had finally told her the investigation was stalled. Shawn had been there. The memory of his confused, defeated stare still chilled Juliet.
I like to put emphasis on Shawn’s compassion. It gets hidden by other traits, but I like to make sure it is front and center. Also, sometimes, he tends to barrel ahead, forgetting about consequences, and I wanted to bring him up against them here. So that’s how this particular case was born. I thought it presented enough difficulty and frustration that it would realistically be something which would eat at him. I also wanted to show that through Juliet’s point of view.
He’d continued with the search on his own for a couple more weeks, coming into the station to follow up on one dead end after another.
Then, suddenly, he had disappeared.
Everyone who asked Gus about him got the same answer – Shawn was on vacation – but she’d known that wasn’t the whole truth.
Juliet had waited exactly three days before she couldn’t stand worrying anymore, wondering apprehensively if he had indeed taken off for good.
I tend to use the underlying theme of Shawn’s track record of running away. It shows up a lot in my writing.
So here she was.
She had no idea of the welcome she would receive. Considering he wouldn’t even see Gus, it was pretty clear he didn’t want company – which, of course, was exactly why he needed it. But, while they were friends, Juliet really didn’t have the right to interfere.
One of my favorite subjects – friends or more?
Unless one almost kiss gave it to her.
At the thought, Juliet immediately felt the flush crawling up her cheeks, and she began to wonder if her car’s air-conditioning was going out.
It had happened after the investigation had officially been halted. She’d been working late one night at the station. Shawn had been there too, sitting in a conference room poring over the case files one more time. Juliet had simply gone in to check on him, maybe ask if he needed some coffee, but seeing how tired he was and listening to his weak attempts at his usual jokes had made her want to comfort him.
She’d taken two steps forward, her eyes locked on his and her arms raised to curl around his neck, getting closer than she had for a long time to changing their relationship, when sanity returned. She had remembered where they were and the history they shared, and she’d backed away.
In the initial draft, I had them actually kiss, but it didn’t feel right. I knew the more explosive scene was coming up, and I didn’t want to take the emphasis off of it. If they had already kissed, it would create a different kind of tension, and I preferred to keep the attention on Shawn’s depression. I didn’t want this to slip too far into the mushy.
The memory, however, seemed indelibly imprinted on her mind.
That was perhaps understandable.
Her imagination had filled in what hadn’t happened.
In her imagination, they had shared one hell of a kiss.
But, while that charged moment might have created even more tension between them – at least, in her mind – it wasn’t an invitation to start interfering with his life. Shaking her head, Juliet forced the images as well as her insecurities away and concentrated on the road.
Right or wrong, smart or stupid, welcome or unwelcome, she simply had to make sure he was all right.
Determined Juliet when a friend is in trouble – hard to resist.
As it turned out, Gus’s directions were meticulous – Juliet found the cabin after only one wrong turn. Although there weren’t any signs of life, she knew she had the right place when she saw Shawn’s bike parked under a tree out front.
Pulling in next to it, Juliet slowly unhooked her seatbelt and opened her door. Getting out, she glanced at the motorcycle, absently brushing off a couple of errant leaves that had fallen on the seat.
I take every chance to bring up the bike! No, seriously, this was a way of invoking Shawn before he appeared, showing her concern for him in cleaning off the seat. Me trying to be subtle!
Turning her attention to the cabin, Juliet drew in a deep breath. Walking up to it, she wondered about the reception she’d receive and, more importantly, what exactly she was going to say – words were Shawn’s thing, not hers. Before she had it completely straightened out in her mind, she reached up and rapped her knuckles against the wood.
I try to include character traits that we know from episodes as much as I can – keep the feel. Thus, we have her own belief that she’s not good with words.
For a moment, only silence greeted her knock. Finally, however, she heard a muffled sound, and, a second later, the door opened.
It took all of Juliet’s self-control not to gasp.
Shawn obviously hadn’t shaven for quite a while, and his gray t-shirt and pajama pants were wrinkled as if he’d lived in them for days. His hair, instead of its typical artful disarray, was an uncombed mess, and his eyes were bloodshot – from too much or not enough sleep was hard to say.
For lack of a better term, he looked broken.
It’s no secret that I love description, and, really, paragraphs like this are selfish for me. I like to imagine a scene and see if I can paint it on the page the way it appears in my mind. This came fairly close, although I’m not sure I quite got across how rough and distraught I felt he would be.
Shawn stared at Juliet, wondering if he was dreaming again – although his dreams of late hadn’t been even remotely this pleasant. But, really, she was the last person he had expected to see when he opened the door. Gus was the only one who knew where he was, and he’d promised not to tell. Clearly, Shawn needed to remind him about rule four, paragraph nine of the best friend code – the one about not revealing hiding places.
Humor tends to make an appearance unbidden with these characters. Mostly, I just go with it! Plus, the characters dictate their own actions and thoughts. They just have to be who they are.
