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Marian Perera
06-02-2014, 12:00 AM
Hey guys, it's me again with an odd fantasy scenario. :)

The story is set in a small fishing village. A man in that village needs to fake a shark attack to cover up a murder. If the body is found all hacked up on the shore, people will naturally think it's a shark... if he can just nudge them in that direction.

But no fins obligingly appear in the water, so he's got to provide one himself. He's no swimmer, so he can't cruise underwater with a shark fin strapped to his back.

I need to find a way for him to fake that. Just grasping at straws here - if he was on a sailboat instead, ostensibly patrolling the water in search of another victim's remains, could he secretly drop a fin attached to a subsurface buoy, so from the shore (where people are watching), it looks like there's an actual fin protruding above the waves? Maybe the buoy is even being towed along by the boat, so it looks as though the "shark" is giving chase? Would that work? Or if it doesn't sound feasible, what would you suggest?

ETA : I think "buoy" is the wrong term here. Basically, the fin needs to be mounted on something that floats just below the water - and ideally, this will be something that can be made to sink shortly after the watching people notice it, because otherwise they'd get suspicious. Also, this is a fantasy, so the year is about 1850.

Thanks in advance for any help. :)

alleycat
06-02-2014, 12:06 AM
I think a fake shark attack in that way would be hokey unless you want a bit of humor in the story.

I think I would find some photos on the Internet and see what I could come up with to fake a shark bite. I'm not sure just hacking up the body would do it. It would be nice if a leg or arm was missing. :-)

Maybe the guy has an old shark jaw with teeth. Maybe that's what gives him the idea to begin with. Maybe he could try to use that in some way. When the body is found the medical examiner will conclude the victim died due to an obvious shark attack. Just an idea.

Marian Perera
06-02-2014, 12:12 AM
It's set in the fantasy equivalent of the 1850s, in a small fishing village which is likely to be even less advanced than the rest of the land. No medical examiner and the villagers haven't read Jaws. :) Also, the murderer is the chief clerk of the village - basically, in a respected position, so people are likely to listen to what he has to say. Though I may have an experienced fisherman or two (basically, the Quint of the story) having his doubts...

And yeah, the body is definitely going to be found with a limb or two missing.

alleycat
06-02-2014, 12:15 AM
As long as there were shark teeth marks on the body, I think people would naturally assume the victim was killed by a shark.

Marian Perera
06-02-2014, 12:19 AM
As long as there were shark teeth marks on the body, I think people would naturally assume the victim was killed by a shark.

Oh, I'll definitely have the murderer make cuts on the body that could be passed off as teeth marks. It's not like the body's going to be photographed by reporters or forensics people, or examined by anyone with experience - in fact, given that the murderer knows where the body is, and will be in charge of the search, he can direct the experienced people to search in another location and send someone else to actually find the corpse.

My real problem is the fin sighting...

alleycat
06-02-2014, 12:27 AM
Just some casual comments.

I don't think I would take the chance of someone finding the body in the water. I would put it ashore at high tide level. There is too great a chance of a body in water to be washed away by currents. Heck, they never found the body of the Prime Minister of Australia back in 1968. They assume he was shark food.

The fake fin thing is going to be awfully hard for one man to pull off, but I think you have your heart set on it, so good luck. Could he have a helper; someone who owes him a big favor? Or someone who is "slow". That could be a plot twist later on. He has to get now get rid of the helper before he talks.

Marian Perera
06-02-2014, 12:58 AM
I don't think I would take the chance of someone finding the body in the water. I would put it ashore at high tide level.

Yes, the first body is going to be found in some driftwood and seaweed, supposedly washed ashore. That's the real murder, the one he's got to cover up. The second death is basically to establish a pattern of ooh killer shark, plus the second victim is someone he has no personal connection to.


The fake fin thing is going to be awfully hard for one man to pull off, but I think you have your heart set on it, so good luck. Could he have a helper; someone who owes him a big favor? Or someone who is "slow". That could be a plot twist later on. He has to get now get rid of the helper before he talks.He does have a (very loyal) helper, yes.

What I was thinking was, the helper is basically sailing the patrol boat when the fin is sighted. The murderer, also on the patrol boat, hears the screams from shore, so he falls overboard. He's a strong enough swimmer that he reaches the fin underwater and submerges it for good, so it looks like the shark has dived. Then he comes up thrashing and is rescued in the nick of time.

It would be great if whatever he used to rig up this trick was later found in the bottom of the harbor bay (because my heroine, who discovers the truth, has a real shark and scouts with it). Still thinking about that...

thothguard51
06-02-2014, 01:20 AM
If the body has been dead and hacked up for more than a few minutes, you don't need a fake fin sighting. Especially in 1850, in a sea side village where fishing is more than likely a way of life and the tell tale signs of shark attacks would be a first thought.

As a matter of fact, I remember reading somewhere that sharks were often to blame for attacks when in fact they were not the reason.

Think back to the movie jaws... No one saw the shark. Not much of the body was left to examine. Most sank or were eaten by the shark. But the medical examiner immediately thought shark...

More than likely, by time the body parts are found, sand crabs will be swarming all over it as will sea gulls and other scavengers...

Marian Perera
06-02-2014, 01:28 AM
If the body has been dead and hacked up for more than a few minutes, you don't need a fake fin sighting. Especially in 1850, in a sea side village where fishing is more than likely a way of life and the tell tale signs of shark attacks would be a first thought.

True. I did have a couple of reasons for the fake fin sighting, though. Firstly, it makes the entire village firmly convinced that there is a shark, so no one listens to what the few skeptics have to say (and there really is something strange about the first victim's death, because she just wasn't a swimmer or a sailor).

Secondly, it might provide the only physical evidence that my heroine gets to find. She comes along months later, after the bodies have been buried (and she's not going to exhume them and risk the villagers getting angry at desecration).

I haven't written the story yet, because I just got this idea today. When I do, it's possible that I'll find the fin sighting unnecessary. But right now, it will be the perfect reason for my heroine to investigate a little more closely. She knows shark behavior, so she's not likely to jump from "dead body on shore" to "shark attack", but at the same time, when two dozen people say they saw a fin slicing through the water, she has to look into the matter.

If anyone can give me any ideas or details to make the fin sighting plausible, I'd appreciate that muchly. :)

kaitie
06-02-2014, 01:41 AM
I'd plant a tooth on the body instead of worrying about a fin. If they're a fishing village, I'm sure there are plenty that have washed up on shore over the years. Sharks shed teeth, after all.

ETA: I'm not a big fan of the fin idea, either, but there are two options I can think of. One is that even if they didn't see a real shark, I'm sure after several months of talk about how there was a shark, there will be a person or two willing to say they say one. A body like that washing up on shore is likely to be big news in a small town like that, and I can easily see people thinking a log they saw in the water was a shark (or maybe there really were sharks in the general area around the time).

The other thought is related to the planting a tooth idea. Someone pulls the body out of the water, is around a bunch of other people at the same time, and they all watch as he pulls a tooth from one of the cuts. Said guy keeps the tooth. When she comes back around, he can be like "I still have the tooth we found."

Marian Perera
06-02-2014, 01:46 AM
I'd plant a tooth on the body instead of worrying about a fin. If they're a fishing village, I'm sure there are plenty that have washed up on shore over the years. Sharks shed teeth, after all.

It's a good idea, but it backs up the theory of a shark being present.

I'd really like to give my heroine the idea that it wasn't a shark. That's why I was thinking of a fake fin sighting that would use some simple device which could later be found at the bottom of the harbor.

ETA : Also, my heroine would see through planting a tooth on the body. That's easy to fake (she has a shark herself, so she knows they shed teeth). It's not so easy to make thirty people believe they saw a shark.


ETA: I'm not a big fan of the fin idea, either, but there are two options I can think of. One is that even if they didn't see a real shark, I'm sure after several months of talk about how there was a shark, there will be a person or two willing to say they say one. Going to use that, because the murderer does this when he's with people on the shore - pretends to see a shark, knowing at least one or two of the people he's with at the time will be easily influenced into believing they saw it too.

But the fake sighting gets thirty people convinced they saw it at the same time, which is something that can't be done through psychological tactics alone. At least not through any psychological tactics my murderer has experience with.

The other thought is related to the planting a tooth idea. Someone pulls the body out of the water, is around a bunch of other people at the same time, and they all watch as he pulls a tooth from one of the cuts. Said guy keeps the tooth. When she comes back around, he can be like "I still have the tooth we found." But wouldn't that lend support to the shark theory, rather than making my heroine suspicious?

This is what I had planned:

1. My heroine hears the story of the bodies being found, gets suspicious because she knows shark behavior.
2. Lots of sensible, respectable villagers assure her they saw a shark fin chasing the sailboat (because, in reality, it was being dragged behind the sailboat on a rope).
3. My heroine decides to patrol the harbor with her shark, which is not going to kill anyone, in case this vicious beast comes back.
4. She spots some physical evidence on the bottom of the harbor, and later realizes that it was used to fake a fin sighting.

The only way I can see a planted tooth raising questions in her mind is if the tooth is very obviously from, I dunno, some small species that couldn't possibly be responsible, but then the murderer doesn't look too smart.

