1. Hilarie Hope

    Hilarie Hope New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2017
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    1

    Logistics of faking a character's death

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Hilarie Hope, Jul 30, 2017.

    Okay. I'm writing a fantasy novel about bad faeries (very simplified summary.)
    Protagonist is a 24yo who lives with her mother. Her father was murdered a few months before start of book - so she thinks.
    For several reasons that connect to the protagonist that I won't get into here, dad was actually kidnapped by the faeries. Mom saw this happen. Dad was injured when he was taken and left a pool of blood in the living room. (or somewhere in the house. Maybe it'll be outside.) Some physical sign that something bad happened.
    Mom is having a metal breakdown because faeries took her freaking husband. Faeries. She can't process this. She obviously doesn't want to tell anyone that faeries took her husband because that will make her sound crazy.
    So I'm playing with the idea of her passing it off as he was murdered, so the protagonist goes the whole book thinking that her dad is dead, killed by some thug who broke into the house.
    What are the logistics of this? Is it possible to pass someone off as murdered instead of kidnapped without a body? Doesn't necessarily have to be a legal route to achieving this, but it does have to be believable - or at least capable of suspending disbelief if done well ;)
    To narrow this down a bit, I'm talking the practical stuff: police involvement, death certificate, coroner, whatever else. I've never personally handled the death of someone so I don't even know exactly what happens, legally speaking, after someone dies. Is it possible to pretend someone was murdered when you don't have a body?
    I tried to google the answers to this and I must not be googling the right question because I haven't found much that's helpful.
    Hopefully this makes sense. My brain is going in ten million different directions right now.
    Thanks!
     
  2. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    10,884
    Likes Received:
    11,448
    Location:
    Scotland
    I would say in modern times that would be pretty much impossible to pull off. There would have been an investigation if the woman had reported her husband as murdered, and if a thug did it, where is the body? And if there was a pool of blood in the house, and mom reported the 'murder' why isn't she a prime suspect? She wouldn't have an alibi if she saw it happen. And even if she gets away with it, the man's disappearance would be a recorded cold case, still unsolved. The daughter would know her father's 'death' wasn't all that straightforward. She can read papers, presumably, and will have talked to other people as well as her mother. There would have been a lot of interest in the case. I don't see how she could be ignorant of it.

    Was she old enough to remember her father?

    Is there a reason why there has to be a pool of blood? That's a big problem. If he just 'disappeared' you might be able to work this in some way, although the mother would not be able to claim he was dead either. And if she didn't, then the daughter would always wonder where he might be.

    I don't know. I don't see any way out of this one, really. If it were set in a pre-technological age or world it would be easier to pull off. But in today's world, with all the checks and ID requirements, etc? Presumably all his ID cards and passport, etc, would still be left at home—unless he had them in his pockets when he 'disappeared?'

    Dunno. This is a stumper.
     
    Hilarie Hope and Homer Potvin like this.
  3. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Digging out my Balzac Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2017
    Messages:
    4,298
    Likes Received:
    6,770
    Location:
    Rhode Island
    In a world with faeries? Anything is possible. Moreover, anything would need to be possible for your story to work, so your best bet is to probably write around this particular plot hole. This is one of those things that has the potential to become more implausible the more you try to explain it. I call that "pointing at the plot hole."

    Like @jannert said, the pool of blood would be a huge problem. Courts have convicted people of murder before without finding a body. It happens to mobsters all the time if there's enough evidence to suggest a murder or foul play has occurred. I'm not sure exactly how that works, but it should be fairly easy to research, and I'm assume that a buttload of blood would be something a jury could key in on.

    Your MC's age of 24 and the timeline of the father having disappeared a few months before the book starts is more problematic. She's not likely to accept her mother's explanation of a thug breaking into the house and then absconding with the body. Neither would the police for obvious reasons. And I serious doubt anyone would accept the death of a loved one (a parent in this case) without seeing the body either. Not for a few years at least. And unless the father lived in a vacuum he would have other friends/co-workers/family members clamoring for justice. Now, if we're talking about a young kid (of the disappearance happening when she was a kid) then that's a different story. You can write around that.

    Thinking about this more, I would say that you probably need a more plausible set of circumstances that could account both for the disappearance and the lack of a body. Something like the father disappearing on a hiking or climbing trip with no witnesses, but that would obviously torpedo the glimpsing of the faeries that fucks up the mother's mind. Maybe you could have the faeries grab the father at the beach and drag him into the water? I know that sounds cheesy, but it would explain why a body was never found (not exactly, but more so) and satisfy the acceptance of death thing. If you see somebody disappear into a body of water and never return then death is guaranteed. I suppose the mother would have to be there to witness all this.

    Not sure. You may need another mechanic in here to make all this line up.
     
    Hilarie Hope and jannert like this.
  4. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    10,884
    Likes Received:
    11,448
    Location:
    Scotland
    Sorry. I missed the fact that the father disappeared only a couple of months before the start of the book when the daughter is 24 years old. So yeah, she's old enough to remember him. Also old enough not to be fooled or fobbed off by a thin story.
     
    Hilarie Hope likes this.
  5. Hilarie Hope

    Hilarie Hope New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2017
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    1
    Thank you both so much for your help.
    I had thought about the mother being a suspect, but I didn't get much farther than thinking of it for a brief second.
    This whole thing was done totally differently in the first draft of my manuscript. Now I'm working on the second draft and, unfortunately, although what I had set up in the first draft was more believable, it didn't fit the story as well as I had hoped. So I'm now playing around with alternatives. This also, in the first draft, was two different people. The dad was kidnapped and someone else died (actually died) prior to the start of book. Both of those events are important, but I've got too many characters and too many subplots, etc, so I'm trying to condense.
    The character that died in the first draft only exists so that he can die, which means he needs to go. He's not an important enough character. So I thought about combining him with the dad, but then this lead to the whole problem of how do I pass him off as dead when he's not actually dead? Ugh.
    And the bloodstain thing, in retrospect, is a silly idea. :) I included it partly because it already existed in the first draft of the novel because of the previous character that did actually die, and I was going to keep it because I thought it might help with "proving" that dad died. But I see your point that it would likely just help convict mom.
    @Homer Potvin Actually, the ocean thing is not a bad idea. The water fae play a huge part in this book, so that might work out just fine.

    @jannert @Homer Potvin
    I have been working on this book for a long, long time and now that I'm finally done with the first draft and starting rewrites, I'm finding that I am sometimes too close to it to think critically. Like in this instance. I really wanted to make this work, but I was going about it all wrong. Thank you both so much for your advice and insight. :)
     
    jannert likes this.
  6. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    10,884
    Likes Received:
    11,448
    Location:
    Scotland
    Happy to chime in with my 2-cent's worth, but I probably wasn't a lot of help. It's a knotty problem, for sure, if you're going to create believability ...even though obviously the Fae are outwith normal experience. But if the 'normal' part of the experience (modern-day dad missing, believed presumed killed) doesn't hang together, your readers are going to detect a problem. So good luck! I'm sure if you think about it hard enough and are willing to change a few details, you can make it work.
     

Share This Page