“Jules?” he said, still getting over the shock.
Juliet met his surprised gaze. “Hi, Shawn,” she murmured.
“How did you…?” he began before reining himself in. Dredging up a semblance of his patented smirk, he asked, “Did you take a wrong turn somewhere, Detective, or are you just stopping off on your way to a crime scene?”
So not good with my dialogue, particularly when Shawn is being mocking. I have improved, I think, but I still have a long way to go.
Obviously, Shawn knew why Juliet was here. The way she was searching his face, her blue eyes shadowed with concern, gave it away. Part of him wanted to accept her worry, maybe even revel in it, but another part of him didn’t want anything to do with it.
It made him feel too weak, helpless.
And he’d had enough of that already.
I tend to write Shawn as very conflicted, even when he isn’t angsting over something. I see him, underneath his surface personality, as a very confused person. Also, he hates to show emotion, and I generally let him get away with that. Again, I also knew what was coming up, so he needed to be closed down here before opening up to Juliet later.
Watching him carefully, easily reading the effort he was exerting to appear normal, Juliet replied, “Gus told me where you were.”
Shawn shook his head before leaning against the doorframe with what he hoped looked like casualness. “Gus is a rat,” he pouted. “I’m thinking of trading him for a new best friend.”
“If it helps,” Juliet replied quietly, “I could say I twisted his arm.”
“Normally that wouldn’t be a valid excuse, but I’ve seen you in action,” Shawn conceded. “Gus wouldn’t stand a chance.”
I try with the banter!
Juliet smiled slightly at the back-handed compliment before they lapsed into silence, each not looking directly at the other. She surreptitiously stole glances at him, finding more and more evidence of the strain he’d put himself under.
Unable to stop herself, Juliet started, “Shawn, how…?”
Knowing what she was going to ask, Shawn interrupted her. Stepping back away from her, he gestured inside. “While you’re here, Jules, I guess I should give you the tour.”
Shawn wouldn’t take well to emotional comfort, I fear. Little too much of his dad in him.
For a moment, Shawn had considered assuring her he was fine and trying to get her to leave. But, besides the fact he had a feeling she wouldn’t be so easily persuaded to go, he found he wasn’t overly-fond of the idea himself. While he had come out here to get away from everyone, he was suddenly craving human contact.
More internal conflict – wanting comfort, but not willing to admit it. I also like to think that Juliet is one of the few who can soothe him.
Juliet stared at him, trying to decide whether it was the time to push him or not. In the end, she chose simply to follow his lead.
Smart girl, our Juliet.
“I hope the admission fee isn’t too high,” she said, matching his tone as she stepped over the threshold.
“I’m sure we can come to an arrangement,” Shawn responded, the flirtatious comment slipping out almost automatically. It died on his lips as he glanced at her.
Or, rather, at her mouth.
Memories rose up in his mind – much better ones, granted, than those that had haunted him since he’d been here. Despite that, they brought with them an awkwardness, the kind that can only happen after two people have come just shy of sharing an intimacy. Their eyes meeting, he cleared his throat.
I was attempting to create dual tension in this story by balancing their attraction against the case. I included the almost-kiss in order to make them more susceptible to giving in to it. Also, I felt it made it much more believable, which is something I am continually concerned about.
Juliet, feeling nervous, glanced away, pretending an interest in the interior of the cabin. It was small enough to be cozy, with a living room area and a kitchen partially walled off to one side. She assumed a door on the back wall led to the bedroom.
Tension and description!
The thing that stood out the most, however, was the general chaos. Clothes and pillows were strewn everywhere, and the kitchen counter was a mess. At first blush, it might have all been taken for granted, as simply the result of Shawn’s less than tidy nature. But Juliet, observation skills honed by years of practice, knew better. It was more like Shawn just hadn’t cared about his environment.
Again, my attempt at description also telling us something about what is going on. I remember struggling a bit with this paragraph – I wanted it to have the feel of surveying a crime scene without painting that image too heavily. The last sentence was a way to emphasize how well Juliet knows him.
Her gaze catching on a blanket thrown haphazardly back against the couch, Juliet said contritely, “I’m sorry if woke you up.”
Moving towards the kitchen, Shawn shrugged. “I was going to get up soon anyway to get some lunch.”
Juliet’s eyes widened as she glanced at her watch. “Lunch? Shawn, it’s past six.”
His expression turning bewildered for a moment, Shawn replied, “In that case, how do you feel about lunchmeat for dinner?”
I tried to think of dialogue that would show that Shawn is off and not taking things well.
Juliet frowned, Shawn’s complete ignorance of even the time of day increasing her concern. She studied his back as he opened the refrigerator, intent on pulling together a meal for his unexpected guest. The lines of his body were too tense. For someone who prided himself on being laidback, he was anything but at the moment, no matter how he might act.
And, just like the night of their near kiss, Juliet felt the need to offer comfort in whatever way she could.
