1. Ryan Elder
    Offline

    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,613
    Likes Received:
    78

    What am I doing wrong in my plotting?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Ryan Elder, Mar 17, 2016.

    For the past few months I have not been able to come up with an ending to my story that I am satisfied with and feels holds together well enough.

    I know what I want to happen, but I cannot figure out HOW it happens at all. I have posted a few different outcome ideas in the past few months, but none of them really held together I feel. Basically it's a thriller where the cops are on the track of a serial killer type villain.

    However, I cannot think of a legal method for the police to be able to catch the villain. Every scenario I come up with, would not be admissible in court, for various legal reasons. However, this is the problem as I would like to keep the plot simple, but the law is so convoluted that trying to apply it causes the story to become more and more convoluted, and I still haven't found a way the law can work to bust the killer.

    Another one of the problems is, is that all of the killers crimes are committed indoors, and she always has a reason to be clean up the crime scene after. There is no reason to leave any evidence behind and any evidence that would be left behind are in a private place, that would be almost impossible to search without legal grounds, and the police cannot get any, since all they would have is theories. There is no evidence to get cause for a warrant since all the evidence is inside there, so I keep arriving at paradoxes, no matter how I have tried to plot it, for the past few months.

    Those are just a couple of examples, as their are many other convoluted laws which get in the way of catching the villain as well. One writer suggested that I should just let the villain win, as the law is just not written to catch crooks of this sort, and I should stop forcing it.

    But do you think I should, or am I doing something wrong in my plotting that I am not seeing?
     
  2. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,123
    Likes Received:
    5,323
    Location:
    California, US
    It sounds to me like you've made things unnecessary complicated and imposed too many conditions on your plot that make it difficult to resolve.
     
    BrianIff likes this.
  3. Ryan Elder
    Offline

    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,613
    Likes Received:
    78
    Okay thanks. But the law itself is very complicated, which is complicating the plot. There is laws within laws, within laws, in order to make evidence admissible and make a case, and I am not sure how to simply the story, since the legal system is making it very complicated. Is it possible to have a simple story, set in a convoluted legal system?
     
  4. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,123
    Likes Received:
    5,323
    Location:
    California, US
    Sure. There are tons of thrillers, police procedurals, legal thrillers, and courtroom dramas that do this sort of thing all the time. Just from what I've seen of your posts here, I feel like you're painting yourself in too narrow a box. I also think trying to write a story based on lots and lots of input to various plot points and story arcs creates a problem in the long run. Plenty of legal thrillers, written by lawyers or people who have done their research, are able to handle these issues effectively. If you've managed to constrain yourself into a situation that is unmanageable, I think you should go back to your plot points and see which ones are causing the problems. Then you're going to have to either change them or find a creative way around the problem. But don't get too bogged down in the minutiae, in my opinion.
     
    Tesoro likes this.
  5. Ryan Elder
    Offline

    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,613
    Likes Received:
    78
    Well when I write the story, and make several different outlines first I will come up with what the villains plan would logically be, and then look for any evidence in it, in which the police can use.

    But I am having trouble finding evidence that would be legally admissible. Perhaps I am structuring the plot wrong. What should I come up with first? Should I come up with the villain's plan, and then look for a flaw that would legally work? Or should I come up with a legally workable flaw to begin with, and then try to form the villains plans around that though?

    The latter seems kind of illogical cause you think that the villain would form a plan without coming up with a flaw first, if that makes sense. But maybe the latter is the right way to do it?
     
  6. TheRealStegblob
    Offline

    TheRealStegblob Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2016
    Messages:
    113
    Likes Received:
    50
    Location:
    washingmachine89
    It would help if I knew some deeper specifics, but just how deep are you trying to go with this, exactly? Most normal readers won't know or care about hyper minute specifics of the law, as 90% of cop shows/novels/etc prove. If you absolutely HAVE to make it 100% legally permissible just on the sake of personal principle, then I don't really know what I could suggest off the fly. All I can provide with what I know is that laws are (as you've already said) horribly complex with lots of loopholes and specifications that must be achieved, and that very few people are unhappy when a cop drama just says "dna fingerprint evidence lol" to put away the bad guy.
     
