1. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Is there any way my protagonist's plan can go wrong?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Ryan Elder, Jul 16, 2016.

    For my story, basically it's a thriller where I want the MC, a cop, to pursue the villains on his own, without help and for it to be personal.

    However, in order for him to work alone without back up and to make it more convincing, I thought it would be better to write it so that the police force is after him as well. You see this in quite a few thrillers in the genre where the MC is going after the villains on one side, and has his own force after him on the other.

    However, I want the MC to win in the end. This is where the paradox comes in cause if the MC has the police after him, to the point where he is not even willing to turn himself in to fight it, he must have had to have done something pretty bad.

    So bad, that he would not be able to recover, even if capturing the villains in the end. It is also likely that if the the police are trying to stop the MC in his personal mission, that any evidence he gets on the villains would not be able to used in court as a result. So even if he kills the villains, he still has to make it appear like a legitimate bust.

    Is there any ways around the paradox of the scenario perhaps do you think?
     
  2. Wexeldorf
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    Wexeldorf Member

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    My initial thought is most of the recent bond movies. Several of the Daniel Craig movies have Bond going it alone without the authority of MI6. In some cases going against direct orders to leave the case, and ending up getting pursued by fellow agency staff.
    He is generally exonerated in his actions when it's revealed he knew some aspect of the antagonists plan, that if he hadn't acted, would have resulted in greater catastrophe.
    I hope this helps.
     
  3. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. I was thinking that too but in James Bond M16 never tries Bond cause they do not want their secrets coming out. Where as my story is set in a police station, that doesn't have to answer to international incidents. The police play by different rules than MI6, and they cannot kill one of their own, just because he is disobeying orders. They have to actually have a crime to charge him with, and since they have no secrets to cover up, they are expected by the courts to carry out those charges in the end. So I feel that is the paradox there.
     
  4. NeeNee
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    NeeNee Member

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    Are you thinking something similar to the Fugitive? The police want the MC, the MC wants the real bad guy (who the police have mistaken him for). I could see a case of mistaken identity possibly working out for your MC.
     
  5. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Well the police already know that the MC is a cop and I don't think they would or could mistaken him otherwise. At least not that I can think of. I wouldn't say my story is similar to The Fugitive. In mine the MC was not framed for a crime that he wants to prove himself innocent of. He just wants justice or revenge on the villains, and is willing to do illegal and immoral things to get it, and I want the police to stop him, so he has no reason to call for back up, when he would logically need it.
     
  6. Wexeldorf
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    Wexeldorf Member

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    I remember seeing a storyline on the TV show the Blacklist. If you've never seen it before its based around the FBI being aided in catching criminals by a top ten most wanted fugitive. In it, the main protagonist is an FBI agent named Elizabeth Keen. During the many cases she solves with the criminal 'Red', she reveals that there is a secret criminal organization operating within the highest levels of international governments. When she discovers that the Attorney General is part of this cabal, she eventually corners him and kills him, in front of and against the orders of her superior. She escapes and is then the subject of a national manhunt, orchestrated by the cabal working within the government.
    Long story short, she knows secrets, they want her dead, Red pulls strings and blackmails the cabal into exonerating Keen, the cabal drops all charges and lowers the murder charges to manslaughter in self defence, Keen is fired as an FBI agent but employed instead as a special consultant due to her profiling skills.

    Any use to you?
     
  7. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    This could perhaps be use to me, thanks. But how does the FBI or government exonerate past charges? Like for example in the movie The Negotiator (1998) --

    SPOILER

    The main character, Danny, is a cop who is framed for murder, and escapes arrest to go out and prove his innocence. In having to prove it, he commits other crimes along the way, such as breaking and entering, torture and threats to get other corrupt cops to talk, etc. In the movie he also had to take innocent officers hostage, to stop them from shooting him. He has to neutralize one of the innocent officers by pistol whipping him and knocking him unconscious.

    Now in the end of the movie, it's implied that all the charges against him are dropped, even the ones he committed while trying to prove his innocence. But what if the one officer who got pistol whipped said "Screw that, he broke my nose, I am pressing my own charges myself".