Book Fiend
06-02-2014, 01:57 AM
My husband and I fished a lot. Caught a few sharks even, just casting from the shore. Even in areas that had a reef. The thing is, never actually saw a fin before we caught them. They were hooked just about the distance of how far the line was cast out- 100 or so feet? So, just because there are sharks, doesn't mean they attack. They usually don't. When they do, it's usually around dusk or dawn with poor visibility in the water and they mistake people for seals. My friend was actually bitten while surfing and the shark spit out the part of the foot that got bitten off- I've heard they don't actually like the way we taste. Of all our friends that fished, surfed, and went diving, he was the only one I know who ever got bitten. Oh, except my uncle who was actually eaten by a shark. (Gruesome story.) So, two out of thousands of people we know and know of.

I wouldn't want to, but if I did want to attract sharks, I'd just chum the water. If there are any sharks around, they'll come. I'd imagine that in a fishing village, chumming wouldn't send up any red flags, because you chum for other fish too.

The most believable shark attack would be if the local sharks were aggressive and territorial, like tiger sharks. And even then, they just don't attack humans very often. My husband was with the Marines and they used to dump them in a bay that had tons of tiger sharks. My husband saw them swimming all around, even had some brush up against him. No once, out of all of the times they dropped them out of a helicopter into this bay, was anyone bitten.

JulianneQJohnson
06-02-2014, 02:13 AM
If a fin sighting is necessary to the story, then you can find a way to make it work. I was going to suggest remote controlled toy boat, before I realized that tech might not exist yet in your world. A fin on a float might work if you sell it. Your townspeople's first thought when seeing fake finny would realistically be "It's a shark!" not "I wonder if that's a fake fin tied to that boat?"

How about a turtle? Big sea turtle with a fake fin tied to it's shell. Turtles often hang out just under the surface of the water, and dive deeper down when something approaches them. Thus the fin would show until anyone got near it, then disappear. Maybe that's too goofy, but I thought it, so here I am saying it.

Marian Perera
06-02-2014, 02:30 AM
If a fin sighting is necessary to the story, then you can find a way to make it work. I was going to suggest remote controlled toy boat, before I realized that tech might not exist yet in your world. A fin on a float might work if you sell it.

Thanks, Julianne. :)

That's exactly what I wanted. A fin attached to something which floats. Then, when the murderer pretends to fall overboard, he causes the floaty thing to sink, meaning it goes down to the harbor depths and takes all the evidence with it. He has no idea that a real, trained shark will turn up later to find the now-damaged floaty thing.

If only they'd invented rubber tires already, those would be perfect.


How about a turtle? Big sea turtle with a fake fin tied to it's shell. Turtles often hang out just under the surface of the water, and dive deeper down when something approaches them. Thus the fin would show until anyone got near it, then disappear. Maybe that's too goofy, but I thought it, so here I am saying it.Oh, I don't mind goofy at all. Toss out any ideas you like which relate to my problem - something is likely to work.

The turtle would be fine for flashing a fin, but if all that remained later in the depths of the harbor was a turtle shell, my heroine wouldn't be too suspicious. The evidence should be something which you look at and think, "That's odd, but I guess it could have been tossed aboard or discarded or whatever" and then later on you think, "Hang on, could that have been used to fake the fin sighting?"

OJCade
06-02-2014, 02:40 AM
Yeah, chum.

The thing is, people don't need to actually see the shark at the time of the attack. If there's a shark sighting in the few days before the attack and a body turns up with tooth marks on it then every normal person is going to assume the same thing.

I wouldn't rig a fake fin and try to sink it. You never know what shit would wash up at exactly the wrong time and ruin your plans. I'd be sneaking out in the night in the days up to murder and chucking chum everywhere. That way the fishermen in general - and not the murderer - have the chance to see evidence of shark presence and deflect suspicion even further.

Marian Perera
06-02-2014, 02:48 AM
The thing is, people don't need to actually see the shark at the time of the attack. If there's a shark sighting in the few days before the attack and a body turns up with tooth marks on it then every normal person is going to assume the same thing.

The murderer doesn't plan the first victim's death. He does it on the spur of the moment, and then he has to come up with the shark story to cover up the death, so he's not going to be chumming the water days beforehand.

ETA : This is one of the details that cannot be changed. The first murder has to be an unpremeditated "crime of passion". Therefore it's just not possible, for this particular story, for my murderer to plan it out to the point where he drops chum in the water for days beforehand and waits for a shark to show up.


I wouldn't rig a fake fin and try to sink it. Unfortunately I do, in the story.

I also want my heroine to find evidence and realize that it casts suspicion on the shark claims. I'm not sure what evidence chum in the water would leave behind.

JulianneQJohnson
06-02-2014, 02:57 AM
How about just a small wooden toy boat? If the sides are low, folks farther away couldn't see the boat, only the fin. When the guy jumps overboard, he swamps the small craft, making it sink. Then one day it washes to shore, only to foil his evil plan. Muahahaha

Marian Perera
06-02-2014, 03:04 AM
I did a search on Wikipedia for "flotation devices" and found this (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flotation_device):


The most ancient examples of primitive life jackets can be traced back to inflated bladders of animal skins or hollow, sealed gourds, for support when crossing deep streams and rivers.Something like this would be great. Especially if the murderer had put, I dunno, pebbles inside beforehand to weigh it down just enough that it was submerged, with only the attached fin protruding. Then if he slashed it open while he was in the water, it would sink.

MDSchafer
06-02-2014, 03:38 AM
I don't want to be geeky fanboy here, but I think you're running across a few issues here.

Firstly shark attacks weren't really a thing until people started swimming in the ocean recreation, and people in any sort of 1850's world were really too busy to swim for fun. While people went to the beach, it really wasn't to go swimming. So the first, very reasonable question would be, "Why is this person in the ocean where they could come in contact with sharks."

Second, the while people weren't really familiar with physics and whatnot could tell the difference between a knife attack and an animal attack. Sharks, like most predators, will tear their prey back and forth. This has been common knowledge for a super long time. So not only would the criminal have to make a series of cuts of roughly the same spacing and depth they'd have to look like something had bit in and then either shook back and forth or up and down. I can't really see where that would be possible without a rig of some sort.

Victorians weren't stupid. They studied science and the natural world. Anyone with any medical training can tell the difference between an animal attack and a knifing.

Also the whole shark fin in the water thing. People didn't really swim for recreation. Think season four Downton Abbey final. A shark fin passing behind a boat would probably not be noticed, and wouldn't cause panic or be memorable in any way.

BDSEmpire
06-02-2014, 03:38 AM
Thing is, sharks just don't routinely go after people. Someone falling overboard and getting nibbled by local fish and wildlife? Totally plausible. Eaten by a shark? Huh, not likely. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shark_attack We have about 433 years of records to look at and there have been a miniscule number of fatal shark attacks over that time. A little more than one a year globally. Odds are that your fishing village has never had anything shark-related happen to it at all.

A fisher goes out and doesn't come back? Routine. Especially after a storm or other bad weather. Doubly so if they were bullheaded jerks who would dare to tempt the fates by thumbing their noses at older, wiser fishermen. No one would suspect a murder there, it's just bad luck and weather that did them in.

frimble3
06-02-2014, 03:42 AM
Okay, so he can't set up anything ahead of time, but he has time to make a fin and float? And, he has access to a sailboat?
First, by the mid-1880's (in our time) clockwork toys were common, so he could work out some sort of self-propelling fin, but, probably simpler to tow the fin.
Make a fin, then get a chunk of wood, a small log would work nicely. Ideally, he'd look for a 'dead-head' a log so waterlogged that it's floating just barely above the surface.
Get a second anchor, light enough for him to manage, heavy enough to sink the log.
Attach the fin to the 'top', then test it to see if it floats with the fin upright. Adjust the log (lead weights) until it's floating correctly. Attach a very long line to the log for towing. (Very long, because you don't want to give the impression that the log is connected to the boat, it's just a shark, idly curious, following along - at a good long distance.) And a snap-shackle (a clip like on a dog-leash, only larger) on the 'nose' of the shark-log.

The murderer goes out in the patrol boat alone, puts the log into the water out of sight of the village, around a point or something, and casually sails past the townsfolk, with the fin at a good distance. Then
when excitement is growing, he subtly starts to reel in the shark. People on the shore are pointing and waving, he 'notices' the fin, as it glides past the patrol boat, on the side away from the village.
He leans over the boat, apparently to get a closer look at the shark. As he does so, he clips the second anchor to the fin's log, and shoves it over the side of the boat, causing the fin to sink.
He waves, gesticulates and comes back to shore, with a wild tale of how the shark came up alongside and just dove.

If I were him, I'd be reinforcing the shark story by saying that someone else had reported a shark just before the body appeared, and that he was specifically taking the patrol boat out to look for sharks, (because what else is he patrolling for? Smugglers?)
Then, with the evidence of the fin, and it being a small town, people will be seeing sharks in their bath tubs.

Marian Perera
06-02-2014, 03:45 AM
So the first, very reasonable question would be, "Why is this person in the ocean where they could come in contact with sharks."

Yes, that question will come up.


Victorians weren't stupid. They studied science and the natural world. Anyone with any medical training can tell the difference between an animal attack and a knifing.The people finding the body don't necessarily have to have medical training.


Also the whole shark fin in the water thing. People didn't really swim for recreation. Think season four Downton Abbey final. I don't have a TV so I don't watch the show, I'm afraid.


