Preview of X-Division Chapters

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This page leads into chapter drafts of a work in progress known as The Striker.  In Navy jargon, a Striker is an apprentice to one of the Navy’s many occupation specialty groups.

The X-Division Assignments is the series title for Wade Jarvis’ investigative and undercover work set in the late 1960s through the mid 1970s.  At nearly all Navy commands, there is a special detachment called X-Division that houses transient sailors who are awaiting their next assignment.

Wade Jarvis works for the Office of Naval Intelligence under a mysterious commander who answers only to the name Elmer.  Elmer tasks Wade to “put faces to names” as he cuts him orders to study Atomic-Biological-Chemical (ABC) Warfare at Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay.

The Striker – 1

Wade leads his team in a security sweep of the super secret SOSUS station off the southern tip of Bermuda. In the 1960s, the Navy followed every ship at sea through using a network of hydrophone arrays. Those listening stations could track submarines from across the Atlantic as they approached our shores.

They also heard submarines shatter at great depths.

The Striker – 2

Wade’s security team has transferred confiscated SOSUS material aboard a shuttle launch. Heaped on top of it and sea sick is the young cook-striker Dusty who is returning to Bermuda with them. For his age, Dusty didn’t seem to have much innocence left to protect. And experience found in the Navy rarely allowed it to survive.

Dusty is particularly anxious about a cassette tape.

The Striker – 3

Dusty, the former cook-striker for the Argus Island, emerges from the pit of sea-sickness, appraises the turmoil surrounding him, and takes up his private mission.

The Striker – 4

Dusty “jumps ship” as Wade’s security team joins the larger operation gathering SOSUS recordings from the Tudor Hill Laboratories, the analysis station on Bermuda.

The Striker – 5

Paxton finds an under-the-table duplicate cassette recording, but officialdom is not interested.

The Striker – 6

Jones draws Wade out about “loose ends” in the investigation—Dusty might have a copy of a top secret recording—and Paxton, another.

The Striker – 7

Dusty has gone with the last flight.

Paxton reveals he has mailed his cassette to his girlfriend in Seattle.

New email updates will announce my new installments.  Be sure to sign up to be notified of these events.

I look forward to your comments at the bottom of each of the chapter releases.

Bruce Rule’s 2010 Letter to Director of Naval Intelligence

6 August 2010

From: B. Rule, 3931 Brookfield Ave, Louisville, KY 40207-2001
To: VADM David J. Dorsett, Director of Naval Intelligence, Office of Naval
Intelligence, 4251 Suitland Road, Washington, DC 20395-5720

Subj: Why the USS SCORPION (SSN-589) Was Lost on 22 May 1968

Ref: (a) Originator’s ltr of 14 Mar 2009
(b) SCORPION SAG Report: “EVALUATION OF DATA AND ARTIFACTS
RELATED TO THE USS SCORPION (SSN-589) (U)” of 29 June 1970,
prepared for presentation to the CNO SCORPION Technical Advisory Group by
the Structural Analysis Group: Peter Palermo, CAPT Harry Jackson, Robert
Price, et al.
(c) Originator’s ltr of 28 Oct 2009

Encl: (1) Enclosure (1) to Originator’s ltr of 14 March 2009

ASSESSMENT

The USS SCORPION was lost because hydrogen produced by the 65-ton, 126-cell TLX-53-A main storage battery exploded in two-stages one-half second apart at 18:20:44Z on 22 May 1968. These events, which did not breach the pressure-hull, prevented the crew from maintaining depth-control. As discussed by reference (a), the SCORPION pressure-hull collapsed at 18:42:34Z at a depth of 1530-feet. Noted times are actual event times on board SCORPION.

This assessment is NOT the generic attribution of the loss of a submarine to a battery-explosion advanced as a default explanation in the absence of any more likely construct. This assessment is based on (1), the results of examination and microscopic, spectrographic and X-ray diffraction analyses of recovered SCORPION battery material that confirm an explosion occurred, and (2), the July 2008 reanalysis of the SCORPION “precursor” acoustic signals that identified these signals as explosions contained within the SCORPION pressure-hull. Collectively, these findings indicate battery explosions were the initiating events responsible for the loss of SCORPION on 22 May 1968.