    How does the government stop all the individuals who have been harmed from bringing their own charges, since the protagonist may have to hurt and harm others, to escape and get the bigger villains in the story?
     
  8. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    You have two separate issues going on here. Your MC beating his nemesis. And his evidence being worthy for court.

    To start with the second, whatever evidence your MC uncovers is court worthy as long as he is not a cop or any arm of the state. So if he's fired even his testimony is acceptable since his evidence would not be fruit of the poisoned tree. We allow criminals to testify against one another all the time. We just give their evidence certain weight based on who they are and how they gained it.

    For the first part it's really a question of weighing risks against rewards. Your MC wants tocatch the bad guy (reward) against avoiding capture by the cops (risk). So in every action or inaction he takes he has to consider those two things. That's where your tension comes from. As to what he's done to become wanted, that's almost background. It may matter, but it's main importance is in that it motivates the police to hunt him. So it could be terrible, it might not be. He could have killed someone thinking it was a legitimate take down, and then found out after that it wasn't. He might have betrayed his fellow police in some way.

    Your job is to make the actions he committed against the police bad enough that they will hunt him, but not so terrible that he cannot end up redeemed in some way at the end. For example its hard to come back from cold blooded murder of a fellow oficer - but if it can be shown that that wasn't quite what happened he has some wriggle room. Eg he didn't know. He was set up. He was out of his mind on drugs.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  9. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. But I asked a cop before in my research and he said that if a cop is fired, it would still be fruit of the poisonous tree, because the way he was introduced to the case originally was as a cop, so it would still count, he says.

    I talked with him and we came up with two ways to get around the fruit of the poisonous tree issue.

    1. The cop can get someone to be an anonymous tipper and call in tip the police off, on where to find certain evidence of the crimes are, and that the police have to be there at specific time to catch the evidence, with everyone in the act of incriminating themselves with it. This can get a judge to sign off on a warrant legally if the anonymous tip provided very specific details.

    2. The cop can take the evidence he finds, and instead of bringing it in himself which would be fruit of the poisonous tree, he could put it all in a box and mail it to the police or DA anonymously without the mail being traced back to him.

    It seems that these are the only two scenarios we could come up with. Unless it actually is true that a cop being fired can bring in evidence that would otherwise be tainted. But I could see a lot of judges possibly not agreeing with this, since the cop was part of the investigation originally.

    As for coming up with a situation where there is is some wriggle room. I may have one. Before in the story, one of the cop's is a mole who is working for the gang of criminals. The MC kills him in more of self defense situation since he found out that the cop was a mole, and the mole was chasing after him and had a gun.

    All the other cops think that he killed an innocent cop, who was there, for reasons that they will never know now. So he is pursued on murder charges, and has to prove that the cop was a mole, and it was justifiable more so.

    However, I am not sure if I want to go this route. Because the story is about how the cop takes the law into his own hands and how far he goes with his personal vendetta. If I make it so that he has to prove the dead cop's guilt, while being chases, then the story becomes about how he has to prove his justification, and it feels the theme is changed and it's just a different story then.

    What do you think?
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2016
  10. Michael Pless
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    Michael Pless Active Member

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    Reading your initial post, it sounded a bit to me a bit like Witness. In this movie, Harrison Ford is pursued by corrupt cops who want to kill the boy and Ford basically leaves the protection of his fellow police, while the bad guys try to hunt him down discreetly.

    The problem with things like a protagonist torturing people, is that it can set up some conflict in the reader's mind. In the John Rain series, Eisler was at pains to point out that his assassin (MC) only killed people who deserved it, which is something of a judgment call the reader has to make. Much the same with Jack Reacher, who always seems to find somebody who needs to be bumped-off.

    I think you need to look carefully at the story structure - the reader needs to suspend disbelief, and you must place events and information that will make the MC both credible and have the support of the reader. The dead (mole) cop has to be outed in some way (perhaps with video, which makes for a McGuffin), at some stage to his/her colleagues preferably towards the end, which gives you the opportunity to constantly raise the stakes, and if the reader knows what the dead cop has done that is terrible, you'll keep contact with them. This also allows for a complication, where the MC has to find a means of justifying his actions (to his colleagues) and revealing the corrupt cop's behavior.