A shark fin passing behind a boat would probably not be noticed, and wouldn't cause panic or be memorable in any way.Unless the people were looking out for sharks, and aware of the possibility that there might be a man-eater in the water.

Marian Perera
06-02-2014, 03:50 AM
He leans over the boat, apparently to get a closer look at the shark. As he does so, he clips the second anchor to the fin's log, and shoves it over the side of the boat, causing the fin to sink.

That's not bad at all, frimble. It leaves unmistakeable evidence - an anchor attached to a log, and yet that's not the kind of evidence which leaps out at you the moment you see it.

I might use that. :)

ETA : Thanks very much for addressing the problem! That was exactly what I needed.

Marian Perera
06-02-2014, 03:53 AM
A fisher goes out and doesn't come back? Routine. Especially after a storm or other bad weather. Doubly so if they were bullheaded jerks who would dare to tempt the fates by thumbing their noses at older, wiser fishermen. No one would suspect a murder there, it's just bad luck and weather that did them in.

The first person who dies is the local baker. So yeah, the murderer does need to go to some lengths to push the shark story.

OJCade
06-02-2014, 04:11 AM
Maybe the baker's looking for seaweed? You can get carrageenan from algae - it works like gelatine. Could be used to set custards in pastries. Baker goes to the beach to harvest, sees a nice clump floating just off-shore, wades out, gets chomped.

Of course your murderer saw the whole thing.

frimble3
06-02-2014, 04:12 AM
In answer to all the naysayers above, you're all correct, but if reality were a factor, there would be no story. Or at least a very different one, not involving trained sharks.
Because, really, if the murderer had any sense, he'd just chop up the body and feed it to the fish. No problem.

Marian Perera
06-02-2014, 04:21 AM
In answer to all the naysayers above, you're all correct, but if reality were a factor, there would be no story. Or at least a very different one, not involving trained sharks.

No kidding.


Because, really, if the murderer had any sense, he'd just chop up the body and feed it to the fish. No problem.Here's the reason he doesn't want the body to just disappear:

His son is interested in a woman (the village baker). He pursues her, she's not interested, he starts getting more intense, she tells him to leave her alone. He can't take that, and he kills her.

Then he realizes what he's done, and runs to his father to ask for help. Father, the village clerk, realizes that if the woman simply disappears, people might suspect his son because of his harassment of her. Plus, she's not a fisherman so she's not likely to become lost at sea (and I don't want to write a story where he burns her house down and makes it look like one of her ovens exploded). Therefore, she has to turn up dead, but dead in such a way that obviously something other than his son killed her.

Hence the shark story. Since he has sense, he realizes he can't just feed her to the fish and have people forget all about her. Her disappearance actually wouldn't result in a no-problem situation for his son.

I think it hangs together logically, and I've considered my characters' motivations for what they do, and there's enough worldbuilding to support the trained-shark part. But if anyone wants me to clarify other things which seem implausible, please let me know.

Canotila
06-02-2014, 07:44 AM
Instead of using a knife to hack up the body, why doesn't he just use a set of shark jaws? I have a fairly good sized set of thresher shark jaws. They used to sit on a shelf, until one day my sister bumped it and they fell off into her arm. She still has an obvious "shark bite" scar from it and loves to tell people she's been bit by one.

Marian Perera
06-02-2014, 07:57 AM
Instead of using a knife to hack up the body, why doesn't he just use a set of shark jaws?

He might. I'll have to see how it goes - if I can subtly work in his having these old trophies, without being too obvious that they were used in faking the scene.

Wish I had a set of shark jaws. :)

Canotila
06-02-2014, 08:31 AM
He might. I'll have to see how it goes - if I can subtly work in his having these old trophies, without being too obvious that they were used in faking the scene.

Wish I had a set of shark jaws. :)

It'd provide another clue for her to find. Especially if he broke off a tooth from his set of jaws and left it at the scene, intentionally or not.

I mean, if she finds a bloody tooth nearby and the body is on shore. . .

GeekTells
06-02-2014, 10:05 AM
Queen, I would find it very difficult to suspend my disbelief enough to find the fake shark fin effort in any way plausible. I think you're making it much more difficult than it needs to be.

From the way you've described what you want, it sounds like a Gilligan's Island solution to the problem. If it's a farce, that could work, but if not, make it simple and find other ways to get your heroine to sniff out a problem.

As noted above, if your chief knows enough about shark victims to make the body look like it should, the people of the village will largely let their imaginations fill in the rest.

Good luck!

Marian Perera
06-02-2014, 03:46 PM
As noted above, if your chief knows enough about shark victims to make the body look like it should, the people of the village will largely let their imaginations fill in the rest.

All right, I'll make my heroine explore their imaginations to find evidence.

Thank you for your input and your good wishes!

Marian Perera
06-02-2014, 03:48 PM
It'd provide another clue for her to find. Especially if he broke off a tooth from his set of jaws and left it at the scene, intentionally or not.

I mean, if she finds a bloody tooth nearby and the body is on shore. . .

She actually comes along months later, so the bodies aren't on the shore any longer. Plus, if she did find a tooth, it would bolster the "real shark" theory, unless, I dunno, the tooth specifically fitted into a gap in the jaws and she was able to match it up. But that's way too convenient and almost forensical.

She doesn't need clues for the shark theory. She needs clues against it.

Marlys
06-02-2014, 05:51 PM
Presumably, she knows more about sharks than the locals here--can't some of her specialized knowledge come into play?

For instance, sharks can sense changes in water pressure ahead of a storm (http://www.treehugger.com/clean-technology/strange-but-true-sharks-as-weather-forecasters.html). She wouldn't have to understand why it happens, but could have observed that when her shark headed for deep water, it meant bad weather was on its way. If the murder happened just before a memorably bad storm, that could be enough for her to say, "Huh. Sharks wouldn't have been within a mile of shore that day."

As a reader, I would find clues coming from her experience with sharks more compelling than a physical item that anyone could discover.

kaitie
06-02-2014, 06:06 PM
I could think of a couple of ways she'd know it wasn't sharks. If there is a tooth, for instance, the tooth could come from a shark that she knows wouldn't have attacked a person. Maybe based on the time of year or location, she knows it's unlikely that a shark would be around at that point. Maybe she mistrusts the way the body washed up on the shore, or it could even be unrelated to the shark at all.

Maybe someone mentions that the girl was someone who couldn't swim or hated water, and therefore it was odd that she had been out in the water to be eaten in the first place.

Something like that would be cause to start asking around, and maybe she's getting conflicting stories. Maybe she's looking around and finds an axe with what looks like blood on it and gets even more suspicious, or something along those lines. Or an area where there was obviously a lot of blood that didn't get washed away very cleanly. It doesn't have to be super forensicsy to work, I think.

Marian Perera
06-02-2014, 06:06 PM
Presumably, she knows more about sharks than the locals here--can't some of her specialized knowledge come into play?

It will, but why can't she discover some evidence too?


As a reader, I would find clues coming from her experience with sharks more compelling than a physical item that anyone could discover.

What kind of clues would those be?

I would find it more believable if she was able to present evidence to the villagers to disprove their claims rather than saying, "I'm the shark expert, therefore you should believe me."

Or even "I'm the shark expert, therefore you should believe me when I say a shark would never come into the harbor before a storm, therefore these people couldn't possibly have been killed by a shark." Plus, there's more than one murder. Should there be storms before both? How would the murderer know that he's supposed to plan the murders to coincide with storms, given that he's not a shark expert?

Marian Perera
06-02-2014, 06:11 PM
I could think of a couple of ways she'd know it wasn't sharks. If there is a tooth, for instance, the tooth could come from a shark that she knows wouldn't have attacked a person.

The bodies have been buried. The murderer won't keep teeth, even to show her later as evidence.

Plus, even if someone removes a tooth from the corpse and keeps it for some reason, the murderer isn't likely to use a tiny tooth from an obviously harmless species to plant on the corpse, and my heroine doesn't have a collection of shark's teeth that she can point to and say, "Look, that's from a Greenland shark. It would never be in waters so far south!"


Maybe based on the time of year or location, she knows it's unlikely that a shark would be around at that point.

She does know it's unlikely, yes.


Maybe someone mentions that the girl was someone who couldn't swim or hated water, and therefore it was odd that she had been out in the water to be eaten in the first place.

Yes, that happens.


Maybe she's looking around and finds an axe with what looks like blood on it and gets even more suspicious, or something along those lines.

Would it be realistic for the murderer to kill someone months ago and keep the bloodstained axe around?

kaitie
06-02-2014, 06:13 PM
I think if there's more than one murder, then there's more than one chance for the guy to mess it up, especially someone who doesn't know much about sharks or science or whatever.

All she really would need is a hunch that there's more going on than it looks on the surface, right? So maybe one of the bodies is a storm thing (or a time of year thing. Maybe at that time of year sharks are further north eating seals or something), but it's enough to make her say, "That's odd."

There are all kinds of things that could lead to her feeling more and more like something isn't right about the story. Hearing one girl was afraid of the water or something of that nature would be a little odd, too. Finding out there was a connection between the two, or hearing that the baker's son had been a little too friendly around one of them. It could even have nothing to do with the baker's son. Maybe she talks to the baker just in the course of talking to people and he tells her something that just doesn't jive with what other people are saying or what she knows about sharks or something. He's obviously going to have to lie about what happened, and if she can catch him in a lie, then it would put her on the suspect.

