View Full Version : Questions About Missing Persons

Celia Cyanide
03-23-2006, 08:42 PM
Here is my problem: My detective is goofy. He became a detective because he loves being able to ask questions about people's lives, and interrogating people gives him an excuse to do that.

My old acting coach was fascinated by people. He was disarming, because he treated every person he met like they were the most interesting person in the world, and he was very sincere. He once convinced my building manager to let him film in my elevator, and block it off, which is totally illegal. I had already asked, and the guy said no, but my acting coach just said, "Let me talk to him," and the next thing you knew, the guy was blocking off the elevator.

My detective is similar, and he can get people to admit things they wouldn't usually admit to, because they're so flattered by how interested he is in everything they say. He makes people feel good about themselves, because they come away thinking, "I am SUCH an interesting person!"

The problem is that my beta readers came away thinking that he was really funny and interesting as a character, but as a detective, they thought he was a bumbling idiot. He's not, and his strengths as an interrogator don't come out until later, in parts I haven't written yet. But that was the first impression he gave. I need to give him something to DO to show that he is actually doing something, and not just asking questions without a real focus.

Here is what I need to know: He is investigating a missing person. So what would he do? What questions would he ask? And how would he start looking for her? I know how he ends up finding her, but I need to give him something to do so he isn't standing around waiting until I get to that part. Thanks.

03-23-2006, 10:26 PM
Sounds a bit like Columbo.

Well, given that premise, he could. . . .

-Buddy up with all her friends, to the point of acting like their dad or best friend. At first they laugh at him behind his back, but slowly come to trust him and open up about the missing person. He even takes part in their activities and learns clues accidentally (or is it accidentally?)

-He could use his natural curiosity to "get to know" the missing person, and all of her interests. Perhaps others have overlooked some quirk, such as her liking a certain metal band, but to this detective it provides a clue.

-He is such a "people person" that he's happy to "tail" people if when they know they're being followed. As a matter of fact, he'll help carry their package, or help them pick out a gift for their spouse. They end up telling him more than they mean to.

-He's not embarrassed to ask the strangest questions; ones that no other detective would.

-He and the missing person could share some interest or quirk (something not typical for the average detective or adult male). Say, they both liked finger painting or playing the flute or bird watching or going to the movies and crying. An overlooked clue is found that way.


Cat Scratch
03-24-2006, 01:35 AM
Can you open with a small unrelated case that he solves right away through his bumbling tactics, so that the readers trust him? Then later when he's asking seemingly unrelated questions, the readers know that he's going somewhere, because they've seen this work before. I don't know much about your book (duh) but that might help.

Also, if you could tie the small unrelated case into the larger case that would be a good tie-in, so it doesn't just exist to make us trust the character. (i.e. he has to question a security guard to discover that he stole some DNA he was supposed to be guarding, and then later the same DNA comes into play in the missing person case, etc.)

Celia Cyanide
03-24-2006, 10:53 PM
I got 2 replies, and they were both from cats! :) Thanks for your suggestions. It sounds like you both have a pretty good understanding of my character.

Quite a few people have compared my detective to Columbo when I told them about him. I have never seen him before, but this is my impression of him. He has people convinced he is a bumbling idiot, and that is how he gets people to admit things. He acts like he doesn't know what he's doing, but he really knows where he is going with his questions the whole time. Is that pretty accurate? I think that main destinction between Columbo and my detective is that my detective has no agenda. Everything he asks, he sincerely wants to know, because he is interested. His advantage is in the effect that it has on people, because he breaks down their defenses. But this is not a manipulative gesture. Does that make sense?

Does anyone know what, say, a "normal" detective would do to investigate a missing person? I have a clear idea of this guy's personality, and HOW he would be acting, while he was doing these things, I just have no idea what he is doing!

If it helps, I already know how he finds the girl. I guess I just need some suggestions to keep him busy in the mean time. He is also not the main character, so I don't need him to do a LOT, just enough to write a scene with him working on the case, and show the reader that he IS doing something. If you need to know more about my story, I would be happy to answer any questions you have. Thanks so much!

03-26-2006, 02:12 AM
It would probably help if we knew the age of the missing person and her situation before trying to give any specific suggestions for your scene.

03-26-2006, 02:22 AM
Is the story third person omniscient? If so, you can get around that.

Celia Cyanide
03-26-2006, 09:05 AM
It would probably help if we knew the age of the missing person and her situation before trying to give any specific suggestions for your scene.

She is 33. She was reported missing by her live-in boyfriend. She works, he does not. They are getting pretty bored with each other.

Oh, and yes, it is 3rd person omnicient!

September skies
03-26-2006, 09:15 AM
looks like all these posts are from cats and dogs:

I love watching the television show Without A Trace.

Ever seen it? They look for a different missing person every week. On the show, they always have a board with a timeline -- and they work backwards.

Obviously, they start with the person making the report - when did he see her last, etc.
But they always go from there - there's always some small hint of someone who saw her talking to a strange person or someone who saw her acting strange and they'll document that on the board.

If you have a chance, see one episode. It's always the same. (comes out on Thursdays) And they show that board on every single episode.
Most of it is talking to people - but if you show the board somehow in the story, they can see he's actually leading up to something.

03-26-2006, 12:15 PM
Ah, an omnicient writer, good. At this time give him a hobby, a way of thinking, or something that will show that although he appears bungling, there's a method to it.