Archive for August 20th, 2011

Aug 20 2011

Hostage Situations from the Police Negotiator’s Perspective

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

1. The first police officers on the scene will not be specialists.  These police officers still play an important role (containing the situation, maintaining a perimeter, clearing out civilians, etc).  Circumstances may force them to initiate some sort of negotiation, but as soon as it looks like the situation will not be promptly resolved, the line officers should immediately terminate negotiations and call in specialists.  (Metropolitan police departments, some state police departments and the FBI have officers who have been carefully selected and trained to deal with these critical incidents).  The specialists’ job will be harder if a line officer antagonized the subject.

1.1. Across the board, negotiators tend to have excellent self-control, calm under stress, communication skills, a calm and confident demeanor, strong listening and interviewing skills and the ability to work effectively on a team.  They’ll have at least 40 hours of training on techniques, abnormal psychology, active listening skills, case studies and drills.

 

2. The main goal of negotiation is to convince the subject(s) to surrender.  If that is not possible, the secondary goal is to give the SWAT team the best opportunity to rescue the captives with a minimal loss of life.  To accomplish these goals, the negotiators want to:

  • Stall for time.  First, time allows emotions to cool down, which reduces the likelihood of hostages getting killed.  Second, it may take hours (rarely, even days) for the subjects to realize how hopeless their situation is.  Lastly, if it does come down to a shootout, the operation will be more successful and less dangerous if the SWAT team has had time to prepare.
  • Establish communication and develop rapport.  For example, the subject might be thinking about giving himself up, but he isn’t sure whether the 20+ armed cops outside will shoot him if he comes out.  A negotiator could work something out fairly easily.  For example, “if you’re ready to come out, the police will lower their weapons.”  (By the way, if the police are willing to lower their weapons, they probably have sharpshooters ready to fire if the subject reaches for his gun).
  • Gather intelligence.  A secondary negotiator should check the subjects’ criminal, civil, medical and psychological records and conduct interviews with friends/family/coworkers.  Is the criminal actually likely to kill his captives?  What might cause an escalation? What actions could the police take now and after the crisis to make sure that there’s a long-term solution here?

 

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Aug 20 2011

Writing Links

  • Six Questions Authors Hate to Be Asked strikes me as mostly spot-on, but “What are you writing?” definitely should not make authors feel uncomfortable.  I would highly recommend rehearsing a 1-2 sentence answer.  “I’m writing The Taxman Must Die.  It’s a national security comedy about an IRS accountant and a mutant alligator whose detective skills make Scooby Doo look like Batman.”  If you have a two-sentence synopsis, this is a great time to bust it out.  If it looks like the listener is interested in your story, please give him/her a business card with a link to your writing website, if you have one.
  • P.W. Creighton wrote Cliched Plot Contrivances.  I found the section on walking encyclopedias especially helpful.  Hat-tip: Nancy at Author Chronicles.
  • Romance author Roni Loren wrote Six Important Components to an Author Bio, a sharp set of ideas about how to introduce yourself effectively to readers.  I’m not sure about relatability, though.  Which would interest you more: an author with a dog named Max or an author with an alligator named Chompy?
  • Author Paul Dorset wrote a guide to self-publishing e-books (novels, not comics).  If you’re going down that path, it looks helpful.

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Aug 20 2011

More Publishers Looking For Superhero Short Stories

I’ve added the following publishers to my list of publishing houses that mention superhero stories in their submission guidelines.

 

Damnation Books wants realistic portrayals of metahumans and superpowers for its Corrupts Absolutely Anthology.  “Modern pop-culture is brimming over with stories of bright, polished men and women with indestructible moral codes, who throw themselves into a life of public service after being graced (or cursed) with cosmic powers… I call BS. How about people with flaws? People with serious psychological issues? People that have been looking for a ticket out of their circumstances and finally lucked into it?… To some, this just screams ‘supervillain,’ or ‘antihero,’ and in many cases, you’d be right. But usually, these are stock characters without much substance. They’re the ‘bad guys.’ Real life isn’t that simple…”

  • Length: 3000-5000 words.
  • Deadline: December 1, 2011.  
  • Hey, ladies!  The editor mentions that he’s looking especially carefully for female authors and/or female leads.

 

Hyperpulp wants literary stories that “demonstrate a concern with writing, not only with plot or characters.”  It specifically mentions fantasy superhero and sci-fi superheroes on its Duotropes page.  “The idea is to harbor stories that exceed expectations, surprise the reader – also regarding the form – and are not afraid to subvert clichés and conduct experimentations… We’ll give preference to a prose more poetic and surprising.”

  • Length: Up to 10,000 words.
  • Hey, Brazilians!  Hyperpulp publishes in both English and Portuguese.
  • Hey, procrastinators!  No deadline.

 

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