Last week, I wrote about how an error or mishandling of a law in a manuscript can undermine the author’s credibility or give a wrong impression of a character. One of my sample scenes earned a bit of discussion, so I’m bringing it back this week as a writing prompt.
Writing prompts are short exercises meant to guide a writer with just enough information to get a bit of writing going. Prompts can be a single word, a narrative question, or a scenario with various options. The latter is what follows. The benefit of writing using a prompt is that it’s a good mental exercise on considering the various ways a single moment in a story can go.
Step 1 – The scenario
A young single father (Jimmy) moves into a small studio apartment. Soon after he settles in, there’s a rash of thefts in the complex. Jimmy has been no trouble to anyone, but he’s the new guy so the other residents are wary of him. The morning after the latest incident, a police officer goes around the complex seeking information. He knocks on Jimmy’s door. Jimmy’s baby is in her crib, asleep, so Jimmy steps into the hallway to talk. He closes the door behind him. The officer, Cpl. October, asks Jimmy where he was during last night’s burglary. Jimmy says he was working and gives his work info so that can be confirmed. Jimmy is a little defensive because he knows the other residents suspect him. He’s done nothing wrong but the visits by police are making him more and more nervous. Right now, he mostly wants this cop to go away without waking up his baby.
Step 2 – What the author needs
For the future events of the story (the disappearance of Jimmy’s baby), the author needs to get the cop into the apartment.
An additional requirement: Cpl. October needs to be close enough to the crib to see what appears to be a baby in it, but the baby can’t cry or move. Later, when he himself is questioned, Cp. October can’t be 100% sure he saw a healthy living baby in that crib.
Step 3: Writing prompt #1 – Good Cop
Cpl. October is a decent man and competent officer, and he’s not going to give a person a hard time for no good reason. But the author needs to get him inside that apartment to get a glimpse at the crib.
What is a valid scenario where that could happen and the officer doesn’t break any laws or come off as out of line?
Step 4: Writing prompt #2 – Bad Cop
Cpl. October has decided this Jimmy guy is bad news. No real reason, he can just tell. He’s not even sure he believes there’s a baby inside. Guys like this would lie about anything. Cpl. October wants inside that apartment to look around, and he’s going to get past this little twerp one way or the other, but he’s not going to lose his badge over it.
What is a valid scenario where Cpl. October would trick, coerce, or bully his way into the apartment without beating up Jimmy or overtly break any laws?