A novel approach

Scales of JusticeThis month, I’ve been on Jury Service, which isn’t great financially for the self-employed, but it makes up for that by being such an interesting experience.

Surprisingly, it also provides an excellent exercise in fiction writing. Not that I intend to write about actual cases, it’s more the way the two sides of a story are unravelled, first by the prosecution, then by the defence.

The prosecution introduces the case and outlines the facts from their perspective. The jurors’ minds start to sway towards this set of events. Then the defence kicks in and knocks a few holes in certain facts and doubts begin to form.

By the end of the case, the jurors have two stories to evaluate – many of the main features correlate, it’s those few vital points that are in opposition that tax them in their deliberations. Rarely is a case clear cut. Generally clashes result from two individuals coming together from different backgrounds and opposing viewpoints.

The point of having 12 jurors is the diverse experience they bring to the table. Again, this is ideal material for fiction writers as you’re presented with a variety of personalities and opinions. The courtroom has served as inspiration for writers for centuries. It’s certainly had a bit impact on me, although I have no desire to write about particular crimes. What the criminal courts offer is a tableau of human life - from the defendants and witnesses through to the judge, barristers and jurors.

I’d already been preparing to start a novel writing course, and my two weeks’ jury service has provided me with plenty of stimulation for my first assignment.