Monday, March 30, 2009

Ten (More) Prompts

Come to think of it, it's been close to one year since I originally put up a list of ten crime and mystery prompts, which was probably inspired by some discussion on the lack of such local stories at the time. Having been bombarded with such TV series as Criminal Minds and the CSI variants recently, I figured that it would be a hoot to try to come up with ten more.

One thing that has struck me so far involves how easy it is to come up with a plot that involves a dead body. A corpse is the neatest, cleanest avenue to an investigation: it immediately screams that something is wrong or has gone wrong, and it leaves only just enough elements behind to explain the entire scenario (given a bit of legwork by the protagonist investigator/s). Simply put, a corpse appeals to our sense of order and justice: it points out that a crime has taken place, gives us some of the jigsaw pieces and challenges us to solve the puzzle.

In contrast, I theorize that it's harder to come up with a plot that doesn't involve dead bodies because you're not even sure if a crime has taken place. The result is something that usually bypasses our sense of whodunit... and leaves us with just the question of piecing together what happened. I suppose that certain elements can substitute for that: maybe there's a sense of urgency involved, or maybe a level of moral outrage. Heck, there's always plain curiosity.

For that matter, I'll try to avoid dead bodies in this series of prompts. I'll stay out of the supernatural as well, and I'll still welcome anyone who wishes to use any of these as they may.

1. A series of new gang signs are showing up in the middle of a neighborhood that is being contested between two existing criminal gangs. The new signs are being sprayed over the territories of the two warring groups despite the fact that no representatives of the new organization have revealed themselves, and tensions are starting to come to a head.

2. A horde of small business owners have reported finding counterfeit five-hundred-peso bills in their accounts at the end of certain working days. But the fake bills are all apparently drawn on thick paper with an amateurish hand... and none of the businessmen has any clue as to how they could have accepted such obvious fakes.

3. A Starex van turns turtle in the middle of a major intersection, seriously injuring the four occupants inside. No less than seven separate witnesses testify that no other vehicles or obstructions were even so much as near the van at the time of the accident.

4. Three local entertainment celebrities have all attempted suicide in the past week, and the only common thread is a single rehabilitation center that each of the three has attended within the past month.

5. Dead cockroaches are showing up in bottles of alcoholic drinks across the bars and nightclubs of a popular posh district, sometimes even before the decanters are even opened. The appearances seem completely random and spread out across different brands... and these are confined to a single area alone.

6. Someone has broken into the showroom of the biggest jewelry store in town. But although virtually all of the glass display cases have been smashed, the only thing missing is a diamond engagement ring of relatively low value.

7. Eighteen people in a single apartment building come down with symptoms of the same rare disease within the same week. Only two tenants remain strangely immune: the mother of a family of three on the third floor of the building, and the landlord... the latter of which has mysteriously disappeared.

8. A popular socialite has sworn high and low that the sexually explicit pictures that appear in an underground men's magazine are not her, and yet a newer and bolder set gets shown with each successive issue. Shortly before an investigation reveals the identity of the publishers, the socialite drops all charges, after which she doesn't seem to remember the investigators' names...

9. A college student reports that vagrants and homeless men are attacking him for no discernible reason, and insists on a regular police escort in order to ward off such occurrences. Before long, however, similar attempts on his life by unknown perpetrators begin to take place.

10. Someone is vandalizing parked jeepneys by painting anti-government messages on them. The only suspect common to all of the incidences is an eight-year-old boy; two days into his interrogation, investigators discover that he is illiterate.

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