1. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Does this make enough sense as a plot turn, or is it to over the top?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Ryan Elder, Jul 4, 2015.

    In my story, a cop is on the trail of a serial rapist killer type villain, and he himself is raped by the villain eventually, but escapes and wants revenge. The other cops cannot catch the villain because they have to play by the rules, and the villain is always too good at slipping through the legal and forensic cracks, if that makes sense.

    So the main character grows impatient and wants to manipulate the police department into bending the rules and stepping outside the box to catch them. The story also uses the old cliche that the main character cop, cannot get his captain to take him seriously and is criticized by him failing, so he does not get much support.

    In my case though, he decides that the best way is to take samples of the captain's DNA, fingerprints, etc, and plant them at the next crime scene, when the next crime happens. He thinks that this will insure that the captain will want to take down the villain really seriously and urgently, if there is evidence of him, implicating him in the next murder.

    The main character, hot on the trail, fails to stop the next murder from happening, but manages to get there before any other cops are called to the scene. He then plants the captains DNA and prints there, before other officers arrive.

    The captain is then facing possible murder charges, implicated in the crime. He has a small window to escape arrest and convince his officers below him to follow his orders and go take the killer down, by executing a plan by the main character, that was not taking seriously before. But now with the captain's life on the line, he is okay with using unorthodox methods to get the villain, and hopefully get him to confess and clear the captain's name.

    This is what the main character was counting on. Manipulating them captain into doing whatever it takes, letting the ends justify the means, and thereby getting others on the force to help him as well.

    Does this sound like the idea is perhaps too illogical, even if the main character is desperate for revenge and is not thinking the most clearly, or fairly?
     
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you're going for a super-realistic approach, it seems a bit far-fetched. But for a general action/crime novel? Seems like a good twist!
     
  3. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. This is what I was told by some others as well. However, since the story deals with deep dark themes, such as rape and murder, and why the killer is doing these terrible things from how he grew up, do you think that it is best to take a more realistic approach? With that kind of controversial serious subject matter in mind, how far is it wise to push the realism?
     
  4. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you can go either way, really. I mean, it's maybe more of a writing style question, and maybe a need to match up the realism here with the realism elsewhere, but I don't think there's an automatic clash between exploring a villain's motivation and a slightly over-the-top plot twist.

    I'm not a huge action/mystery reader, but I don't think I'd be totally pulled out of the story by the twist you described. I've read stuff by Grisham and Turrow that were at least as extreme, if not more so.
     
  5. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    To me, this one feels less over-the-top, but it will probably depend on execution.
     
  7. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. What if maybe I had both? The new idea where he manipulates his captain first, but then things go wrong, and the second idea is the consequences. Would that work too?
     
  8. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Conceivably, I guess. I don't know - again, hard to know without seeing it actually executed.
     
  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Hmm. I'm not a total fan of this kind of story, so I'm probably not the best person to judge. But to me, I'd say this plot twist is using a sledge hammer to crack a nut, to a certain extent.

    For one thing, the repercussions of the cop getting caught planting the evidence would be very dire, for the cop himself. And because the chief of police KNOWS he wasn't actually responsible or connected to the crime, he will certainly suspect a plant. He will likely suspect this particular cop—who has been pestering him to catch this particular criminal, and was first on the scene— has planted something. So this could backfire quite badly.

    Besides catching the criminal, what is the point of this story? Did you want the police chief to learn something about himself and vulnerability? Or did you want your protagonist to learn that he's capable of any kind of crime in order to get what he wants himself? How would he have felt if the chief had actually been arrested and convicted for this crime? Would he have been capable of lying under oath, if he was asked about the evidence?

    I think this story might go wandering off in odd directions, if you choose this route. However, that's not necessarily a bad thing. You might end up with a better story if you explore the inner workings of these people and the repercussions of the ends always justifying the means, rather than just the mechanics of catching a bad guy.
     
  10. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    If the captain has an ironclad alibi, the evidence is going to look planted, I think?

    Police captains tend to get bucket loads of benefit of the doubt.

    And the people discovering the planted evidence work for him. Unless feds get involved, that evidence can easily be dealt with long before the captain needs to worry about clearing his name?
     
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  11. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. The point I am trying to convey is "The protagonist to learn that he's capable of any kind of crime in order to get what he wants himself", as you said. The captain does not suspect him though, he suspects that it was the villain who framed him. The main character even tells him that the killer has always been 5 steps ahead of them, so it must be him who framed him in an effort to divert the investigation, and now he's laughing in our faces. The captain is then convinced it was the killer. He would probably suspect him more than the main character, because the main character was their at the time of the murder, failing to stop it, and he says it was them, since they were up to something fishy, when he was trying to stop the next victim from being killed.