DISCUSSIONS: EXAMINATION AND METALLURGICAL ANALYSIS OF A RECOVERED SCORPION BATTERY COMPONENT

Section 7.1.3, page 7.2 of reference (b) states: (quote) ….the general battery damage is violent. The high velocity intrusion of pieces of the flash arrestor into both inside and outside surfaces of the retrieved plastisol cover attest to violence in the battery well. The damage to the terminal battery post coupled with the violent tearing of the plastisol covers indicates the possibility of a battery explosion. While it is possible that this damage could have been an after-effect of hull implosion, the SAG (Structural Analysis Group) feels that the intrusion of particles into the plastisol cover would have been much less severe had water been in the battery well at the time. (end quote)

Section 5.3.6, page 5.17 of reference (b) states: (quote) The battery installed in SCORPION was a TLX-53-A, manufactured by Gould-National Battery, Inc. Battery cell debris is in evidence over the entire debris field. Table 5-2, page 5.38 provides a list of the battery debris identified by the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard analysis team. (end quote) Comment: Table 5-2 notes damage from heat and melting. The presence of melting eliminates the possibility that such damage occurred as a result of pressure-hull collapse (implosion) because analysis of acoustic data discussed by Section IV of reference (c), confirms SCORPION was fully-flooded within 0.112-seconds of pressure-hull and bulkhead collapse; hence, the melting damage (and the battery explosion) had to have occurred within the still-intact SCORPION pressure-hull.

In consonance with this conclusion, Section 5.3.6, page 5.17 of reference (b) also states: (quote) the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Analysis Group reports that the available evidence indicates the battery probably exploded at some time before flooding of the battery well occurred. Review of Figure 5-13 indicates that the threads on the terminal posts were sheared off and there are no cover seal nuts remaining. This indicates that an explosion took place on the inside of the cells. The covers were completely blown off. Had the pressure been applied on the outside of the covers, the cover support flange on the terminal posts would have held pieces of the covers and it is expected that the cover seal nuts would have remained in place in at least some instances. ( end quote)

Further, Section 5.3.6c, page 5.18 of reference (b) states: (quote) The (battery cover) sample from SCORPION had been violently, but locally, torn, particularly at the location of the bus connection bolts and nuts. The deformation in this region appears to have started on the inside, or battery side of the cover. (end quote)

And finally, Section 5.3.6e, page 5.18 of reference (b) states: (quote) Some 20 equally small (nearly sub-visible) fragments of material were imbedded at high velocity in both the inside and outside of the sample. The trajectories of the fragments were essentially random, ranging from grazing to vertical incidence. Microscopic, spectrographic and X-ray diffraction analyses reveal that these fragments are identical in composition and structure to the alumina flash arrestors used on the batteries in SCORPION. (end quote)

DISCUSSIONS: SCORPION ACOUSTIC DATA

Enclosure (1) to reference (a), forwarded as enclosure (1) to this letter, provides detailed discussions of four independent lines of evidence that, collectively, established, for the first time, that the two “precursor” acoustic events that occurred at 18:20:44Z, 21-minutes and 50-seconds before hull-collapse, were explosions from then unidentified sources that were contained within the SCORPION pressure-hull. The energy yield of these explosive events, now assessed to have been battery-associated, is estimated to have been no more than about 20-lbs of TNT each.

The July 2008 identification of the precursor acoustic events as explosions contained within the SCORPION pressure-hull strongly supports the battery explosion conclusion advanced by reference (b), i.e., the acoustic data identifies the actual explosive events previously assumed by the authors of reference (b), the SAG Report, to have occurred based on the observed damage to a recovered battery component discussed above.

CONCLUSION

Collectively, the above information indicates the two acoustic events that occurred 0.5-seconds apart at 18:20:44Z were produced by explosions associated with the SCORPION TLX-53-A battery, and were the initiating events responsible for the loss of SCORPION on 22 May 1968. Additional information will be provided as developed.

B. Rule
Copy to (w/ encl):
COMSUBFOR

10th Step On The Character’s Ladder

I’ve been researching “compunction” for characters in my work while working on “The Striker” an installment of “X-Division Assignments” an espionage action story set in late 60s San Francisco.
 
It also bears upon many published news stories for the past two years.
 
The following comes from my last outline step:
 
10. Character tested for veracity of compunction
 
10.1. and Character reveals a wide ranging emotional display
10.1.1. including positive emotions, such as happiness and surprise
10.1.1.1. with leakage of genuine feelings from incomplete deception (feel embarrassed, feel genuine happiness, and let a smile slip)
10.1.1.1.1. as in false remorse
 
10.1.2. with deceptive or falsified emotions overcompensated in their emotional performance
10.1.2.1. as in false remorse
 
10.1.3. with a large number of speech hesitations that cued deceptive apology
10.1.3.1. as in false remorse
 
10.2. and reveals narrow range of emotional display
10.2.1. for remorse (showing sorrow)
include a detailed account of the offense
10.2.1.1. responsibility (showing connection)
acknowledgment of the hurt or damage done
10.2.1.1.1. reparation (showing care)
restitution, compensation or token gesture in line with the damage that one has caused
10.2.1.1.1.1. resolution (showing closure)
expression of a credible commitment to change

SOFAR Channel

The speed of sound in the ocean varies with depth, but with a twist.  And in that twist the United States Navy held a three decade technical lead in submarine detection.

