plot twists

Death By Window

Brick house with  reflection of trees in window.

The following was written by Writers in the Grove member, Gretchen Keefer.

Meyerink Detective Chipper looked down at the body on the porch. He remembered from the briefing sergeant Corvus had given him that this was an adult male identified as M. Dove, indeterminate age, no obvious trauma. Yet he was dead. Dead on the doorstep. Dead dressed ready for the day in a gray suit and white shirt.

Sergeant Corvus appeared beside the detective, pencil poised to take more notes. Corvus was efficient and effective at his job. He was quite large, husky and coal black. His straight black hair shone, his darting black eyes noted everything, and his long, sharp nose appeared to intimidate even the most experienced suspect. Chipper, a much shorter officer, felt somewhat daunted by his sergeant also. In his plain brown suit, Chipper appeared even smaller than usual when Corvus stood beside him. Yet they worked well together. Chipper carefully and thoughtfully generally found the right suspects; Corvus was adept at making them sing.

“What do we have so far, Bill?” Chipper asked his assistant.

Corvus replied, “The neighbor discovered the body when she went out for her morning paper. That’s Mrs. Flicker there, with her husband. I have their contact information.”

Chipper noted the middle aged woman with salt and pepper hair. Her husband stood protectively beside her.

Corvus continued, “She was incensed. She felt it was simply unseemly for Mr. Dove to be lying drunk on the porch so early in the morning. She stormed up the porch steps, calling to him to get up. Then she screamed. The noise alerted her husband, who called 911.”

“Broken neck, Detective,” the medical examiner approached Chipper and Corvus, removing his gloves. “A clean break. He probably didn’t even know what happened.”

That was small consolation to Detective Chipper. How did one die of a broken neck on a clean, uncluttered doorstep? There was no ice or frost or any oily substance to cause a slip. There had been no robbery. All of M. Dove’s effects were still on him. There were no other marks, contusions or signs of an assault.

“Have you talked to the rest of the neighbors yet, Bill?”

“Yeah. No one saw anything so early in the morning. All were busy with breakfast. Could be that short round fellow is lying. He quailed at my questions.”

Chipper smiled. Many people quailed at Corvus’ questioning.

“Should I round up the usual juveniles, sir?” Corvus asked.

“This wasn’t an attack. There is something else going on here.”

Detective Chipper looked around for some clue. He examined the porch, the carefully swept steps, the clean front of the house, the large picture window above the door. The window drew his attention. It was too clean for a window facing the prevailing weather. It probably had been recently washed. The trees in the front yard reflected clearly in the pane. He went closer. There he finally saw the faint feathery outline of a shape that matched what M. Dove probably looked like in motion. Spotting a passer-by with the same build as M. Dove, Detective Chipper asked him to walk slowly, strut, rush forward and hop up the steps. The detective was convinced the vague outline on the window matched a move Mr. Dove could very likely have made.

Perching on the sill of the large window, the detective peered closely at the image on the glass. He could still see the waving trees from the front lawn behind him. He could also see through the house to the trees beckoning from the back yard. It was a very enticing view. The sun had not yet reached this part of the house so there was no glare off the glass. He tilted his head and turned it sharply to look at the scene in the window from several angles. Now he was certain he knew the cause of death.

“Accidental Death,” ruled Detective Chipper. “In the early morning light M. Dove mistook the image of the trees in the window for a passage to the back yard. He simply flew into it and broke his neck.”

That decision made and the case closed, Detective Chipper spread his own wings and flew off.

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Prompt: A Terrible Tragedy

The prompt this week was suggested by the recent shooting at Umpqua Community College as well as other tragic events.

Write about a tragedy, one that involves risk and fear. Put your character(s) under pressure in the middle of something where split second decisions could make things worse or resolve the issue.

Our hearts and thoughts are with the families and community of Roseburg, Oregon. Forest Grove hosts Pacific University, and we are kindred spirits sharing your pain and loss.

The Inciting Event

The Monday morning workshop recently focused on scriptwriting, specifically tracing inciting events and the patterns of storytelling for television, film, and even books.

An inciting event in a plot is the shift forward in a story, the twist, hook, and plot points of the story.

K.M. Weiland, author of the book, “Structuring Your Novel,” helps us understand the confusion in and around an inciting event in a story in “Your Book’s Inciting Event: It’s Not What You Think It Is” on Helping Writers Become Authors.

What the heck is the Inciting Event? That’s a question just about any writer can answer. The trouble is that sometimes we all have a different answer.

Is the Inciting Event the first thing that happens in the story?

Is it the moment that kicks off the plot and the conflict?

Is it the First Plot Point at the end of the First Act?

Is it something in between?

Is it something that happens before the story ever starts?

The chief trouble with identifying the Inciting Event is that the term is used rather wildly to apply to just about any of the above. One writer calls the Hook the Inciting Event, another calls it the First Plot Point. Argh! No wonder we’re all so confused.

Weiland demonstrates three examples.

  • The Hook: The opening moment in your opening scene, the first moment something happens that keeps the reader reading or “hooked.”
  • The First Plot Point: The thing that happens at the end of the first act that changes the course of the story. She calls it “where your story really begins…the moment that fully engages your character in the conflict. He couldn’t walk away now, even if he really wanted to.”
  • First Act Turning Point: This is the moment that is the “call to” adventure or action, the no-turning-back point, the lit-match moment. She explained that most writer’s don’t include nor think of the turning point in the first act as the inciting incident, but it is. It is the moment that can be pointed to throughout the rest of the story, the moment when everything was shaken up and decisions needed to be made and action inspired. This is the inciting event.

Weiland explained that the first act turning point, or inciting event, should be placed at the 12% mark or 1/8th the way into the story. The first eighth of the story is character development, the time the audience needs to connect with the main characters, the time, and the place, the set up. (more…)