    I will just have to write it so the captain either does not have an ironclad alibi, or if he does he is really worried that the prosecutor will believe the physical evidence, over the words of whoever vouches that they were with the captain. Worried to the point where he will take the law into his own hands to take the killer down with him at that point.

    Does this make sense?

    As far as the evidence being dealt with before the prosecutor gets involved, is their a way the evidence can be investigated by cops who arrive, they send it, and then send to the lab, and then the lab, sends it to the prosecutor's office, without calling the captain at all about it first? Or they call him to tell him about it after it's sent in?

    As for the captain getting benefit of the doubt, I will just have to write the prosecutor so he's the type to press charges immediately no matter who it is.
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2015
  12. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Here's a thought. What if the cop found out who the next victim was going to be, and it is someone the cop knows from before in the story. The cop talks the victim into faking his death for the time being. Basically by hiding out for a few days, and the cop lies and says he saw the killer kill the man but failed to stop it. The killer then took the body and he failed to retrieve it, if the victim was for surely dead that is.

    But the MC leaves the captain's DNA at the scene, thereby implicating him. So this way, the captain is still almost just as much trouble and has to take the law into his own hands to try to take the villain down, and clear his own name, but at the same time there is no real murder, and the main character is a little less of a jerk, cause since there is no murder, then the captain can get off once the villain is caught, and the supposed dead victim turns out to be alive and fine later.

    What do you think?
     
  13. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ryan, I feel that you're twisting your plot into knots, and the knots into knots into knots, to achieve... I'm not sure what? You seem to get your heart set on some particular scene or situation, and then you twist and twist and twist to get to that scene or situation, when something else might be far more graceful and logical.

    This particular twisty tangle seems to come from the fact that you want it to be impossible for the criminal to be caught by normal police means. Why do you object to the criminal being caught by normal police means?
     
  14. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. It's just usually in a lot of cases, I feel that if he is caught by normal police means, a lot of readers might think that it's anticlimatic. I mean in Dirty Harry for example, let's say Harry didn't have to break into the suspect's house and shoot him in the leg to get him to talk. Let's say Harry was able to get a warrant in time to search the house, find the rifle, by legal authorization, and the villain totally talked and said where his buried alive hostage was before her time ran out.

    If the movie ended this way, a lot of Dirty Harry fans would say that sucked and Harry caught the villain too easily and it was too much of a slam dunk. Basically readers, especially of police thrillers, really like stories where the hero has to go out of his way and commit crimes himself, just to get the villain. If I ended it on a note, where the hero caught him by legal means, I think I would get that reaction, of feeling underwhelmed, whilst in comparison to other stories of that genre, especially ones that are set up for revenge, where the hero is gravely damaged and wants justice.

    My original ending idea was this from another thread (http://www.writingforums.org/threads/can-i-make-this-forensic-scenario-convincing.139183/), but since I was told it does not work, I feel I have to go out of my way to end it some other way.
     
  15. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I really, really, really need you to learn to quote. :) All you have to do is hit the Reply button. The post you're replying to will be above your response. You can and generally should edit that post, but these days it will be squished under a "Click to expand" link anyway, if it's long. I refrained from editing your post this time, as a demonstration.
     
  16. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Sorry I was quoting to this. Sorry I forgot to hit it.

    Okay thanks. It's just usually in a lot of cases, I feel that if he is caught by normal police means, a lot of readers might think that it's anticlimatic. I mean in Dirty Harry for example, let's say Harry didn't have to break into the suspect's house and shoot him in the leg to get him to talk. Let's say Harry was able to get a warrant in time to search the house, find the rifle, by legal authorization, and the villain totally talked and said where his buried alive hostage was before her time ran out.

    If the movie ended this way, a lot of Dirty Harry fans would say that sucked and Harry caught the villain too easily and it was too much of a slam dunk. Basically readers, especially of police thrillers, really like stories where the hero has to go out of his way and commit crimes himself, just to get the villain. If I ended it on a note, where the hero caught him by legal means, I think I would get that reaction, of feeling underwhelmed, whilst in comparison to other stories of that genre, especially ones that are set up for revenge, where the hero is gravely damaged and wants justice.

    My original ending idea was this from another thread (http://www.writingforums.org/threads/can-i-make-this-forensic-scenario-convincing.139183/), but since I was told it does not work, I feel I have to go out of my way to end it some other way.
     
  17. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    But Dirty Harry already had a habit of violating rules, right? So for him to violate rules didn't require a lot of elaborate intricate plot elements; it was an in-character series of actions by the character
     
  18. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. Is it possible for me to write it so my character goes from an honest cop to breaking the rules as a newcomer to doing so? Or does he have to be a veteran at breaking the rules in order for this type story to work, with no exceptions?
     
  19. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    But why does he have to manipulate the department? Why are you assuming that normal police work is inherently boring? Hundreds of novels use normal police work. (Or at least the author's idea of normal police work.)
     
