Plot questions about Bin Laden


Another of the skills that translates well from journalism to fiction is open-ended thinking. Trying to broaden the universe of possible questions or explanations beyond those your mind first leaps to. As a reporter, you think critically about a set of facts, setting aside any premise offered along with those facts as well as your own hopes or biases, as best you can, and relentlessly look for different possible conclusions. In a novel, you have your first idea for a plot point or backstory or motivation, and then you look for three more, less obvious ones, until you find one that is fresh and fascinating.

Here’s a Reuters story that performs this exercise to sketch several possible scenarios about Osama bin Laden, how he came to Abbottabad, Pakistan, and who may have known he was there. This could be a conversation over beers among novelists (and it probably was a conversation over beers between Reuters journalists before it was a story). Journalists can do research to validate or reject these theories. A novelist would take the most fascinating one and begin writing sketches to see if it works as well as he thinks. Many novelists have been watching the real bin Laden story, asking themselves, “What if a guy…” and coming up with their own thriller plots.

Efforts to trace his movements over the decade are likely to shed light on who helped him, and that could prove highly embarrassing to U.S. ally Pakistan which has rejected as absurd accusations it was either incompetent or playing a double game.

Following are some possible explanations for how bin Laden ended up under the noses of the Pakistani authorities, in a compound with high walls topped with barbed wire, a short distance from the country’s top military academy.

The main scenarios they describe are:

  1. He was on his own
  2. Pakistan knew everything
  3. Rogue or retired (Pakistani) security agents discovered him and kept him under surveillance as their zoo animal

What additional scenarios can you imagine? Let the possibilities run wild, and please don’t turn this into an episode of Crossfire. We’re not making political points, just sketching out story possibilities. Click the headline of this post or “Read More” to bring up the comment box if you don’t see it.

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This article has 5 comments

  1. Elizabeth 05/11/2011, 3:01 pm:

    Here’s my scenario: Bin Laden had gotten amnesia and suffered major hearing loss from being around so many explosions. So he didn’t know he was a bad guy. In fact, he thought he was a business man. He was discovered by Pakistani officials who strongly suspected who he was but couldn’t do much more given the man thought he was a very wealthy businessman whose family would come ransom him any day now. Since his hearing was shot (hee hee) it was impossible for him to understand what in the world the Pakistani officials were accusing him of. The authorities couldn’t tell if he was really insane, had lost his hearing, or was playing a good game. So the authorities locked him up to see who would show up… It also explains why Bin Laden didn’t get down when the Seals told him to. He thought he was about to be reunited with his family and wealth.

    • Elizabeth 05/11/2011, 3:04 pm:

      Oh yeah, and he couldn’t hear what they were saying anyway!! (LOL)

  2. Theaky Fimenia 07/03/2011, 1:50 pm:

    Great blog, how about links exchanging? Please contact me asap, Thanks.

  3. Genny Rudell 07/07/2011, 11:10 am:

    Damn glad the read was worth the effort it took me to actually see it. Utterly crazy how many hoops I had to jump through to load your post. Never ever emigrate to Yemen, completely random webpages have been blocked by the internet service providers here for absolutely no reason. Kind Regards, Genny Rudell

  4. Barjen Bruch 07/15/2011, 1:23 am:

    Great post mate.

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