Writing Forums

Writing Forums is a privately-owned, community managed writing environment. We provide an unlimited opportunity for writers and poets of all abilities, to share their work and communicate with other writers and creative artists. We offer an experience that is safe, welcoming and friendly, regardless of your level of participation, knowledge or skill. There are several opportunities for writers to exchange tips, engage in discussions about techniques, and grow in your craft. You can also participate in forum competitions that are exciting and helpful in building your skill level. There's so much more for you to explore!

Sympathy vs. surprise. (1 Viewer)

ironpony

Senior Member
For my story, it's a thriller set in modern times, and part of the plot is the main character is a police officer who is caught in a shoot out and shoots back, but accidentally hits another cop he didn't know was there. He covers it up and hides that he did it afterwards, and he finds out why the other cop was there later on as pieces it together.

However, I am not sure how to show this in terms of point of view. I could write it so that the we the reader, have no idea that the second cop would even be there, and it's told all from the main character's POV, and we are as shocked as he is when he sees that he shot another cop who it turns out was there. Or I could write it so that it's told from both the MC's point of view, as well as the other cop, so we have more sympathy for the other cop when he is accidentally killed.

So it's a battle of whether to have more of a surprise, or more sympathy for the character. But does one sound better than the other in this case?
 

ironpony

Senior Member
Oh well the case is really personal to him and he really wants to bring down the villains personally, so if he admits his culpability, the case will be ruined, and he will not only be taken off of it, but fired, probably as well, so that is why he wants to cover it up. But mostly he doesn't want the case to be ruined as a result.
 

MistWolf

Senior Member
There must be a very powerful motivation for him to want to stay on the case so badly he's willing to risk his reputation, career, going to prison for a long time and his life just to stay on the case. The cover up carries a far greater penalty than accidental blue-on-blue.

Chances are, someone is going to discover his culpability and its going to go hard for him, even if no one can prove anything.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
Are you seriously suggesting that accidentally shooting another police officer is less grave than failing to confess you did?
Absolutely! Accidents can happen. Failing to disclose is criminal. Now, these are unusual circumstances so the judge would consider the reason for the coverup, but there would be no guarantee, he would not be convicted. It's a good plot twist....I like it IP!
 

MistWolf

Senior Member
Are you seriously suggesting that accidentally shooting another police officer is less grave than failing to confess you did?
Accidentally shooting a police officer and covering it up is an act of betrayal your fellow officers will not forgive. Neither will the courts. Covering up the killing will elevate the charges from, say, Negligent Manslaughter to Murder. It's likely the DA will look for a way to charge Premeditated Murder. There will be a host of other charges, like Interfering With An Investigation, Evidence Tampering Conspiracy To Commit various crimes and they will push for maximum sentences for each to run consecutively with no parole with the perpetrator to be placed in general population where the life expectancy of an ex-cop is likely to be measured in days. That's what IronPony's character is facing for covering up killing another cop.

Even in the civilian world, covering up the act of accidentally killing another human being will increase charges and penalties to be faced.
 

ironpony

Senior Member
Okay thanks. I know what you mean but the main character is not thinking logically. But there have been other stories where the main character has killed another police officer and covered it up such as the movie Insomnia for example? So is plausible, if it's been done before?
 

MistWolf

Senior Member
Covering up killing an officer to stay on the case isn't a strong enough motive for me to empathize with the character. That makes him a scummy badguy. There has to be more to it than that. That's why I want to know what's so important to him he has to stay on the case. What's driving him?

From a writing point of view, the chosen motivation is a short-cut and will have a negative impact on the story telling. You gotta dig deeper. Or is the MC just a scummy badguy?
 

ironpony

Senior Member
Well there are two main reasons. The first is he is taking the case very personally and really wants to nail the villains and is sick of them getting away with their crimes all the time. Earlier in the story he hacks into someone's computer to find out who the villains are. He then starts tailing the villains on his own time to see what they will do.

However, he cannot admit to tailing them because he cannot have the hacking traced back to him, otherwise it all becomes 'fruit of the poisonous tree' in a legal sense. So if he admits to being there and getting the other cop killed, then the case because fruit of the poisonous tree, and he really wants to nail the villains.

The other reason is, once the other cop is killed, he figures out a way to use this to his advantage, in order to nail them. The other cop is a crooked cop who was conspiring with them, and he comes up with a plan to use this to trick them into incriminating themselves later. However, if he admits to killing the cop, then he cannot put forth the sting operation to trick them into doing so later.

Those were the two reasons for the character not wanting to admit to it because he is more obsessed with bringing the villains down, without the sting operation being ruined, or fruit of the poisonous tree ruining it. He is more obsessed with winning the case, if that can work?
 