The scenario, below, presents a case where a submarine is emitting a sound.  It is immersed in a liquid that is layered with denser water above and below a region known as the SOFAR Channel.  The submarine is in the top, dense layer.  Within the graphic, the SOFAR Channel is the light blue layer with the converging strong lines of sound from the submarine.  Note the shape of the lines are not straight lines.  They bend due to the variation in water density like a lens.  Within this channel, sound will propagate with far less attenuation (fading), and travel many hundreds of miles to remote detectors.

There are a number of dashed rays of sound that encounter loss in reflection from the bottom, or are situated along a path that does not lead into the interior of the SOFAR Channel.

For those who want actual numbers, the speed of sound varies in the following manner:

Project ARTEMIS Specifications – Precursor to SOSUS Installation

The Argus Island Project Artemis array has two specifications as the project moved from active to passive SOFAR application.  source wikipedia:

shipboard active array:

50 ft (15 m) by 33 ft (10 m) and

weighed 400 tons. It consisted of

1440 individual transducers (200 pounds apiece) in a

48 by 30 configuration.

 

fixed passive receive array:

10 Mile long

ten strings of hydrophones mounted on

200 eighty-foot towers laid down the side of Plantagenet Bank in Bermuda.

source wikipedia:

The strings were laid on the side of the bank using the U.S. Navy large covered lighter YFNB-12, reconfigured with a long overhead boom to handle the towers. Each cable had special takeouts built into it at intervals from which wires to the hydrophones were connected. Each tower was clamped onto the special cable with takeouts. At the upper end of the approximately 4-inch (100 mm) cable a wire rope was attached and led to an explosively embedded anchor shot into the flat coral top of Plantagenet Bank. Tension of more than 40,000 lb was applied to the wire rope and cable to lay it down the side of the bank in the straightest line possible. At one point all further construction ceased while a stopper was placed on the special cable because most of the connection to the wire rope had broken and the string was being held by a few strands of wire on the double drum winch on YFNB-12. The YFNB-12 was held in place with four Murray and Tregurtha Diesel outboard engines placed on the corners and capable of 360 degree rotation, developing tremendous thrust in any direction. The cables led to Argus Island tower, from which the signal was conducted to the United States listening post located at Tudor Hill, Southampton, Bermuda (32.264122°N 64.877666°W) that had opened on June 1, 1955. At the time the post was classified top secret. Tudor Hill Naval Facility Bermuda was closed in 1995. The facility shares a short road with the Pompano Beach Club.

Picture of the probable interim design.

Picture of the probable final design.

These two views may not be with the same hydrophone array.  The second is obviously larger than the first.  Given the resolution’s rough ability to count the elements, this makes for difficulty in determining their construction details.  Focusing on the second, my first impression was to call each white spot in the field of frames an element.  However, there are white square covers over some of what should be elements (I would speculate they were there to mark what element had not been inspected yet—or had failed a test), and these covers center on the black areas surrounding the white areas.  Thus the white areas are part of the frame.

The first picture’s array is in 3×5 panels, each panel is of 5×12 elements (900 total elements), but this does not conform to the specification above in any way—even if additional panels were added.  However, as this is a difficult interpretation given both the poor resolution and the camera angle, each panel could be composed of 6×12 elements, and the entire assembly is only short a row of panels.  I would like to think this first picture is displaying the array under partial construction.

The second picture’s array shows 4×5 panels, each panel is of 6×12 elements (1440 total elements) which does conform in layout.  This also conforms to the extract from Project Artemis Acoustic Source Performance Characteristics:

The Artemis acoustic source was designed to meet the requirements for an ocean surveillance study program. These requirements included a source level of 152 dB in a 100-Hz band centered at 400 Hz with a transducer operating depth of 1200 feet. The transducer, which was completed in June 1964, is a rectangular planar array 33 feet wide and 50 feet high.

The ocean surveillance study program, Project Artemis, initiated by the Office of Naval Research in 1958, required a very high power, deep acoustic source. The acoustic requirements established. for the projector called for a capability of radiating 1000 kW of acoustic power in a 100-Hz band centered at 400 Hz with pulse lengths of 10 to 60 seconds at a 10% duty cycle. Beamwidth to the half-power points was to be 20 degrees in the horizontal plane and 12.5 degrees in the vertical plane. This combination of power and beamwidth would result in a source level of approximately 152 decibels relative to 1 microbar at 1 yard (dB//1 gbar at 1 yd). The acoustic axis was to have a fixed orientation of 11 degrees above the horizontal plane.