  20. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Sorry I forgot to use the quote again. It's something I have to get use to. Is it possible for me to write it so my character goes from an honest cop to breaking the rules as a newcomer to doing so? Or does he have to be a veteran at breaking the rules in order for this type story to work, with no exceptions?

    I guess the reason why I like these types of stories is because I like stories where the main character has more opponents other than the one main villain. In a lot of my favorite stories, the hero, or antihero, has the villain on one side, and the police as an opponent on the other, and he is caught in the middle. I just think it makes more tension for the hero to more opponents rather than just simply one, where he has all the police help he could get, if that makes sense.

    Another thing, is is that since it's set up to be a revenge story with the main character wanting to avenge what happened to him and all, it seems like the revenge is less important if justice takes care of itself. Like the rape of the MC perhaps did not need to be there. If the villain is caught for killing someone else after, and no revenge needs to be taken, the rape of the MC feels gratuitous perhaps, no?

    But since the whole first half of the story is set up for revenge for that, the theme might just not be the same, if he is caught by honest means, if that makes sense. Basically the hero wants justice for what happened to him. But if he gets it by normal means, no problem, well then he's fine, and there is no conflict in him reaching his goal.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2015
  21. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's nothing inherently wrong with that; my issue is when the way that you get there is such an elaborate, character-straining plot.

    Your main character, whose profession is upholding the law, breaks the law to frame his boss. This seems unlikely.

    He expects to have an opportunity to plant evidence, which seems unlikely.

    He makes it to the next murder scene both too late to stop the murder and before the police arrive, which seems unlikely.

    He has time to plant evidence before the police arrive, which seems unlikely.

    The planted evidence is found, but the fact that it's planted isn't detected, which seems unlikely.

    His boss, whose profession is upholding the law, violates the law to do EXACTLY what the main character wants him to do, which seems unlikely.

    The officers below his boss, whose professions are upholding the law, ALL agree to violate the law, which seems unlikely.

    Edited to add: I forgot: The captain has absolutely no alibi whatsoever for the murder, which is unlikely.

    There are just too many unlikelies.

    If solving the crime depends on breaking the law, why doesn't your main character do the breaking? Why the elaborate scheme of turning the entire police force into criminals?
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2015
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  22. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks, that makes sense. Another thing, is is that since it's set up to be a revenge story with the main character wanting to avenge what happened to him and all, it seems like the revenge is less important if justice takes care of itself. Like the rape of the MC perhaps did not need to be there. If the villain is caught for killing someone else after, and no revenge needs to be taken, the rape of the MC feels gratuitous perhaps, no?

    But since the whole first half of the story is set up for revenge for that, the theme might just not be the same, if he is caught by honest means, if that makes sense. Basically the hero wants justice for what happened to him. But if he gets it by normal means, no problem, well then he's fine, and there is no conflict in him reaching his goal.

    This is why I feel that a revenge story for this type of premise, is better than a story where the police can do their job and catch the crook just fine. Because then the main character being hurt does not seem to matter, if all he has to do, is sit back and wait for the other cops to solve it for him, especially since he would likely be taken off of it, cause he is too personally involved because of what happened to him.

    As far as him expecting to have an opportunity to plant evidence, he just thinks maybe it will come up, so I better have the evidence ready when it does. He starts to follow the villain around on his own time, to see if there is anything he can get on him. What happens is, is that the villain goes into a building. As he is following him, he stays behind outside, out of sight, until the villain comes back to his car. He decides to go in to see what he was doing there and sees that another person has been killed, and the villain gets in his car, drives away, and changes tires to get rid of tire mark evidence on the roads. But that's later. First when the protagonist comes across the dead body he failed to save, he sees this as his one opportunity to plant the evidence. He does so and has time before other police arrive, since he was following the villain around to begin with and is right near by, if that makes sense.

    My original idea was to have him plant evidence of the villain on the dead body and not evidence of the captain's. You said it's unlikely that the plant will go undetected. But when I discussed my original idea on here, readers said the opposite, and said that it's unlikely that they will be able to tell it was detected to the point where it will be sure. It was in this thread:
    http://www.writingforums.org/threads/can-i-make-this-forensic-scenario-convincing.139183/

    But that was my original idea. Now I am just thinking of other new ideas to use instead.
     
  23. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    That has far fewer "unlikelies" than this plan. There are still too many, but fewer.
     
  24. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    You think the original plan has more unlikelies?

    I feel like in my story I need another plot turn or another direction to go in rather than just him nailing the villain no problem and that's it. That will be too short and I need something to propel me into a third act. There has to be something else to go wrong to get there I feel, in order for my story to be long enough.
     
  25. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    But what he does has to make sense. If he wants to convict Person A, and he plants evidence to convict someone, why would he plant evidence to convict Person B?
     

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