I would have to know more about the second murder and why it happened to offer more clues, but I think it might be better to focus on something away from that area to find conclusive proof. For all we know the baker's son might even have something from the girl he loved, like a hair ribbon or something that he kept because he loved her and couldn't stand to not have a reminder.

Marian Perera
06-02-2014, 06:17 PM
All she really would need is a hunch that there's more going on than it looks on the surface, right?

Yes, but she'll need more than a hunch and her experience to convince the villagers.


I think if there's more than one murder, then there's more than one chance for the guy to mess it up, especially someone who doesn't know much about sharks or science or whatever. He doesn't know much about sharks or science. But given that the murders happen in secret and the bodies are quickly buried, I'm not sure what obvious clues there can be in the corpses that could make the heroine hear about them months later (no pictures, even) and realize that here's evidence of murder rather than shark attack.

Yes, it's unusual for sharks to come into a harbor, it's unusual for sharks to prey on humans, it's unusual that someone would have gone swimming at night alone. But IMO, my heroine is going to need a little more evidence before she jumps to "therefore these are murders committed by a person here".

That's just my take on it, though.


I think it might be better to focus on something away from that area to find conclusive proof. For all we know the baker's son might even have something from the girl he loved, like a hair ribbon or something that he kept because he loved her and couldn't stand to not have a reminder.She's not going to be searching his possessions. She's there in one capacity, to protect the harbor with her shark - and any investigations she does will be of the shore and the water. Unless I change her occupation from "Seawatch operative" to "police constable/detective", in which case there's no point in writing this as a fantasy.

And say she finds a hair ribbon that can be conclusively proved to belong to the victim, and it's in the young man's possession. He says the girl gave it to him before she died, because they were secretly courting, or he found it on the shore. What then?

kaitie
06-02-2014, 06:17 PM
Would it be realistic for the murderer to kill someone months ago and keep the bloodstained axe around?

If it's a baker and his son, possibly. I'm not saying dripping blood. Maybe they try to clean it off and hang it back up in the shed or something. A baker and his son might not have good use for an axe unless it was winter time, so it's possible it could sit for months untouched. It's possible that there could be blood stuck in cracks between the floorboards or something as well.

If I knew more details I could probably come up with other ideas, too, but I do think there are other ways to explain the situation.

kaitie
06-02-2014, 06:23 PM
Yes, but she'll need more than a hunch and her experience to convince the villagers.



She's not going to be searching his possessions. She's there in one capacity, to protect the harbor with her shark - and any investigations she does will be of the shore and the water.

And say she finds a hair ribbon that can be conclusively proved to belong to the victim, and it's in the young man's possession. He says the girl gave it to him before she died, because they were secretly courting, or he found it on the shore. What then?

If it's a hair ribbon with blood on it, it would mean it had to come from the time after she was dead.

I have another thought for you. If she's investigating the shore and everything, maybe one of the things she's doing is looking at shark teeth that are washing up. Everything she's finding are smaller teeth from a type of shark that isn't known to be aggressive, or is too small to go after a human being. Perhaps then she notices that there really aren't huge prey for larger sharks in this particular harbor, either, which would mean it would be unlikely for a large shark to come so close. Both of those things could start her thinking that maybe there isn't a shark at all, but instead that someone had killed the girls.

She could start doing some surreptitious asking around to see if her theory holds up, and end up getting more clues to help her figure it out.

As for proof, I think if she has good explanations for everything, it's possible that it would be enough. If the village is the type to stick together rather than listen to an outsider, maybe the baker ends up trying to take the blame for his son because he's trying to protect him and that gives it away.

Day Agent
06-02-2014, 06:25 PM
"I'm the shark expert, therefore you should believe me."

Actually, her being sure but not able to prove it strikes me as a wonderfully frustrating problem and a reason for her to keep on digging.

Marian Perera
06-02-2014, 06:36 PM
If it's a hair ribbon with blood on it, it would mean it had to come from the time after she was dead.

Still doesn't prove he killed her.

Also, I've been told once in this thread that my murderer didn't have any sense, so I'm doing my best to try to have him act smartly. I'm not sure his keeping a hair ribbon with blood on it would fit this requirement.


I have another thought for you. If she's investigating the shore and everything, maybe one of the things she's doing is looking at shark teeth that are washing up. Everything she's finding are smaller teeth from a type of shark that isn't known to be aggressive, or is too small to go after a human being.

Heroine : "All the shark teeth that have washed up on the beach are really tiny."
Murderer : "Maybe the killer shark left the harbor after we stayed away from the water and didn't go fishing at all for weeks. Maybe there wasn't anyone left for it to kill, so it's long gone now."


Perhaps then she notices that there really aren't huge prey for larger sharks in this particular harbor, either, which would mean it would be unlikely for a large shark to come so close. Both of those things could start her thinking that maybe there isn't a shark at all, but instead that someone had killed the girls.

Sure, that makes sense. But her suspicions aren't going to be enough to convince anyone.

She can talk until she's blue in the face about how this is unlikely and that is unusual.


She could start doing some surreptitious asking around to see if her theory holds up, and end up getting more clues to help her figure it out.

What kinds of clues would those be?

I have a clue in mind, the anchor at the bottom of the harbor. If that's so unrealistic, I don't know what other kinds of clues to give her.


As for proof, I think if she has good explanations for everything, it's possible that it would be enough.

It's actually not possible.


If the village is the type to stick together rather than listen to an outsider, maybe the baker ends up trying to take the blame for his son because he's trying to protect him and that gives it away.

Why should he take the blame for his son?

All he has to do is say she's crazy and has no evidence at all for her wild claims.

Marian Perera
06-02-2014, 06:41 PM
If it's a baker and his son, possibly. I'm not saying dripping blood. Maybe they try to clean it off and hang it back up in the shed or something. A baker and his son might not have good use for an axe unless it was winter time, so it's possible it could sit for months untouched. It's possible that there could be blood stuck in cracks between the floorboards or something as well.

Just curious - if she finds specks of blood and asks where they're from, and the murderer replies that he killed some animal for food, what should she do?

This isn't even getting into the fact that, as a Seawatch operative, she doesn't have either the training or the authority to do a Sherlock Holmes-esque inspection of floorboards and weapons.


If I knew more details I could probably come up with other ideas, too, but I do think there are other ways to explain the situation.

I'm sure there are tons of different ways to rewrite this story. I just don't see why my original idea, of her finding evidence in the harbor that disproves the murderer's biggest trick, is so bad that I need to scrap it in favor of my heroine searching people's houses.

Marian Perera
06-02-2014, 06:43 PM
Actually, her being sure but not able to prove it strikes me as a wonderfully frustrating problem and a reason for her to keep on digging.

Thank you! I feel really relieved that someone understands this.

If all my heroine has to do is say that a shark attack is very unlikely and that the people were probably murdered, and if the villagers agree with her, the story is over. And not in what I would consider an exciting way.

There's no forensic evidence, since the bodies have decomposed by now. Teeth she finds won't prove anything one way or another. The murderer had no personal connection at all to the second victim, and even though a few people might suspect that he had something to do with the first victim, the evidence against him is nonexistent. The evidence for there being a shark is much stronger.

Even the whole "sharks don't normally attack people" argument can be undermined.

Heroine : "Sharks don't normally attack people, therefore this was murder!"
Villagers : "Wait a second, you have a trained shark."
Heroine : "Yes."
Villagers : "Do other people besides yourself have trained sharks?"
Heroine : "Yes, other Seawatch operatives do."
Villagers : "Could those sharks be ordered to kill people?"
Heroine : ...

So I need some sort of evidence that a Seawatch operative (as opposed to a detective trained in searching houses or people) is likely to find months later. And this evidence has to undermine the shark theory. If the heroine starts explaining the difference in size and shape between a great white's teeth and a mako's teeth, the villagers' eyes will glaze over. All they're likely to remember at the end is that she did find a shark's teeth, so why is she accusing a local man of murder?

kaitie
06-02-2014, 06:57 PM
I'm just trying to give you ideas. I don't know the main plot of the story (or if this is the main plot or a subplot). I have minor details, and I'm trying to think of ways to help out. Honestly, I could think of ways the murderer could explain away a fake fin, too (and I'm not sure how they could conclusively link that to him, either).

I think with the parameters you set that it would be difficult (for my personal suspension of disbelief) to explain what's going on without some kind of actual detective work. I'm not saying it can't work, just that with what I'm seeing right now, I don't quite see it.

Marian Perera
06-02-2014, 07:17 PM
I'm just trying to give you ideas.

Thanks, I appreciate your input.


I think with the parameters you set that it would be difficult (for my personal suspension of disbelief) to explain what's going on without some kind of actual detective work. I'm not saying it can't work, just that with what I'm seeing right now, I don't quite see it.I agree that detective work is necessary, but for my character and this world, it would just not be realistic for her to inspect people's possessions or search their houses for trace evidence.

However, I haven't even gotten to the part where she reaches the village yet. This is a sketchy outline :

Yerena (my heroine) sails to a little fishing village and the chief clerk acts angry towards her, saying he sent a message to the nearest town months ago about their shark trouble. She's a Seawatch operative, so she says she'll do what she can to help (wondering why Seawatch never mentioned this message, but no need to tell the villagers so). The villagers say that two people were killed by sharks.