Several proposals for the projector were considered, the final selection being a rectangular plane array 33 feet wide by 50 feet high composed of 1440 variable-reluctance transducer elements. Each element is nearly cubical, being 11-1/8 inches square on the radiating face and 11-3/4 inches deep. They are assembled in frames in which 72 elements are closely packed in 12 rows by six columns. Each assembly, referred to as a module, is approximately 6 feet wide. by 12 feet high. The completed array consists of far rows of modules with five modules in each row. The modules are mounted on a suitable array frame which provides the proper tilt angle of the radiating face and supports auxiliary components associated with the electrical input to the elements. Radiation to the rear of the array is suppressed by a system of pressure compensated, flattened, gas-filled tubes which serve as acoustic pressure releases on the rear faces of the elements.

Extracts from Project Artemis Acoustic Source Characteristics Of The Type TR-11F Transducer Element (which concerns itself with an upgrade in impedance to help with transmitter loading, and with diaphragm spring displacement):

The present configuration of the ARTEMIS source employs TR-11C elements with a parallel electrical connection of groups of six series connected elements.

(source unknown) The SOSUS application of these elements in an array suggest a receive sensitivity of 1W audio power at 1,000km.

Tudor Hill Laboratories – NavFac Bermuda

The RV Erline in transit between Argus Island and Tudor Hill Laboratories.

A view of Tudor Hill Laboratories’ listening post at the crown of the hill (a very common siting arrangement).

One of the cables in a SOFAR installation.

This shows the tapering of the line between the sea deployment of SOSUS hydrophones the Terminal Building where the leads are terminated into audio filters, storage, time shifters (delay lines built into the storage), and finally verniers (chart recorders) that make LOFARgrams.

SOSUS cable being laid out to sea.

And, of course, the cable has to emerge somewhere along a beach.

At this point I need to point out that the beach picture with cable, and earlier pictures are presenting the common design considerations for nearly any SOSUS station, but not for NavFac Bermuda which received data through RF transmissions from Argus Island.

Still, audio is audio, and the many Verniers (chart recorders) at Tudor Hill Laboratories operated the same irrespective of this link.

Aerial view of NavFac Bermuda, Tudor Hill Laboratories.

What Was Being Heard That Surprised Listeners (The Jezebel Monster)

Humpback Whale Calls as observed in SOSUS data

This presents how the calls of the Humback whale would appear in modern SOSUS technology displays.

The top reveals a wider frequency range than is normally observed in SOSUS operation, but that is because it has been sped up by a factor of ten to allow the calls (normally sub-sonic) to be heard in sound recordings.  This, then, suggests that the LOFARgram is not of live data, but of a sped-up recording.

If you apply a divide by ten to the left scale, we are back to the conventional LOFARgram display covering from 0 Hz to 50 Hz.

SOSUS technologists saw these waveforms for years, and were unable to determine their origin.  Further complicating matters were that these noises moved.  Because the early stages of SOSUS was called Project Jezebel, these noises were tongue-in-cheek attributed to the Jezebel monster.

What’s Being Listened For

This chart presents the electrical signal from the underwater SOSUS array.

It is listening to ship traffic (and presumably with more interest in submarines).  The scale across the bottom reveals a span of 8 or minutes of recording in hardcopy, colored format (in the old days, it was all black and white).  Above the minute marks the scale at the left reveals the frequency of detection, within the field of color, the brighter the color, the louder the source.

As such, the span from very low frequencies up to 50 Hz (a power line kind of hum) has a bright patch across all time with very white (thus very loud) source noise from propellers that scar the field with horizontal lines showing at 30 Hz and 40 Hz (and other frequencies).

The picture below is more representational of the LOFARgrams observed during the 50s, 60s, 70s ….  The aspect is as viewed on the Vernier (chart recorder) with the paper being advanced up as new data was burnt (no ink, the paper is thermally sensitive) into a line at the bottom.  In this case, louder is equal to darker (more burning).  With many Verniers running plots along bearing angles, there was a lot of burning going on, continuously.

Not labeled are the propeller shaft noise profiles.  The shaft’s fundamental frequency is at the far left, about an eighth of an inch from the edge.  Its first harmonic is an eighth of an inch to its right (and many more barely visible harmonics across the page).

As of this time, the picture is incorrectly labeling the propeller blade fundamental as an harmonic.  Given its harmonics fall within groups of four shaft harmonics, it would seem to me that there were four blades on the shaft.

Where The Action Starts …

 

… where it all starts

source: United States Navy

These are views of Argus Island taken from the official report of its destruction.

Argus Island was an outpost SOSUS station between two arrays of underwater sensors and the Tudor Hill Laboratory located on the southern edge of Bermuda.  It was manned by:

One supervisor , electronic technician.
Two senior electronic technicians (both with broad qualifications including commications and digital circuits).
Two diesel mechanics/diesel-electrical , welding, plumbing and crane operator.
Two cook-baker stewards.
One general helper/maintenance Janitor.