  7. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,123
    Likes Received:
    5,323
    Location:
    California, US
    If you're going to be strict about sticking to a legal framework, then it may be best to set up that framework ahead of time and work the plot in a way that fits. I haven't followed all of your posts, so maybe this is off, but it seems like you have a lot of "I don't want the MC to do X because of Y," or "I don't want the villain to A because of B," and if you get enough of those you've really started to build a fence around your plot and limit yourself in terms of what you can do, particularly if you find alternative objectionable for a variety of reasons.

    I think the way I'd approach it is to first outline the major plot points that you want to have, and then build the legal framework around it. And then bend things as needed if you really want to stick to a strict legal framework. You're in control of this whole thing, so if the cops are working with inadmissible evidence it is because you've created the circumstances to make that evidence inadmissible. So re-create it such that it is admissible, or at least so that it becomes an arguable point in court, etc.
     
  8. Ryan Elder
    Offline

    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,613
    Likes Received:
    78
    Well I have been told by readers that in my outlines, this wouldn't legally fly, this wouldn't, etc. A couple of readers, had quite the long check lists. Perhaps my premise by itself needs to be altered or doesn't work to begin with.

    Basically in my story, a cop becomes the next rape victim of a serial rapist/killer, and the cop wants revenge on the villain. But he also wants justice as well. I do not want him to simply kill the villain per say. I would like the cop to be able make his superiors look stupid by solving his own rape, and solving that of other past victims. Basically he is proving them wrong and coming out on top.

    But I also want him to do things on his own and work alone, and this is where things get complicated. Cause any type of evidence gathering or any type of sting operation that he performs on his own, cannot be admissible in court since he did not get legal authorization or warrants from the higher ups. So is it possible to write a story, where a cop wants justice, goes out and cracks a case on his own, even though he is taken off it, and is able to come out on top, proving everyone wrong legally?

    Or is the premise too legally unrealistic?

    As for recreating the plot so the evidence is legally admissible, I would have make the villain make a lot of mistakes that I am not convinced she has a reason to make. I would have to her start out smart, and then all of a sudden become stupid for no reason to be more legally catch-able. But I think it would show as a character inconsistency, no?

    As for the whole thing about I do not want to change X to Y etc, the story is about themes and has a point to make. If I change certain things around, the point of the story will get lost. It will make more sense plotwise, but the theme will be lost, so it depends on what is more important, plot or theme?
     
  9. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,123
    Likes Received:
    5,323
    Location:
    California, US
    I don't think just working the case when his superiors want him to do something else is going to keep the evidence out of court. If he's failing to meet 4th amendment requirements or something like that, then it would.
     
  10. Ryan Elder
    Offline

    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,613
    Likes Received:
    78
    Well if he is a victim of a crime, legally a victim cannot solve his own case, otherwise it's a conflict of interest, isn't it?

    Plus in my research, you need a warrant to get all the kinds of evidence the villain would leave behind. Since the villain goes after her victims on the internet a lot, the only evidence I can think of that she would leave behind is on her computer, and I keep being told you need warrants for that. That is just one example though. There are several other legal convolutions that go into that as well.

    Plus he has to perform his own sting operations and I read that a sting will not be admissible in court, unless it's reviewed by the district attorney's office.
     
  11. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,123
    Likes Received:
    5,323
    Location:
    California, US
    What law prevents it? Reminds me of Bosch solving his mother's murder.
     
  12. Ryan Elder
    Offline

    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,613
    Likes Received:
    78
    I was told that a cop needs a warrant to seize a computer for searching, off of someone's private property.

    Plus he has to perform his own sting operations to bait her into incriminating herself, and I read that a sting will not be admissible in court, unless it's reviewed by the district attorney's office.