Yerena finds this a bit unlikely and questions a few of the villagers. One tells her that the village baker would not have gone swimming late at night. Yerena begins to have suspicions, but everyone assures her that there really was a shark which they saw. She tells them her shark will patrol the harbor to keep them safe. During the patrol her shark sees something which she realizes later is a clue that undermines the shark theory.

Another person turns up dead (maybe the one who talked to her, haven't decided yet). People start wondering whether Yerena's shark did it. She realizes she needs to act fast, and she exposes the trick the murderer used to make people believe there was a shark (she doesn't have any evidence against him directly because, as you said, the fake fin can't be conclusively linked to him any more than the bloodstained hair ribbon could be proof that he murdered the girl, so she doesn't expose him at that time). That night, the murderer tries to kill her too, she stops him.

If this story is completely unrealistic or makes no sense, I guess that's a risk I'll have to take as I write it.

kaitie
06-02-2014, 07:37 PM
I think the story itself sounds really fun. The only element that I'm not sure on is the shark fin. I guess it just makes me think of Scooby Doo. It's totally possible that it could work, though. It's hard to judge things like that out of context, and execution matters more than anything else.

Marian Perera
06-02-2014, 07:45 PM
I think the story itself sounds really fun.

Thanks. It's actually a relief to hear someone say something complimentary. :)


The only element that I'm not sure on is the shark fin. I guess it just makes me think of Scooby Doo. It's totally possible that it could work, though. It's hard to judge things like that out of context, and execution matters more than anything else.Sure, a fake fin can sound like those cartoons of someone paddling along under the surface with a fin strapped to their back to scare everyone. Hyuk hyuk.

But as you said, it's in the execution. I don't, for instance, plan on writing out the sequence where the murderer arranges the trick in the first place, because that's too long, complicated and unnecessary. Plus, seeing it from his angle, it might look like a cheesy trick which fooled all the rubes watching gormlessly from the shore. I just needed to know how he did it.

The story begins with the heroine investigating, so if she realizes that the villagers' conviction that there was a killer shark comes (at least partly) from their seeing a fin but not an actual shark...

*shrug* Maybe it'll be stupid and farcial. Maybe I'll pull it off. Won't know until I try. The one thing I am sure of about this, though, is that without evidence, it's going to be really difficult to convince the villagers that there was no killer shark. I just don't think that hidebound, insular people who have held a strong conviction for some time are likely to change their minds because some strange, overly educated woman came along to tell them they were wrong.

Marlys
06-02-2014, 08:05 PM
Should there be storms before both? How would the murderer know that he's supposed to plan the murders to coincide with storms, given that he's not a shark expert? For what it's worth, this is the exact opposite of what I was suggesting. He wouldn't know--she would, which is why she would be suspicious if even one murder was totally unlikely.

But that was just one idea on how to avoid the problems of the fake fin, and that's not what you want.

So, here's a possibility for the fin: use an inflated animal bladder for the flotation device. If the murderer had a harpoon, he could jab at the bladder to deflate it and sink the fin, under pretext of jabbing at the shark. Or, if he fell into the water, he could pop it with a knife. Or he could surreptitiously toss a dart at it.

If he waited until the thing deflated completely before cutting the string towing it along, a slow deflation might even make the fin go down into the water slowly, like the shark was descending lower below the surface.

Marian Perera
06-02-2014, 08:13 PM
For what it's worth, this is the exact opposite of what I was suggesting. He wouldn't know--she would, which is why she would be suspicious if even one murder was totally unlikely.

But her suspicions alone would make no difference to the villagers. All she'd do would be to exchange one problem (fake fin) for another (how to convince the villagers that they should take her word for it that there was no killer shark and one of them is actually a murderer).

And if I had the choice of writing two scenarios:

1. Heroine talks about shark behavior in great detail to explain to the villagers why they're wrong.

2. Heroine publicly exposes a trick to show the villagers why they're wrong.

I think I'd go with 2. There's certainly going to be some discussion of shark behavior, but I'd like it if the obvious turning point was a bit more dramatic than my heroine having a debate. Especially since, as I've said before, the villagers are really not going to be too impressed by her erudition.

She can be suspicious until the cows come home. She can explain until she's blue in the face that sharks don't often come into harbors, rarely attack humans, retreat into deeper water during a storm, etc. But none of that is going to be as effective, IMO, as one blunt and simple unveiling of a trick. Even if readers find her arguments much more compelling than any physical evidence, the villagers are not going to react the same way.


So, here's a possibility for the fin: use an inflated animal bladder for the flotation device. I was thinking of that, actually, but seems to me like frimble's suggestion would leave more actual evidence. What worried me about an animal bladder or a gourd was that it might be eaten or rotted by the time my heroine arrived on the scene.

thothguard51
06-02-2014, 08:25 PM
Queen, I would find it very difficult to suspend my disbelief enough to find the fake shark fin effort in any way plausible. I think you're making it much more difficult than it needs to be.

From the way you've described what you want, it sounds like a Gilligan's Island solution to the problem. If it's a farce, that could work, but if not, make it simple and find other ways to get your heroine to sniff out a problem.

As noted above, if your chief knows enough about shark victims to make the body look like it should, the people of the village will largely let their imaginations fill in the rest.

Good luck!

Bingo...

This is the whole issue for me. 1850 or 2050, the whole fake fin sighting and then later found by the heroine is just too simple and smacks of author unable to figure anything more believable out for her heroine to solve because she/he can't figure it out...

Why does it have to be a fake fin that sinks to the bottom of the bay. Why to give the Heroine and her Pet Shark a reason to suspect foul play of course. Simple, right...

Bays are generally not very deep, generally 30 to 45 feet in the main channel. depending on the type of ships that use the bay. Bays have strong currents that run along the bottom even if the surface is protected from the winds. Strong enough to move anchors in many case that have wedged into the mud. It why when fishing for crabs with a trout line, both ends of the line have to have anchor and depending on the area, sometimes, we have to add addition anchors. If not, you can watch the buoys move in the same direction as the current, or tide even.

And of course this being a fishing village, no one fishes the bay for oysters, clams, crabs, or lobster, right? And the fishermen do not go out before first light, right? Or fish from the land, before sunrise when the fish are gathering, right?

I am sorry, but the premise to me is just unbelievable and one I would put the book down if reading, or not pick up if the blurb read as such.

I have got to have something to grasp onto to suspend by disbelief...

Marian Perera
06-02-2014, 08:26 PM
Why does it have to be a fake fin that sinks to the bottom of the bay. Why to give the Heroine and her Pet Shark a reason to suspect foul play of course. Simple, right...

The actual reason my Heroine and her Pet Shark suspect Foul Play is because she knows about Shark Behavior. Sadly, she needs this nifty little thing called Evidence to convince people who don't share her mindset...

I thought I had made that clear in this thread, but I'll be happy to explain it again.


I am sorry, but the premise to me is just unbelievableGood thing I didn't ask anyone what they thought of the premise, then.


and one I would put the book down if reading, or not pick up if the blurb read as such. Thanks for your input.

thothguard51
06-02-2014, 08:29 PM
And if I had the choice of writing two scenarios:

1. Heroine talks about shark behavior in great detail to explain to the villagers why they're wrong.

2. Heroine publicly exposes a trick to show the villagers why they're wrong.

I think I'd go with 2...

And why should the villagers believe her, a stranger who has a fascination for having a pet shark, more so than the village clerk who has been an important member of the community for a long time. I can only assume he will want to discredit her. How will the villagers know the fake fin is not fake evidence. You see, once you start faking things....

You have to remember, a lot of sea side communities in 1850 were closed off communities. They did not take to strangers very easily...

Marian Perera
06-02-2014, 08:33 PM
And why should the villagers believe her, a stranger who has a fascination for having a pet shark, more so than the village clerk who has been an important member of the community for a long time. I can only assume he will want to discredit her. How will the villagers know the fake fin is not fake evidence. You see, once you start faking things....

OK, you tell me what to write, then.

Or should I just scrap the whole story, since it's unbelievable and all?

Marlys
06-02-2014, 08:45 PM
OK, you tell me what to write, then.

Or should I just scrap the whole story, since it's unbelievable and all?

Scrapping it is one possibility. According to this above

I haven't written the story yet, because I just got this idea today. it's a new idea, so it's possible you won't be able to make it work. But if I were you, I would spend some more time on researching the setting and particulars, and see if a plausible solution comes out of that before either dumping it or rushing into writing something that may not convince.

Best of luck with it.

Marian Perera
06-02-2014, 08:51 PM
But if I were you, I would spend some more time on researching the setting

I'm not sure how more research into a small fishing village would make a difference, because if the village is a small, closed-off community which doesn't take well to strangers, I can't see the heroine simply talking them out of their convictions.

That being said, this is a fantasy suspense with a romantic subplot. I'm not trying to perfectly mimic how people from Edwardian England would have thought and behaved. Nor am I trying to write to such a level that readers of the Aubrey-Maturin novels would find my boats or ships 100% convincing.