Argus Island also hosted non-SOSUS research (to aid in its cover story of being the equivalent of a benign weather station).  Among those activities was SeaLab in 1964.

Listening At Bermuda’s NavFac At Tudor Hill Laboratory

source: NOAA

Argus Bank (more properly known as Plantagenet Bank) is a submerged sea mountain that supports the man-made Argus Island (offshore platform, also called a Texas Tower).  Argus Island is a SOSUS transmission line transfer point between the underwater sensors along Plantagenet Bank and the listening post located in Tudor Hill Laboratories (at the south edge of Bermuda island).  Transportation of men and supplies was done between Tudor Hill Laboratories and Argus Island via R/V Erline.

Argus Bank had hosted the earlier Project Argus which employed a 1MW 400Hz SONAR. Aside from the active transmitter, much of that technology is similar.

The three seamounts are volcanic remnants from continental drift over a magmatic hot-spot.

The Tenth Rung of the Character’s Growth Ladder

10. Reconciliation
9.   Separation
8.   Denial
7.   Disruption
6.   The reversible step into the Danger zone
5.   The first irreversible step into the Risk zone
4.   The opportunity

3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motivation

What does first irretrievable step mean for other characters—if they were to have their own ladders?

In terms of the protagonist, there are several interpretations.  Here is one.

In the standard mystery, where the protagonist is a detective, then this rung of the ladder would represent that action taken that exposes the protagonist’s examination of the events to the antagonist.  Here, the canon of mystery writing presents a very schematic approach to the application of the fifth rung to this other character, but this application hardly fits all writing genres.  For them, I consider:

In terms of minor characters (being neither the protagonist nor the antagonist), I will generalize how this rung is employed.

The fifth rung is about the possibility of others discovering the intentions of the character.  Abstractly, it could mean an action taken by the character that has a strong connection that can be traced back to the character.  In a family-drama, it could be the filing of divorce papers by a spouse.  This presumes that the motivation for divorce was hidden (and it may well remain that way).  It follows that having done this, the next rung is divorce.

The Ninth Rung of the Character’s Growth Ladder

10. Reconciliation
9.   Separation
8.   Denial
7.   Disruption
6.   The reversible step into the Danger zone
5.   The first irreversible step into the Risk zone
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motivation

What does first irretrievable step mean for other characters—if they were to have their own ladders?

In terms of the protagonist, there are several interpretations.  Here is one.

In the standard mystery, where the protagonist is a detective, then this rung of the ladder would represent that action taken that exposes the protagonist’s examination of the events to the antagonist.  Here, the canon of mystery writing presents a very schematic approach to the application of the fifth rung to this other character, but this application hardly fits all writing genres.  For them, I consider:

In terms of minor characters (being neither the protagonist nor the antagonist), I will generalize how this rung is employed.

The fifth rung is about the possibility of others discovering the intentions of the character.  Abstractly, it could mean an action taken by the character that has a strong connection that can be traced back to the character.  In a family-drama, it could be the filing of divorce papers by a spouse.  This presumes that the motivation for divorce was hidden (and it may well remain that way).  It follows that having done this, the next rung is divorce.

The Eighth Rung of the Character’s Growth Ladder

10. Reconciliation
9.   Separation
8.   Denial
7.   Disruption
6.   The reversible step into the Danger zone
5.   The first irreversible step into the Risk zone
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motivation

What does first irretrievable step mean for other characters—if they were to have their own ladders?

In terms of the protagonist, there are several interpretations.  Here is one.

In the standard mystery, where the protagonist is a detective, then this rung of the ladder would represent that action taken that exposes the protagonist’s examination of the events to the antagonist.  Here, the canon of mystery writing presents a very schematic approach to the application of the fifth rung to this other character, but this application hardly fits all writing genres.  For them, I consider:

In terms of minor characters (being neither the protagonist nor the antagonist), I will generalize how this rung is employed.

The fifth rung is about the possibility of others discovering the intentions of the character.  Abstractly, it could mean an action taken by the character that has a strong connection that can be traced back to the character.  In a family-drama, it could be the filing of divorce papers by a spouse.  This presumes that the motivation for divorce was hidden (and it may well remain that way).  It follows that having done this, the next rung is divorce.

The Seventh Rung of the Character’s Growth Ladder

10. Reconciliation
9.   Separation
8.   Denial
7.   Disruption
6.   The reversible step into the Danger zone
5.   The first irreversible step into the Risk zone
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motivation

What does first irretrievable step mean for other characters—if they were to have their own ladders?