    Here is a site that explains why a sting performed on one's own cannot work hardly:

    https://www.quora.com/Can-I-carry-out-my-own-sting-operation-against-local-crooked-cops-and-submit-the-evidence-to-Internal-Affairs
     
  13. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,123
    Likes Received:
    5,323
    Location:
    California, US
    Then he needs to change his approach. If he's not acting illegally the fact the he's the one doing it shouldn't keep it out of court. But I don't practice criminal law.
     
  14. Ryan Elder
    Offline

    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,613
    Likes Received:
    78
    But I don't think he can change his approach. A computer is a computer, and therefore the same laws still apply regardless of the approach, it seems.
     
  15. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,123
    Likes Received:
    5,323
    Location:
    California, US
    It's not that hard for cops to get a warrant. Maybe he can figure out a way to get one. Maybe there is another way to acquire the same evidence. Maybe the computer belongs to someone other than the perp, technically, so he gets authorization from that party. There are creative ways to play around with the facts.
     
  16. TheRealStegblob
    Offline

    TheRealStegblob Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2016
    Messages:
    113
    Likes Received:
    50
    Location:
    washingmachine89
    I think I see your problem, now.

    So you kind of have two issues going on. One is that you want this villain to be the kind of person that could rape someone and get away with it, leaving no trace that any rape occurred (considering the nature of rape, leaving no evidence behind would be incredibly difficult). But then the flaw is that they have to eventually do something to get themselves caught, and this means either making them have a contrived mistake or 'act stupid'.

    Your second issue is that you're not sure how to write it so that the actions of the cop will make legal sense. On this I'm less unsure of how I can help, as I don't really know that much about criminal law or how a court would go or anything like that.

    Is this a good summary of the dilemma?
     
  17. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,123
    Likes Received:
    5,323
    Location:
    California, US
    Having read a lot of this sort of thing I think the trick is to make things difficult, but to give the cop a path to victory. You may have to plot out that path first, then build the obstacles around it.
     
  18. Ryan Elder
    Offline

    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,613
    Likes Received:
    78
    But wouldn't that make the villain look kind of stupid though? I don't see the villain being smart enough to get away with several rapes, and then being dumb enough to leave all the evidence on someone else's computer, who would be willing to cooperate with the police.

    As for it not being that hard for cops to get a warrant in the legal research I do, it is very hard, if it not impossible in a lot of cases. Just having a mere theory that there is evidence on someone's private property is not enough.

    Plus a cop cannot perform his own sting operation on his own time legally, without the DA's permission beforehand, so that makes evidence inadmissible as well. He cannot get any warrants, since he is performing a sting without permission.
     
  19. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,123
    Likes Received:
    5,323
    Location:
    California, US
    Cops often get warrants easily because they know which judge to go to, for example. Even a smart villain can make mistakes. Maybe it's a work device that the villain basically treats as their own without realizing the problems, I don't know. Does the cop need to perform a sting? Maybe he can do something else.

    In part, I think it also matters what kind of story you're writing. Any cop or lawyer has read police procedurals and court room dramas where the author does a good job with these various aspects. We've also all seen and read summer blockbuster-type stories where you're basically saying "that's a load of crap" when these issues come up, but you go with it anyway because it is a fun movie or book that isn't meant to be a strict legal drama. It reminds me of the X-Files. I was working in a DNA lab when that show was on, and there were plenty of times when Scully said something, or did something related to forensics or other science, where you shake your head because it's complete BS, but nevertheless love the show and continue to watch it.

    If you're really going for a story that take a hardcore approach to police and legal procedure, then I don't see what choice you have but to modify the facts of your situation so that the cop has some way to proceed, however difficult. If you're writing something more like a summer blockbuster type that doesn't care about those details, then I think you're fine being a little loose in these areas when the plot demands it.
     
  20. Ryan Elder
    Offline

    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,613
    Likes Received:
    78
    Well the cop needs to manipulate the villain and send her into a panic so she will do something to incriminate herself, and he can seize the evidence from her incrimination. Wouldn't that count as a sting?