Another of my favorite themes – the idea that Juliet needs to comfort him when he is in pain, almost as if it is compulsory.
Impulsively taking a couple of steps in his direction, she murmured, “Shawn, how are you…really?”
His spine straightening, Shawn didn’t turn around. The soft, innocent question shouldn’t have been so painful, but it felt like an extremely sharp knife in his gut.
I don’t know if anyone else is like this, but I can usually handle any situation until someone starts being nice to me. Then, I have to fight not to break apart. So, a bit biographical here.
Swallowing hard, he replied, “I’m fine! A few days out here in the fresh air have made me a new man. Although why I would want to be, I don’t know. I mean, the old me was pretty…”
Surface arrogance winning out briefly.
Shawn’s voice trailed off as he felt Juliet’s hand settle on his back. The warmth of her palm seeped through his shirt, almost branding him, and he closed his eyes, his throat working as he tried to regain control, fighting against the physical and mental exhaustion catching up with him.
It seemed that the only way to get him to open up was for Juliet to make a move – thus, she had to touch him. Plus, it was the beginning of what would eventually lead to the climactic scene.
Juliet saw his shoulders slump forward, and she moved even closer. “It will be all right,” she offered tentatively, searching for the right words. She was startled when he laughed, the sound more chilling than reassuring.
“All right?” he repeated, his pretense at normalcy cracking. Closing the refrigerator door a little forcefully, he moved to the side and rested his hands against the cabinet.
Unconsciously pressing her fingers into his shoulder blade, Juliet murmured, “I know it doesn’t seem like it, but it will get better. What happened is terrible, but we keep going. We work on other cases, help other people. Everything fades in time.” She winced as the words left her mouth. She hated to go with the cliché, but she honestly didn’t know what else to say.
It’s so hard to come up with the right words sometimes, huh? I had to have dialogue that would lead in to Shawn’s memory, so Juliet focused on this cliché in particular.
Shawn almost whimpered. She couldn’t know that that was his problem, why he was hiding out here in the middle of nowhere.
The memories weren’t going to fade. From now on, he would always be able to call up every detail of that little girl’s picture.
Her wide, innocent smile.
The exact shade of her hair.
He would be haunted by the despair in her mother’s eyes as she was told she would never see her child again.
He would always remember exactly how it felt to fail when it actually meant something.
Shawn’s memory is a fascinating subject for me. I love considering its positives and negatives. Sometimes, it has to seem like a ghost is chasing him, and that’s the feeling I wanted to invoke here. We haven’t seen what it would be like for Shawn if he failed. The closest was Yang, and I don’t much care for how that was handled. This is my image of what he might experience.
Shawn had considered doing what he was good at – leaving and getting as far away as he could. Instead, for reasons he couldn’t quite understand, he had decided to stay near by. He’d called in a favor, taking up one of their former clients on his offer to use his cabin whenever they wanted. The owner had been more than willing to let him stay for a while, gushing over how Shawn and Gus had saved his business. In the face of recent events, the praise had seemed hollow.
Sweat breaking out on his forehead as the images flashed through his brain, as vivid as always, Shawn whispered, “I just want to forget.”
This last actually was a line I had before I even started. I knew it was going to be the catalyst.
Juliet grimaced as she heard the misery in his voice. “Sooner or later, you will.”
Shawn spun around, his lower back slamming into the edge of the cabinet. Juliet didn’t have time to move her hand, and her palm landed flat against his chest. She left it there unheeded when she met his gaze.
I like to focus on the physical scene. For me, it’s a necessary part of the emotion.
For one of the few times since Juliet had known Shawn, she could read every emotion shining in his eyes. Their hazel had darkened with turmoil, and, in that second, she realized with surprise how controlled he generally was. Although there had been quite a bit of evidence to the contrary over the years, she often still fell into the trap of thinking of him as unguarded, frequently even shallow, but she would never make that mistake again.
Not after witnessing this close-up glimpse past the carefree mask he always wore.
I love the idea of people wearing metaphorical masks, so this slips in quite frequently, especially with Shawn. Also, I think one of the problems in the past has been that Juliet hasn’t taken Shawn seriously, so I focused on that in this scene.
“No, I won’t,” Shawn said with an unsettling certainty. His lashes fluttered closed, and he lifted a hand to ground his palm against his temple. “She’s in there.” He opened his eyes, their depths disturbed by a lost, pleading look. “Just for a minute, Jules,” he begged. “I just want to forget for a minute.”
Juliet knew she was missing something. There was a desperation in his expression, born out of something she couldn’t quite understand.
A nod to the idea she doesn’t know about his memory and how she might perceive his reactions as a result.
But she didn’t think about that.
In fact, she didn’t think at all.
She simply lifted her hands to the sides of his face and, pulling his head down, placed her mouth on his in a fierce, memory-stealing kiss.
The scene I knew was coming before I started writing! I hope that the near-kiss at the station and all of her worry made this believable.