    You might get some value from Author's Salon - look for the PSCO Guide, although there's lots of useful info there, like the 6-act structure.
     
  11. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. Well perhaps the MC being hunted for killing the dead cop raises too many complications for my story and I can find a way to keep things simple. Like is their a way I can write it so that the police can go after the MC to stop his vigilantism, even though he has committed no crime that he is tied to yet? Cause he has already committed a crime that they are after him for, that complicates things a lot, instead of them going after him just to stop him only. Because then, I do not have to find a way for him to get off for that past crime later.

    But the question is, how to do the police stop someone from committing a crime, when that person has not committed a past crime yet for them to detain him for?
     
  12. Michael Pless
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    Michael Pless Active Member

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    Yes, of course! They can suspect him of knowing something that is dangerous to their plans, or he perhaps has refused to go along with what his (corrupt) supervisor says. See The Untouchables, when Sean Connery took a stand against his former colleagues and friends.

    Surely the MC can be detained for questioning, or some trumped-up charge, framed for something like drug dealing, etc?
     
  13. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay but why would the superiors frame him for drug dealing? Or are you saying the villains framed him? Again I think that would complicate the story because then I have to figure out a way for him to get out of being framed, and get out of the charges, rather than him getting revenge on the villains being the main drive and theme. Does the MC have to be charged with something prior, in order to avoid all the other cops and work alone, and hide out from them? Is it a must?
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2016
  14. Michael Pless
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    Michael Pless Active Member

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    I'm not saying the superiors must frame your protagonist for drug dealing - I merely offered it as a suggestion that you might consider. If you feel it won't work within your story structure, then obviously, you shouldn't use it. As far as having the entire police force after your protagonist for something he cannot get out of, that is something that I see as needing a change, so that he can or your story will be unsatisfying to the readers. You simply need to put in something that results in a reversal.

    Your protagonist can go to extremes - including torture, as Liam Neeson did in Taken - but they must be a necessary part of the plot and contribute to the protagonist's achieving a higher goal.
     
  15. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. In Taken though Liam Neeson went to another country, France, then came back and disappeared from France starting an investigation that would be able to lead directly to him.

    In mine, I still want my hero to live in the city as the crooks he illegal tortured and what not, and that is the tricky part.

    As for the hero being in too much trouble by the police, prior, what if i wrote it so that he is not arrested but the captain wants him to turn in his gun, cause he is suspended or something like that.

    And he doesn't want to, so he takes off with his gun, and the captain tries to have him detained, and then the whole force is after him... cause he needs his gun if he is going to pursue a vendetta.

    However, if he was going to pursue one, would it just be more logical to turn in his gun and then just try to acquire another one later?
     
  16. Michael Pless
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    Michael Pless Active Member

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    In my experience, police are often quite lenient when it comes to their own. That's why there are internal affairs departments in each.

    If he's suspended - and this "turning in the gun and badge thing has been done to death - he probably won't be arrested, just told not to come in to work, and his union will step in, there'll be an investigation (by supervisors and IID and possibly the prosecution network too), etc. I don't think one person (like the Captain) can do it spontaneously, but I'm talking about in Australia. I'd also expect that in the US (I'm guessing that's your location) obtaining a firearm legally or otherwise is no difficult task.

    I don't know how your police handle firearm control - I believe in Australia, the gun is left at the station at the end of the day, excepting for our "soggies" (aka "Sons Of God" or "Special Operations Group" your SWAT) who are required to be ready for action at all times.

    But what you've outlined can work - you just need to put in place the necessary aspects to make the sequence of events credible. If you haven't gone to the Author's Salon website yet, I'd encourage you to do so - there's a lot of useful stuff there and any amount of time you spend researching or learning about story structure will repay itself many times over when you come to write.