In terms of the protagonist, there are several interpretations.  Here is one.

In the standard mystery, where the protagonist is a detective, then this rung of the ladder would represent that action taken that exposes the protagonist’s examination of the events to the antagonist.  Here, the canon of mystery writing presents a very schematic approach to the application of the fifth rung to this other character, but this application hardly fits all writing genres.  For them, I consider:

In terms of minor characters (being neither the protagonist nor the antagonist), I will generalize how this rung is employed.

The fifth rung is about the possibility of others discovering the intentions of the character.  Abstractly, it could mean an action taken by the character that has a strong connection that can be traced back to the character.  In a family-drama, it could be the filing of divorce papers by a spouse.  This presumes that the motivation for divorce was hidden (and it may well remain that way).  It follows that having done this, the next rung is divorce.

The Sixth Rung of the Character’s Growth Ladder

10. Reconciliation
9.   Separation
8.   Denial
7.   Disruption
6.   The reversible step into the Danger zone
5.   The first irreversible step into the Risk zone
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motivation

What does first irretrievable step mean for other characters—if they were to have their own ladders?

In terms of the protagonist, there are several interpretations.  Here is one.

In the standard mystery, where the protagonist is a detective, then this rung of the ladder would represent that action taken that exposes the protagonist’s examination of the events to the antagonist.  Here, the canon of mystery writing presents a very schematic approach to the application of the fifth rung to this other character, but this application hardly fits all writing genres.  For them, I consider:

In terms of minor characters (being neither the protagonist nor the antagonist), I will generalize how this rung is employed.

The fifth rung is about the possibility of others discovering the intentions of the character.  Abstractly, it could mean an action taken by the character that has a strong connection that can be traced back to the character.  In a family-drama, it could be the filing of divorce papers by a spouse.  This presumes that the motivation for divorce was hidden (and it may well remain that way).  It follows that having done this, the next rung is divorce.

The Fifth Rung of the Character’s Growth Ladder

10. Reconciliation
9.   Separation
8.   Denial
7.   Disruption
6.   The reversible step into the Danger zone
5.   The first irreversible step into the Risk zone
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motivation

What does first irretrievable step mean for other characters—if they were to have their own ladders?

In terms of the protagonist, there are several interpretations.  Here is one.

In the standard mystery, where the protagonist is a detective, then this rung of the ladder would represent that action taken that exposes the protagonist’s examination of the events to the antagonist.  Here, the canon of mystery writing presents a very schematic approach to the application of the fifth rung to this other character, but this application hardly fits all writing genres.  For them, I consider:

In terms of minor characters (being neither the protagonist nor the antagonist), I will generalize how this rung is employed.

The fifth rung is about the possibility of others discovering the intentions of the character.  Abstractly, it could mean an action taken by the character that has a strong connection that can be traced back to the character.  In a family-drama, it could be the filing of divorce papers by a spouse.  This presumes that the motivation for divorce was hidden (and it may well remain that way).  It follows that having done this, the next rung is divorce.

The Fourth Rung of the Character’s Growth Ladder

10. Reconciliation
9.   Separation
8.   Denial
7.   Disruption
6.   The reversible step into the Danger zone
5.   The first irreversible step into the Risk zone
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motivation

What does first irretrievable step mean for other characters—if they were to have their own ladders?

In terms of the protagonist, there are several interpretations.  Here is one.

In the standard mystery, where the protagonist is a detective, then this rung of the ladder would represent that action taken that exposes the protagonist’s examination of the events to the antagonist.  Here, the canon of mystery writing presents a very schematic approach to the application of the fifth rung to this other character, but this application hardly fits all writing genres.  For them, I consider:

In terms of minor characters (being neither the protagonist nor the antagonist), I will generalize how this rung is employed.

The fifth rung is about the possibility of others discovering the intentions of the character.  Abstractly, it could mean an action taken by the character that has a strong connection that can be traced back to the character.  In a family-drama, it could be the filing of divorce papers by a spouse.  This presumes that the motivation for divorce was hidden (and it may well remain that way).  It follows that having done this, the next rung is divorce.

The Third Rung of the Character’s Growth Ladder

10. Reconciliation
9.   Separation
8.   Denial
7.   Disruption
6.   The reversible step into the Danger zone
5.   The first irreversible step into the Risk zone
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motivation

What does first irretrievable step mean for other characters—if they were to have their own ladders?

In terms of the protagonist, there are several interpretations.  Here is one.

In the standard mystery, where the protagonist is a detective, then this rung of the ladder would represent that action taken that exposes the protagonist’s examination of the events to the antagonist.  Here, the canon of mystery writing presents a very schematic approach to the application of the fifth rung to this other character, but this application hardly fits all writing genres.  For them, I consider:

In terms of minor characters (being neither the protagonist nor the antagonist), I will generalize how this rung is employed.