Lawless

Senior Member
Even in the civilian world, covering up the act of accidentally killing another human being will increase charges and penalties to be faced.

Most certainly not in Europe. One of the most basic principles of the criminal law is that no one can be forced to implicate himself. It's a constitutional right. Admittedly, I can't rule out individual prosecutors' or prison officials' petty vendetta against a stubborn offender, but I can't imagine a situation where the fact that a person failed to confess his own offense can be legally held against him. I mean, of course confession is a mitigating circumstance, but to openly state "we are going to treat him harshly because he didn't confess" will get the decision revoked in the higher instance with 100% certainty, and possibly result in disciplinary action against the official who made it.


Of course, the differences of regulations and legal practices in various countries are not really the point here. The point is making things believable for the reader. And as a common book reader, I would find it most incredible that not confessing could be a legal basis for charging a person for murder instead of involuntary manslaughter. And I can't imagine a prosecutor or a judge saying "Well, the evidence is pointing at involuntary manslaughter, but since he tried to cover it up, we'll make it a murder."

Then again, I'm not American, so my opinion doesn't really matter if the book is meant for the American audience who would not be confused by the above.
 

Lawless

Senior Member
Accidentally shooting a police officer and covering it up is an act of betrayal your fellow officers will not forgive. [---] It's likely the DA will look for a way to charge Premeditated Murder.

What betrayal? He's already dead. Knowing who shot him won't bring him back to life, will it? Shooting a fellow police officer would naturally be seen as an act of betrayal, but how can covering up the circumstances of his death be?

I know that after each incident involving the use of firearms, a police officer is required to report in detail what happened (at least where I come from). Failure to do that is a disciplinary offense. But how in heaven's name can it turn an accidental shooting into a murder?

Also it's obviously punishable to suppress evidence or give false testimony (unless, of course, your shooting him constituted a criminal offense in which case you have the constitutional right to not give testimony against yourself). But again, hindering an investigation of what is not necessarily even a crime is worlds apart from a murder.
 

Lawless

Senior Member
I'm sorry if my previous comments have brought this discussion too far away from the original topic. Here is one point I think is actually relevant:

How can the protagonist cover up the fact that he was the one who shot the other policeman? After all, the investigators will know what type of gun the bullet was fired from, and approximately where it was fired from. And the death of a police officer is an extremely serious matter which will be investigated with utmost care.

It might be advisable to drop in a few details such as the bullet went through his body and was never found, and maybe he fell from a high place, so they couldn't establish which way he stood at the moment when the bullet hit.
 

MistWolf

Senior Member
@Lawless

In the US, person cannot be charged with failing to confess.That would violate the Fifth Amendment. But one can face criminal charges for failing to report an accidental death one caused.

Not reporting an accidental death doesn't make it murder. But it does open the door to the DA charging the responsible party with murder. Covering it up opens the door to greater and more numerous charges. That doesn't mean the DA is going to get convictions. But it does mean the defendant is going to pay a lawyer much more money defending against those charges or plea bargaining them to lesser charges. A cover upl also make it tougher to get sentences and other penalties reduced. If the defendant cannot afford an attorney, they will be assigned to an overworked public defender that's only interested in clearing their workload as simply as possible by making a deal with the DA's office.

The system will lean even harder on a cop committing a crime. As holders of the public trust, cops are held to higher standards and when convicted, are given heavier penalties. A cover-up by a cop is like chumming shark infested water with blood before taking a swim. There will be a frenzy.

Causing an accidental death isn't murder, but that doesn't mean the one responsible can't be charged with murder. If the DA thinks there's enough evidence to file charges of murder, they will. Sometimes greater charges are filed the the DA's office thinks they can get the defendant to plea guilty to lesser charges even if they're innocent. In the case of a cop covering up killing a fellow officer, they will file charges of premeditated murder if they can find the least shred of evidence for it. Although the DA may not get the conviction, the defendant pays a lot of money to a lawyer to defend against them.

Yes, covering up killing another cop is a betrayal. Trust is a huge issue with police officers. If your fellow officers think they can't trust you to watch their back, you're a pariah. Killing a fellow cop is bad enough and may eventually be forgiven. But covering it up is a breach of trust that won't be forgiven. How can you trust someone who would put a bullet in your back and lie about it?

So, getting back to my point- There has to be more to this than "I wanna get these guys."
 

Lawless

Senior Member
So, getting back to my point- There has to be more to this than "I wanna get these guys."

Yes, absolutely.

A strong personal motive? I can't think of anything else at the moment. Ideological fanatism seems kind of silly to me.
 

ironpony

Senior Member
The reason why the protagonist wants to get the villains so bad is that the villains have been going around committing a series of kidnapping and rapes and the protagonist was one of their victims and becomes obsessed with wanting to bring them down, because of his prior victimization from them.
 
Top