It's possible I won't be able to make this work, but I don't see anything wrong with giving it a try.


and particulars, and see if a plausible solution comes out of that before either dumping it or rushing into writing something that may not convince.Thanks for your input and your good wishes.

thothguard51
06-02-2014, 08:53 PM
OK, you tell me what to write, then.

Or should I just scrap the whole story, since it's unbelievable and all?

The story is not unbelievable, only the evidence because its so simple a solution to a problem you have not worked through yet. God, I can't tell you the number of stuff I had to toss and rework because it was just not working...

I don't mean to upset you, or cause you to get an attitude
because I find it hard to suspend by disbeliefs. Trust me, I want to believe in the author. I want readers to believe in my stuff, which is why I give things a second thought.

What is important to the heroine? Solving the crime, or proving to villagers that sharks rarely ever attach humans or venture into bays. The word Rarely should not be confused with never-ever-happens.

I got to tell you, I live off and have fished the Chesapeake Bay for near 50 years and we have hammerheads, black tip and several other species that will come up the bay to where fresh water dilutes the salt water too much for ocean species to survive. I have also caught sharks in Delaware Bay, Hudson Bay, and several bays along the gulf, so sharks do come into bays when their food sources are also in the bay. So I would say it depends on where the story takes place more so than when.

Continue with the story, but I think you could push yourself a little harder to make it more of a challenge for your heroine...

???

Your call...

Marian Perera
06-02-2014, 08:59 PM
Continue with the story, but I think you could push yourself a little harder to make it more of a challenge for your heroine...

Thank you for your input.

kaitie
06-02-2014, 09:01 PM
Trust me, I am so someone who gets into this kind of plot conundrum all the time. In fact, I'm kind of stuck on one of my own at the moment (two possibilities, maybe three, unsure which one actually works).

I have a couple of thoughts regarding her credibility, though. First, she's an official. She's a member of the Seawatch, right? And the village asked for help. They may not like what she has to say, but she must have at least some degree of official standing, and she could remind them of this (whether it helps or not).

The second thing I would do is really start working your way into the character's minds. If this is a new idea, then it might just be that you're sorting through a range of possibilities, when only one would really make sense for the bad guy and his father in general, or even the villagers.

I love the idea of conflict coming from not being believed by the people she's there to help, and thus becoming more determined. She's going to be asking herself, "What would make these people believe," and that's the question that has to be answered. Even once you just start having doubts factored into the equation, those doubts can lead to eventually people taking her more seriously.

Now, the killer trying to attack her has a lot of potential to give her credibility, especially depending on if anyone else is aware of what's happening, sees anything, that sort of thing. Obviously she can't just kill the bad guy in secret or the town would blame her, right? But if she's attacked, maybe even in the same place or with the same weapon, it might give her something she would need other than the fact that the bad guy goes after her. Maybe the bad guy's father realizes that his son has to pay for his crimes and decides to stop protecting him.

It might honestly be the sort of situation where the town doesn't believe her until (random example) she's on the beach being attacked, maybe shouts "Shark" to get the villager's attention, and they show up and see her fighting with the bad guy.

Marian Perera
06-02-2014, 09:11 PM
I have a couple of thoughts regarding her credibility, though. First, she's an official. She's a member of the Seawatch, right? And the village asked for help.

The chief clerk said he sent a message to the town to ask for help. That doesn't necessarily mean everyone will listen to what she has to say. In fact, they might prefer that she looks for other sharks to kill, rather than trying to convince them they're wrong about what they think.


The second thing I would do is really start working your way into the character's minds. If this is a new idea, then it might just be that you're sorting through a range of possibilities, when only one would really make sense for the bad guy and his father in general, or even the villagers. It's a new idea, yes, but I don't see why my plan for the bad guy makes no sense. Or why I'm totally wrong about the villagers.

I mean, does anyone else feel they understand my villain better than I do, such that they can come up with a more plausible story for him? A story that won't get criticized right and left? Because if so, I'd love to hear it.


I love the idea of conflict coming from not being believed by the people she's there to help, and thus becoming more determined. She's going to be asking herself, "What would make these people believe," and that's the question that has to be answered. OK, she thinks "What would make these people believe?"

So, what would?

In my story as I see it, the murderer makes the villagers believe, not just by having the bodies look like shark victims but by actually faking a sighting. To the villagers, this is very convincing. Now if there's actually no sighting, then when she says, "Did anyone actually see this shark?" they reply no, and that's an opening she can take advantage of. After that, it's going to be relatively easier for her to proceed.

But if they did see it, she'll have to work that much harder to disprove what they saw.


Now, the killer trying to attack her has a lot of potential to give her credibility, especially depending on if anyone else is aware of what's happening, sees anything, that sort of thing. Obviously she can't just kill the bad guy in secret or the town would blame her, right? But if she's attacked, maybe even in the same place or with the same weapon, it might give her something she would need other than the fact that the bad guy goes after her. Maybe the bad guy's father realizes that his son has to pay for his crimes and decides to stop protecting him.

It might honestly be the sort of situation where the town doesn't believe her until (random example) she's on the beach being attacked, maybe shouts "Shark" to get the villager's attention, and they show up and see her fighting with the bad guy.It doesn't happen that way, because the bad guy doesn't think he has to stop protecting his son. I can't come up with any reason for him to suddenly grow a conscience, especially since if his son's crimes are revealed, his participation in them is revealed too. Is there any reason he would be willing to send both himself and his son to the gallows?

She's not going to be caught on the beach, because she knows she's a lot safer on her sailboat with her shark nearby. And most of all, the son doesn't try to attack her anywhere where other people could see him. I can only imagine what the comments on this thread regarding believability and sense would be like if I tried something like that.

Besides, say the son starts fighting with her on the beach. She yells "Shark!" and the villagers come running. How does this prove the son was the murderer, and that there really wasn't a killer shark?

Also, how would she know it's the same weapon? If the other victims were killed with an axe... well, she hasn't inspected their bodies, so she wouldn't know whether it was the same axe. And if you mean the same weapon as in, shark's teeth, it would certainly be clever for the murderer to have a set of shark's jaws that mimic a bite pattern. But would he really have those with him where anyone could find them? Wouldn't these also be quite large, and therefore not convenient to carry around even if he knows for certain that he can find the heroine somewhere alone, out of earshot of anyone who could help her?

I think it's great that you're suggesting alternative ideas that I can try, though, rather than just telling me how implausible my story is. Thanks for making that effort, for going the extra mile and for treating my story respectfully, which is another thing I appreciate very much. But I don't think these ideas will work for my characters as I see them.

ETA : Right now I'm pretty happy with my story, even if other people feel this is so unbelievable they would throw the book at the wall if they were reading it. I also think my characters' actions make sense. My question about a specific plot point has been answered (which was the whole reason I posted in the Story Research forum rather than the Sandbox, where I would have posted to get feedback on my premise or my story).

I'm fine with discussing my story further, if other people want to do so, but I'd need to see a good reason to deviate from what I have in mind, e.g. if someone wants to suggest an ending where the villagers are convinced by the heroine's discussion of shark behavior, or where she Columbos the villain into confessing.

kaitie
06-03-2014, 02:11 AM
I don't think you're wrong about the villagers. You just said that she needs some way to convince them, and I was trying to give you some suggestions on things she could use in her favor.

JulianneQJohnson
06-03-2014, 02:15 AM
There’s something I really want to say, so I’m going to say it. I’m not trying to cause trouble, and I’m not trying to verbally spank anyone. We all can get swept along by the words when there is a subject that we care about.

Let’s talk about a book I’ve read. It’s kinda famous. It’s called Jaws. In this book, a great white shark has an apparent vendetta against the people of a small town, and kills and eats quite a few of them.

Is that premise believable with everything we know about sharks? Of, course it isn’t. Who cares? Benchley wrote it, and he wrote it with such style that he makes you believe it.

Now let’s look at Watership Down, a favorite of mine. Is it believable that rabbits talk, and fight wars, and play bobstones? Of course it isn’t. Doesn’t stop that book from being brilliant.

Queen’s book is about people that believe there’s been a shark attack, even though there hasn’t been an actual attack, and current marine biologists say that sharks rarely attack people, and people on some historic TV show don’t take a plunge in the ocean.

Do I find the premise of people in a small town jumping to conclusions that turn out to be incorrect unbelievable? No, I don’t. It happens all the time. Just look at the Salem Witch trials, and the McCarthy blacklistings. People in a group are often quick to jump at conclusions.

Do I think that Queen could write this story in a way that I would believe and enjoy it? I do. I think this book sounds like fun, and I’ll step right into line to buy it. I do not need an exorbitant amount of realism in my fiction. If that were true, I’d read nothing but histories and biographies.

Queen started this thread to get ideas on a minor plot point.

Thank heaven Benchley and Adams were not told how ridiculous their premises were before they wrote their books. We’d have missed out on a couple of classics.

Hoplite
06-03-2014, 02:31 AM
I've been thinking on this when I was supposed to be working. First, to make sure I understand the problem:

1) The protagonist arrives in town and is essentially dealing with a cold-case.

2) Very little to no physical evidence (exception is the fake-fin at the bottom of the bay).

3) Story takes place in some version of an 1850s sea-shore England?

I think towing some device behind a boat would work best. Here's how I would construct a fake-fin with the tools of the time. It'd work akin to a wake baording: the rider is in the water when at rest, and when towed he is lifted up and out of the water.