The fifth rung is about the possibility of others discovering the intentions of the character.  Abstractly, it could mean an action taken by the character that has a strong connection that can be traced back to the character.  In a family-drama, it could be the filing of divorce papers by a spouse.  This presumes that the motivation for divorce was hidden (and it may well remain that way).  It follows that having done this, the next rung is divorce.

The Second Rung of the Character’s Growth Ladder

10. Reconciliation
9.   Separation
8.   Denial
7.   Disruption
6.   The reversible step into the Danger zone
5.   The first irreversible step into the Risk zone
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motivation

What does first irretrievable step mean for other characters—if they were to have their own ladders?

In terms of the protagonist, there are several interpretations.  Here is one.

In the standard mystery, where the protagonist is a detective, then this rung of the ladder would represent that action taken that exposes the protagonist’s examination of the events to the antagonist.  Here, the canon of mystery writing presents a very schematic approach to the application of the fifth rung to this other character, but this application hardly fits all writing genres.  For them, I consider:

In terms of minor characters (being neither the protagonist nor the antagonist), I will generalize how this rung is employed.

The fifth rung is about the possibility of others discovering the intentions of the character.  Abstractly, it could mean an action taken by the character that has a strong connection that can be traced back to the character.  In a family-drama, it could be the filing of divorce papers by a spouse.  This presumes that the motivation for divorce was hidden (and it may well remain that way).  It follows that having done this, the next rung is divorce.

The First Rung of the Character’s Growth Ladder

10. Reconciliation
9.   Separation
8.   Denial
7.   Disruption
6.   The reversible step into the Danger zone
5.   The first irreversible step into the Risk zone
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motivation

What does the motivation step mean for other characters—if they were to have their own ladders?

If you have arrived here from the Murderer’s Ladder, then motivation could easily be anticipated as being revenge driven.  However, this does not remove that same possible drive from other characters—especially the murderer’s henchmen.

Alternatively, motivation could be inspired out of compassion … from the murderer, the murderer’s henchmen, the murdered, the investigator, others, or all.  That is to say that motivation is individual and could be as similar or as different as those individuals.  None have been put to the test of their motivation, that remains at the next step of Temptation.

As a general observation, however, most motivations can be examined and unwound to simpler motivations that arrived early in the character’s life.

Thoughts on the Use of An Author’s Inspiration

As I may have stated elsewhere, I proceed along one track alone even when I have several projects open.

This is a rare exception where I am progressing through the first of my X-Division Assignments series and I have shifted my antagonist role into a character I had originally thought of as being tertiary (not even secondary, and far from primary).  However, that shift needed to be supported by a robustness not originally built into this character.  What to do?

This is where I changed hats and approached the “what to do” problem through my seeing how The Murderer’s Ladder could fit into the scope of An Author’s Inspiration.  In that regard, I have introduced a new data file.  My current design for this character (called Smith) is found in Smith.ladder, as follows:

Smith’s motivation is due to loss in security through Soviet’s torture of brother in North Korean captivity.

Smith’s temptation to pursue revenge arrives in the form of the Soviets adding a mission in SF.

Smith establishes plan to poison Russian consul.

 

Smith is presented with an opportunity to proceed with plan through discovery of cache of lost radioactive isotopes from the early 50s.

Smith’s first irretrievable step is taken by bringing pressure upon the discoverer Hickey to conspire and keep secrets.

Smith uses a new confederate Sanderson to engage in poisoning Hickey, then an attaché for rehearsal.

Smith does not fly from the scene of conflict but instead shelters Sanderson and manipulates the crime scene.

Smith being unobstructed tries to complete the assault on the Russian consul.

Protagonist tests Smith’s false suspects for the validity of their being suspected.

Protagonist traps Smith in false, confused, or overlooked clues.

Some of this may appear cryptic (e.g. SF means San Francisco and is easily substituted in my mind), or in a contorted sentence construction (loss in security–the family was attacked through one member’s torture).  Such are the benefits and down-sides of keeping things short, but accessible.

The Murderer’s Equation: The Energy Equation of The Murderer’s Ladder

10. The necessity for eliminating the little overlooked clues and loose threads
9.   The false suspect
8.   The cover up
7.   The flight
6.   The actual killing
5.   The first irretrievable step
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motivation

The topic line is sure to provoke head scratching—it is drawn from engineering where energy is conserved or lost to entropy.  Allow that the word entropy is not one that either an engineer, writer, or reader aspires to, so all groups would be better served if they understood the dynamics of the energy flow going up the ladder.