    I would say that the first half is hardcore legal stuff, because this is what enables the crooks to get away with things, and then the police are helpless. But then the last half is more of the fun vigilante cop who wants to prove everyone wrong.

    So it's a tonal shift. First half is much more legally accurate for sure, but the second half I would like to take artistic license, but do I have to keep it consistent with the already established first half?

    Well as far as knowing what judges to go to, in my story, the MC has been working on his own and working against his own people. The police are after him cause they believe he is going to kill the rapist, and want to stop him. But he actually wants to bring in case first on his own, if he can.

    But if I write it the climax, that he knows the exact right judge to call who will give him the warrant that he needs, could that come off as a deux ex machina, if the system was working against him the whole time before?

    There is also another law that might work for my story. I keep reading that a cop has the right to enter a residence, if he believes that evidence will be destroyed if he waits. I thought about using this, but police tell me that it's a load of bull and no officer is going to get admissible evidence, when it was clearly his own vendetta, and he didn't have any real probable cause, or reason to be there, that was sanctioned previously.

    But maybe there is someway to use that law to the advantage of the story. But the evidence is on the computer though, and there still needs to be a warrant for that.
     
  21. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,123
    Likes Received:
    5,323
    Location:
    California, US
    Seems to me that whether it would, and whether it would be impermissible, would depend on exactly what the cop did.
     
  22. Ryan Elder
    Offline

    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,613
    Likes Received:
    78
    Well basically another cop is killed earlier in the story, and the MC performs a sting on his own, in which he makes her believe that there is evidence implicating her in the crime. This will send her into a panic and get her to go to attempt to act against the phony evidence

    But this is tricky though, because I don't think you can charge her with murder because of this. The only evidence they have is her trying to act against evidence, that doesn't really exist, but was conjured up.

    So she's not even guilty of obstruction of justice technically. The MC just got her to act against evidence that doesn't really exist in the first place. But does this prove she is the killer?

    The movie Dial M for Murder, also based on a play, is kind of a similar example. In that movie the villain leaves a key to his apartment under the carpet of the stairway. He leaves it for the killer he hired to get later, so the killer can use it to go into the apartment, and kill the villain's wife for him, making it seem like a random unknown intruder, broke in and did it.

    The main cop has a theory that the husband left a key behind for the killer to use. He searches the apartment building and eventually finds it under the carpet. He leaves it there and comes up with his own sting operation, which he has no permission for doing as for as I can tell. He manipulates the villain, into figuring out that the killer put the key back under the carpet after using it. He is manipulated into checking to see if the key is still there, and he unlocks he then uses that key to unlock his own apartment. He is then arrested for attempted murder.

    But does finding a key under the carpet really prove that? I mean it seems like a huge jump in my story to charge someone with murder, when all the MC can do is manipulate her to act against evidence against her, that is false to begin with. Is that enough to pin a murder charge on her?

    Basically what I was thinking that the MC can do is create the illusion that there is evidence against her, by using the media, and a connection he has in the media to so so.

    The villain has been sending in anonymous emails to the press and the public, for everyone to read about her crimes. Kind of similar to what the villain did in the movie M (1931). But with the internet, this makes it a lot more advantageous to brag about crimes.

    So what the MC does is, is that he sends the villain into a panic, making it look like there is evidence against her. So she rebuttals by sending in another email, to the public, saying that the police are setting her up, and that the evidence against her is false. She does this so the police, other than the MC will realize she is being framed.

    Then the MC will have to bust into her residence and catch her in the act, of making this letter and sending it, before she sends it and gets rid of the evidence. But is this enough to prove she is the rapist killer they are after, and enough to put her away?

    Just because she sends a letter saying she is not the crook and she is being set up? The theory being that only the real crook would send such a letter. Kind of like how only the real crook would leave a key under the carpet, but is that enough legally to pin the crimes on the person?
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2016

Share This Page