1) Get two planks of wood. Attach them so they make a cross-shape (more mass on the bottom, less on the top). Basic woodworking tools (saws, nails, etc.) and minimal experience could achieve this.

2) Carve the top of your cross into a fin shape. There's the fin.

3) Taper the front edges of the cross to a point. This will help the device track in a straight line and not make funny movements in the water. The tapering on the horizontal plank will act like an airplane wing, and 'lift' the device up some what when it's being towed. [This will expose the fin when the boat is moving at speed, and when the boat slows down the fin will submerge.]

4) Cover the fin (and any other parts) in tar/pitch to disguise it.

5) Tow with fishing line (it's thin and hard to see from shore).

Marian Perera
06-03-2014, 02:34 AM
I don't think you're wrong about the villagers. You just said that she needs some way to convince them, and I was trying to give you some suggestions on things she could use in her favor.

I do think it's a point in her favor if the villagers know the son attacked her, and I planned to have that happen. I think I mentioned it in my outline.

The question is how and why the son attacks her - and right now the how part is kind of up in the air, because even I don't make my outlines that detailed and the story hasn't even reached the harbor yet.

As for the why part, if she has no evidence against the son and all she does is make inquiries/have suspicions, he'd be a fool to play into her hands by attacking her, wouldn't he? (This is also not getting into the fact that she has a shark and a husband, both of whom are quite protective of her)

At least, I think he'd be a fool, but who knows, I could be wrong about my character.

So now I just need him to be pushed over the edge to the point where he risks his life to kill her. What pushes him, though? Right now, I'm going with "she exposes the trick his father uses to convince everyone that there really was a shark in the harbor", because I haven't seen anything more convincing offered as suggestions in this thread. As you said, it's in the execution. I believe in my story, so I'm going to at least try it.

Marian Perera
06-03-2014, 02:38 AM
1) The protagonist arrives in town and is essentially dealing with a cold-case.

2) Very little to no physical evidence (exception is the fake-fin at the bottom of the bay).

3) Story takes place in some version of an 1850s sea-shore England?

Well, it's warmer than England. Otherwise, you're right.


I think towing some device behind a boat would work best. Here's how I would construct a fake-fin with the tools of the time. It'd work akin to a wake baording: the rider is in the water when at rest, and when towed he is lifted up and out of the water.

1) Get two planks of wood. Attach them so they make a cross-shape (more mass on the bottom, less on the top). Basic woodworking tools (saws, nails, etc.) and minimal experience could achieve this.

2) Carve the top of your cross into a fin shape. There's the fin.

3) Taper the front edges of the cross to a point. This will help the device track in a straight line and not make funny movements in the water. The tapering on the horizontal plank will act like an airplane wing, and 'lift' the device up some what when it's being towed. [This will expose the fin when the boat is moving at speed, and when the boat slows down the fin will submerge.]

4) Cover the fin (and any other parts) in tar/pitch to disguise it.With you so far, but one question here: would this make the fin look black?


5) Tow with fishing line (it's thin and hard to see from shore).Perfect detail there.

Thanks very much for your specific, relevant and helpful suggestions. :) Especially since you were supposed to be working...

Marian Perera
06-03-2014, 02:47 AM
Do I think that Queen could write this story in a way that I would believe and enjoy it? I do. I think this book sounds like fun, and I’ll step right into line to buy it. I do not need an exorbitant amount of realism in my fiction. If that were true, I’d read nothing but histories and biographies.

Thanks, Julianne.

Here's maybe another thing I should have stressed: I'm not writing a mystery for the ages. I'm not trying to win an Edgar Award or achieve a police-procedural-like level of realism or compete with the best psychological thrillers out there. I just want to write a fast-paced story where a shark sorceress solves a murder.

And I believe that if I can get my readers caught up in my story, they won't immediately say, "How ridiculous! This is a farce!" and slam the book shut the moment my heroine wonders if the villagers actually did see a shark, or if this was a trick.

If I had been worried that my readers would laugh uproariously and declare, "A Heroine with a Pet Shark? What an unbelievable premise!" I would not have sold the book in my sig... and two sequels to it.

Hoplite
06-03-2014, 02:54 AM
With you so far, but one question here: would this make the fin look black?

It would. I had in my mind that your witnesses are far off on shore and can't distinguish color too well anyhow. Mostly it'd just be to cover up the brown wood.

Hmmmm....I guess you could paint it with whatever was at hand...or use a wood that has a natural color more akin to shark skin.

Googling images of sharks!

Looks like tiger sharks have a natural light-brown skin (no problems with wood there). Great White's have a grey skin except for the belly (which won't be visible anyway). Wood changes color as it ages, and I've seen wood that's grey like iron after years of sun exposure (I don't know what species). Your bad-guy could build the cross out of aged wood, not color it, and it'd look like a Great White's fin (or a bull shark...still looking at images).

Marian Perera
06-03-2014, 03:02 AM
It would. I had in my mind that your witnesses are far off on shore and can't distinguish color too well anyhow. Mostly it'd just be to cover up the brown wood.

No, they wouldn't be able to see exact colors too well from that distance. I just like to be sure of this sort of detail myself, even if no one else in the story knows.

The murderer is aware that once people on shore (even the skeptical ones) see a fin chasing a boat, that settles the issue. Afterwards, even if still they have suspicions, they can't really argue with the evidence of their own eyes. So covering it in pitch to disguise it further would work for me, but that makes me wonder: does pitch wash off, after some time under water? Sorry if that's a really basic question.

frimble3
06-03-2014, 04:12 AM
Tar is black (could look grey in the right light) and waterproof. That's why it's used on tar-paper roofs, and to seal ships. If the fin is rigid, the tar should last underwater a good long while. If the fin is flexible, the tar (stiff and cold because underwater) would be likely to crack and chip off.

Day Agent
06-03-2014, 11:32 AM
In my conception of your story there's little physical evidence that might actually prove the son's or the clerk complicity to the villager's satisfaction, and I'm not sure that's necessary. The son's obviously volatile and your heroine correct intuitions and deductions, even if the villagers aren't convinced, are likely to eat away at his nerves. Even the father might begin reviewing what errors he may have made and what might actually hang him, and make errors trying to cover up a perfect crime. The fin itself might work well enough if -he- is the one to go after it. People do stupid things.

It seems to me, also, that all the criticism is not detrimental to your story but rather excellent material. The fact that sharks would not have been in the bay due to storms, at the time of the first murder, might not convince anyone but her - galling to her and spurring her on. This differential between her, the villagers and the clerk and his son gives lots of good friction.

Marian Perera
06-03-2014, 04:14 PM
In my conception of your story there's little physical evidence that might actually prove the son's or the clerk complicity to the villager's satisfaction, and I'm not sure that's necessary.

Not their complicity, you're right, but I'd really like her to show the villagers that they could be taken in - even if she can't link the "taken in" part to the clerk and his son.


The fin itself might work well enough if -he- is the one to go after it. People do stupid things.As in, if he tries to retrieve it? That might not be easy for him to do.

As for people doing stupid things, there's already been criticism once on this thread because the murderer supposedly didn't have any sense. Once was enough, thanks.

It seems to me, also, that all the criticism is not detrimental to your story but rather excellent material. The fact that sharks would not have been in the bay due to storms, at the time of the first murder, might not convince anyone but her - galling to her and spurring her on. This differential between her, the villagers and the clerk and his son gives lots of good friction.Yes, suggestions like the storm in the harbor were excellent.

What I don't understand is insistence that it should be enough (either to convince the villagers or dramatically speaking) for her to make a number of good, educated deductions like "there was a storm, therefore sharks would not have been in the harbor" and... mystery solved. Story over.

I want there to be action, not just my heroine discussing shark behavior. Yet the action I have in mind seems to come under frequent fire (despite my not having asked for feedback on that action), and there haven't been any suggestions that would work better for my story. "Have her slowly wear down the son with her suspicions and deductions until he snaps" doesn't work. "Have her find the murder weapon" doesn't work. "Have the son attack her in public and expose himself as the murderer that way" doesn't work.

Yes, it galls her that people don't believe her, but her choices are limited too. I don't think anyone else here is aware of her personality and training, which is why ideas like her searching people's houses, which would be perfect for another character, don't work for her. So it's not like she's going to mount some clever psychological campaign intended to make the villain crumble, or go finding trace evidence.

"Lots of good friction" is great, but it's like rubbing two pieces of wood together. If that friction doesn't result in fire, all I'd be doing is rubbing two pieces of wood together, and maybe just getting warm from the exertion.

I believe action is necessary for this story.

I believe action is interesting in this story.

Therefore, I'm going to write action.

And I'd rather not have to spend more time explaining why I feel action is necessary and defending the choices I have made with regard to my story. Especially when my question was about a minor plot point - not about the action in the story, not about the premise, not about what the heroine does to solve the crime. I'm sure "all the criticism" is brilliant material, but some of it is not solicited, not relevant and not helping.

Thanks for your feedback.

Marian Perera
06-03-2014, 04:27 PM
Tar is black (could look grey in the right light) and waterproof. That's why it's used on tar-paper roofs, and to seal ships. If the fin is rigid, the tar should last underwater a good long while. If the fin is flexible, the tar (stiff and cold because underwater) would be likely to crack and chip off.

Thanks, frimble. Sounds good.