    Author's Salon encourages revealing both the protagonist's and antagonist's true nature early in the piece, which can make for a great opening scene if they're both in it together; A can set up the P for a fall, but the P isn't going to have a bar of it, and from there on the action can build very quickly.
     
  17. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. I will check out Author's Salon.

    And yeah, the whole gun and badge thing has been done to death. So perhaps in order for him to have the police after him than he has to be charged with a prior crime that he has to somehow get out of by the end?
     
  18. Michael Pless
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    Michael Pless Active Member

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    Yes. Something major.

    He canbe set up countless ways: in The Killing (the still very good US version) there was a doctored photo to implicate a politician that was eventually shown to be false; I recall things like fingerprints, hair sample (DNA), and such in other works too.
     
  19. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. It's hard for me to set something up prior in the story, without it coming off as forced or shoehorned in. There is the part of the plot earlier in the story where he kills a cop that is working with the gang, but cannot prove it. He shot first cause he thought that the cop was going to shoot him, being with the gang at the time, the gang was coming after him.

    So there is that. However, would the police go after him for this? I mean it's his word against a cop who is dead, so wouldn't they believe him and have too much uncertainty to make an arrest?
     
  20. Michael Pless
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    Michael Pless Active Member

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    It can be easily done. One suggestion is that the dead cop was on the phone to one of his cronies (in the force) just before he was shot and says something like, "What's (protagonist) doing here?" or similar. The dead cope need not be operating on his own, a la Witness. The circumstances or scene will come alive by your drawing of the characters and descriptions of the locations, and readers will suspend their disbelief. Where there's one crooked cop, surely there are others?
     
  21. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Oh okay thanks. The phone call, might work. The crooked cop is turning good in my story, and while he was with the gang, I wanted him to attempt to save the MC, but the MC thought he came to kill since he is with the gang, and opens fire or something like that, since crooked cop had a gun out or something. Something along those lines.

    But so far, I was only planning on their being one crooked cop and didn't have any use for others, afterwards. So it might work.
     
  22. Michael Pless
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    Michael Pless Active Member

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    I think that will be quite workable.

    If you find Author's Salon has ueful stuff, I've downloaded and put into pdf/.doc format several articles: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/99857594/Author%27s%20Salon.zip
     
  23. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. I still feel that if he has to be charged with a crime, before and has to set out to prove he was justified, I feel it becomes a fugitive trying to prove himself story, and this is very different than the type of story I was going for, which was a vigilante cop/revenge story. I feel that the revenge cannot be concentrated on, if he is busy trying to prove his innocence and that is the main focus.
     
  24. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    The fugitive trying to prove himself story is a very overused cliche, so i think you are right to focus on the vigilante cop/revenge angle , although to be fair thats been done a fair few times too ( Simon Kernwick, the business of dying for example - although his cop is a hitman on the side)

    How about focusing on your cop doing his vigilantism in his off hours whilst also working as a cop by day .. you can then work with the stress of keeping the two lives seperate and things spinning out of control when he can't ... what if he's tasked with helping investigate one of his own crime scenes ... what if he finds a witness to his own crime while hes with his partner, and so forth. Also he's a cop so the stress of breaking the law is going to tell on him, which would be more interesting than straight forward vigilantsm

    for him to win in the end he'd have to either not get caught or find a way of bringing the gang leader to justice within the law ... for example he could have the final choice of killing the gang leader or arresting him and chose to arrest ... he could find evidence that would lead to conviction and decide thats enough, or he could decide to end he vigilante ways but thenin a final irony kill the gang leader in a 'good' shooting

    Whatever at the end of the day you need to turn it against type so it doesnt read like every other revenge novel
     
  25. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Well the thing is, is that since the MC is acting on his own, he cannot get warrants or wire tap orders to get any further evidence. So I cannot find a way for him to get evidence that would be admissible in court. This is my dilemma.

    Even if the cop chooses to kill the villains, and make it look like police self defense for example, he will still have no legal proof that he killed the right person, and his superiors would just have to take his word for it. But it still makes the MC look really bad since he killed a suspect he was investigation, which he had no authorization to, and it was just on a hunch.
     

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