Modern problems crime authors must overcome

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Thought some non-authors might be interested in hearing about two vexing and universal plot problems every modern crime novelist must solve in every book. If you haven’t thought about this before as a reader, you’ll spot a novelist’s solutions every time from here on out. If you’re an author, please comment and let us know how you solved these problems in your books.

1. Why don’t they just call the police? There has to be some good reason that the victim or hero doesn’t simply call the law. Possible solutions to this dilemma: The police are too far away to get there in time; the police suspect the person calling of being a criminal; the police are aligned with/co-opted by the villain; the police are the villain(s); the police are incompetent; the police believe the wrong theory of the case when the hero/victim’s theory is actually onto the true one. Or the hero is using illegal/unethical means to solve the case and so can’t let the police know it. The villain will kill the hostage if the victim or hero calls the police. The traditional solution, of course, is to have your hero BE a cop.

2. Why doesn’t he/she just call him/her and ask? With every human being in the United States carrying a cellphone all the time, it is hard to have one character know something while another related character doesn’t. Possible solutions: Battery is dead; person lost their phone; villain stole/disabled phone; phone is out of range of a tower; call comes in, but because of an emergency/tense situation, person can’t immediately answer; person answers but unknown to caller, the villain is there monitoring every word. How wonderful it must have been to write crime fiction when there was no way to reach someone if they were away from their home or desk rotary-dial phone! Not only that, from here on out, we have to assume that people are able to use Google and check email on their phones, too.

Any dilemmas I’m missing? Click READ MORE and post a comment telling us what.

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This article has 2 comments

  1. Kimberly Israel 08/09/2011, 10:03 am:

    Neat points :-) Kind of makes me think of romantic comedies – seems like a rule of the genre is that the main characters have to jump to conclusions and aren’t allowed to just ask each other if what they saw/heard meant what they thought it did.

    • Bryan 08/09/2011, 10:21 am:

      So true about RomComs, Kimberly!

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