Day Agent
06-03-2014, 05:49 PM
I'm saying that all the skepticism leveled at the notion of a shark being involved translates easily into what makes your heroine skeptical herself.

Beyond that, you're quite right. I was editorializing your story.

Marian Perera
06-03-2014, 06:02 PM
I'm saying that all the skepticism leveled at the notion of a shark being involved translates easily into what makes your heroine skeptical herself.

Right, she's skeptical because


the first victim had no reason to be in the water
sharks rarely come into a harbor and attack people
a shark the size the villagers claim (and you just know it'll have doubled in size between the time they saw it and the time they describe it to her) would prefer seals or sea lions or porpoises anyway
there's a storm the night the first victim was killed

So she's skeptical. The question of what she does about that skepticism is the one that seems to be under debate, except I've already decided what she's going to do about it.


Beyond that, I was thinking along on your question on how to convince the villagers. You didn't ask for that, so my apologies.No problem. Thanks for commenting.

Friendly Frog
06-04-2014, 01:45 AM
Speculation: If say the murderer used an old shark jaw to mimic wounds and a tooth stays behind in the victim, the murderer can decide to get rid of the incriminating evidence by tossing it in the sea. If the heroine then finds a jaw from an obvious long-dead shark that she can link to a recent murder through the tooth, she'll know something's off too.


EDIT: Aaah, crap, my computer only showed one page when I replied. Apologies if already mentioned/discussed.

Marian Perera
06-04-2014, 03:47 AM
That's all right. :) It's a good idea, but the bodies have long-since been buried and I'm not sure of the feasibility of the heroine doing forensic dentistry. She does know a lot about sharks, but enough to tell the age of their teeth? IMO it would have to be really obvious that the tooth was an old one, plus she'd have to find the discarded jaw as well.

That being said, the story's well under way. She's arrived in the harbor and heard about the deaths, so now I'm getting into the good part. *nom nom*

frimble3
06-04-2014, 04:20 AM
I've had a thought about the manufacturing of evidence. What if, after finding the fin, she finds whatever the fin was made of? Something odd or imported, that wouldn't be common on the island, and would limit the 'suspects'?

Logs, chains, anchors and tar would be common in a fishing village. Unless something other than an anchor is used as, well, an anchor? A distinctive piece of stone, or a lead or iron something-or-other. The murderer is the town clerk, I've no idea what he'd think of. What is the fin made of? A piece of wood is hard to identify, a thick piece of leather or parchment (covered in tar for stiffening, as well as protection). A piece of copper or brass that's been cut from something else?

What does the clerk's no-good son do that would give his father access to things-other-than-paper?
Actually, leather or rawhide wouldn't be bad, if it was disposed of in the sea fairly recently, it might be of interest to the shark. In fact, maybe the murderer just shoved it under some other stuff and ignored it, until your MC shows up. Then he thinks, "Uh-oh, better hide the evidence," not realizing that she isn't going to be doing a house-to-house search.

So, he dumps it in the ocean, because in a sea-side village, that's what you do. (Possibly weighted with the same sort of chain that he originally used. Check out the variety of chain links available.) It's a thick piece of leather left over from some long-ago town job, that the clerk has inventoried a dozen times, but figures everyone has forgotten, come fin-making day.
So there's the chain and a side of hide with a fin-shaped piece out of it. Useful evidence?

Canotila
06-04-2014, 05:04 AM
Perhaps, if you do decide to go with a set of trophy jaws being used to mar up the body, someone kept a tooth found on the body as evidence and has it on display somewhere? Maybe the clerk himself would do it?

While age might be tough, shark species are really easy to identify via teeth. It's something she would be able to do easily. If the jaws used came from a shark not native to that area/extinct/non agressive/etc. that would give her another thing to be suspicious about, and for villagers to pooh pooh her knowledge over.

For what it's worth, your story sounds rad and I just bought a copy of your first book because of this thread.

Marian Perera
06-04-2014, 07:43 AM
I've had a thought about the manufacturing of evidence. What if, after finding the fin, she finds whatever the fin was made of? Something odd or imported, that wouldn't be common on the island, and would limit the 'suspects'?

I see your point, but would it be too coincidental that she'd find both of those? Not just the fin, but whatever the fin was made of, especially if both had been dumped in the harbor?


What is the fin made of? A piece of wood is hard to identify, a thick piece of leather or parchment (covered in tar for stiffening, as well as protection). A piece of copper or brass that's been cut from something else?I was planning to go with wood because that's what Hoplite suggested, and it seemed simple enough to construct. Though, of course, copper and brass would last longer underwater...


What does the clerk's no-good son do that would give his father access to things-other-than-paper?I needed the murderer (the one behind the scheme, anyway) to be the village clerk, because he would be the one in charge of composing and sending a message to the nearest town asking for help in the matter of a man-eating shark.

The son's occupation didn't need to be planned, though, so I just wrote him as the local carpenter. That's open to change. So he could have any profession that people might be likely to have in a small fishing village.


Actually, leather or rawhide wouldn't be bad, if it was disposed of in the sea fairly recently, it might be of interest to the shark. In fact, maybe the murderer just shoved it under some other stuff and ignored it, until your MC shows up. Then he thinks, "Uh-oh, better hide the evidence," not realizing that she isn't going to be doing a house-to-house search.

So, he dumps it in the ocean, because in a sea-side village, that's what you do.Heh. I like that reasoning.

I'm going to have to think about this, because it also occurred to me as I was planning the next couple of scenes that I'd only introduced three of the villagers so far : the clerk, his son and a grizzled old fisherman who fills the heroine in on some of the details which make her suspicious.

I was thinking this guy could be killed later, but the moment I got into "this is no accident and no shark, this is murder!" it would be obvious there could only be two suspects. So I need to present more. No wonder Dame Agatha had so many well-attended dinner parties in her books.

More possible suspects : a local who tries to Quint the village by asking for money to hunt the shark, or a relative of the first victim who benefited from her death (maybe inherited her bakery). If there's such a relative, it would be nice if the distinctive piece of lead or iron or whatever used to sink the fin could be traced to him.

...Just thinking out loud here...

Marian Perera
06-04-2014, 08:15 AM
Perhaps, if you do decide to go with a set of trophy jaws being used to mar up the body, someone kept a tooth found on the body as evidence and has it on display somewhere? Maybe the clerk himself would do it?

While age might be tough, shark species are really easy to identify via teeth.

I saw a neat close-up of tiger shark teeth on Twitter, showing how they're shaped in such a way that the shark could, can-opener fashion, even get into sea turtles. And tigers are one of the suspects, given that they like to hunt in the shallows. Bull sharks are another.

While I'd like a set of shark jaws to appear in the story, if only as a homage to this...

http://www.jabootu.com/images/jawsjaws.jpg

...I don't think the clerk would save one of the teeth to display. He believes he's committed the perfect crime - attributed to a random attack by a shark which then left. He pretends to send a message to Seawatch asking for help, but doesn't actually do so. The bodies are buried. Problem over.

It's a shock to him when someone from Seawatch actually turns up, but because he's not expecting this, he never actually saves a tooth to show as a "look, there really was a shark" strategy (assuming that there was a set of jaws used to cause specific damage). He also wouldn't have a tooth on display, because he would like to downplay the deaths and have everyone forget about them.

Possibly the only person who would have such a tooth displayed is the Quint character, if I go with that. It's something I have to think about. If he has a collection of similar trophies, that would fit right in. It might also give him a reason to really want there to be a killer shark - otherwise, he's basically just a has-been sitting around with his collection of mementos from his glory days.


For what it's worth, your story sounds rad and I just bought a copy of your first book because of this thread.Why, thank you!

Though I hope you're not going to be disappointed, because the sharkpunk elements only kick in with the second book. The first is more of a prequel to the series. But still, thank you. :)

GeekTells
06-04-2014, 01:13 PM
What if she were to find the body parts somewhere? Shallow grave? Perhaps a dog brings a bone with a scrap of clothes of the victim?

The point being that the missing body parts should be shark waste, not disposed of on land.

Alternately, what if she found just the clothes or some other identifying item that belonged to the victim—jewelry that was always worn, a wooden leg...I can't think of anything else. :)

But again, the point is that the heroine finds something that should have been lost to the shark, not found on land.

If you want it connected to the chief immediately, have it be on his land or behind a business he owns. If not, it could become the heroine's challenge to either pin it on him or simply discover who is responsible.

Late night food for thought in the midst of a busy week that has me longing for sleep! :)

Marian Perera
06-04-2014, 03:52 PM
What if she were to find the body parts somewhere? Shallow grave? Perhaps a dog brings a bone with a scrap of clothes of the victim?

She doesn't have a pet dog, and if there was a dog in the village which conveniently dug up the shallow grave and brought back a bone with clothes clinging to it - clothes which could be identified as the victim's - then I'd have to have the dog in the story from the start. Otherwise it would be way too convenient that this dog just showed up to solve the mystery.


The point being that the missing body parts should be shark waste, not disposed of on land.True, but my heroine isn't going to go digging for remains. It would never occur to her to do so, and she'd need to have a good reason to believe that the body parts were hidden in a certain location.


Late night food for thought in the midst of a busy week that has me longing for sleep! :)It's not a bad idea for a murder mystery, but I'm afraid it just doesn't work for this one.