Motivation is the well from which the murderer’s principle energy is drawn.  In all worlds, engineering and art, motivation is about energy’s source and energy’s intended use.  Energy is transferred, but its waste through neglect in the writer’s or the engineer’s craft is rarely acceptable.

What is the energy equation?

total energy = energy taken – energy used – energy lost = 0

where both the engineer and the author seek to achieve:

energy taken = energy used

energy lost = 0

How does this translate into the murderer’s ladder—rung-by-rung?

What is the murderer’s equation?

murderer’s energy = 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 – 5 – 6 – 7 – 8 – 9 – 10 = 0

As can be seen, the well of energy is deepened by rungs 2, 3, and 4; but they account for little of the total energy available to the murderer which is found at the first rung of motivation.  Temptation (rung 2) and opportunity (rung 4) are driven by chance.  The energy from these rungs are sparks compared to rung 1’s flame of motivation.  Planning (rung 3) solidifies motive, and is a greater energy contributor than rungs 2 and 4, but it is still a small amount as plans do not have the same passionate energy as does motivation.

So, what happens when we look at this part of the equation:

– 5 … – 7 – 8 – 9 – 10

Each of these rungs on the ladder drain energy that could have been spent at rung 6, the murder, where the natural source of energy is intended to being consumed.  Rung 5 is the murderer’s energy expended because the murderer did not simply thrust the knife on the first opportunity (skipping over opportunity, rung 5, and plunging on).  Rung 5 drains the energy available to perform the murder.  In all regards this amount is negligible, but can be monumental in a hesitant (under-motivated) murderer.  This hesitation, of course, could make its own story.

For some motivations, the revenge story for instance, there should be no energy available for rungs 7, 8, 9, and 10—as passions would dominate all action, and passion would be completely drained at the ultimate act at rung 6.  The passion of revenge needs no escape, no containment of evidence, no false suspect.  Thus, the revenge story would have only 5 rungs, not 10.  This would be our equation, then:

murder’s energy = 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 … – 6 = 0

However, if this is more than a story, such as a revenge epic, then an epic is larger than a single act of murder.    An epic spans time or place and consists of many actions with many sources of motivation.  This would be the story of a serial murderer.  A simple serial revenge (Hatfields vs. McCoys) might look like:

murder’s energy = 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 – 5 – 6

+ 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 – 5 – 6

+ 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 – 5 – 6 – 7 – 8 – 9 – 10 = 0

where three murders are performed after three visits to the well of motivation—and presuming surplus energy was drawn to contend with the authorities after this string of murders.  Consider that the murderer is going to the well absolutely exhausted the second and third time.

As a twist, consider the psycho’s serial murder equation:

murder’s energy = 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 – 5 + 6

+ 3 + 4 – 5 + 6

+ 3 + 4 – 5 – 6 – 7 – 8 – 9 – 10 = 0

where the psycho’s motivation comes from murders which build a surplus of energy used in subsequent murders.  The psycho’s energy does not flag because the act of murder is their second source for energy.  However, all serializations come to an end.

This structure also suggests how complex plots can be energized, and that through successive murders, the psycho might reach for stronger victims of higher energy need.  So, returning above to the psycho’s serial murder equation, the first murder had a reserve of energy afterward.  The second murder did too.  Those two reserves of energy were sufficient to accomplish the third, but the consequences were inevitable.

Case of the Missing Loose Threads

10.
9.   The false suspect
8.   The cover up
7.   The flight
6.   The actual killing
5.   The first irretrievable step
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motive

What is the murderer’s ladder without a wrap-up?

The object of missing clues and loose threads may have been resolved earlier.  This makes things (including the reader’s experience of reading) predestined.

As such, we have a predictable murderer.  There was never a mystery about who the murderer is, and the reader probably even knows the murderer’s complete ladder, instead of discovering the murderer at rung 5 or 6.

Case of the Missing False Suspect

10. The necessity for eliminating the little overlooked clues and loose threads
9.  
8.   The cover up
7.   The flight
6.   The actual killing
5.   The first irretrievable step
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motive

The False Suspect is more a convention of taste and times when it appeared.  A False Suspect is useful, but could also be an unnecessary plot elaboration.

The type of murderer that climbs past this rung in the ladder probably wouldn’t miss it.  However, an insecure murderer might be at a loss.

 

Case of the Missing Cover-Up

10. The necessity for eliminating the little overlooked clues and loose threads
9.   The false suspect
8.  
7.   The flight
6.   The actual killing
5.   The first irretrievable step
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motive

First, is a cover-up necessary?  Not for the assassin.  The false suspect provides enough distraction for a clean getaway.  No other details need addressing.

 

Case of the Missing Flight

10. The necessity for eliminating the little overlooked clues and loose threads
9.   The false suspect
8.   The cover up
7.  
6.   The actual killing
5.   The first irretrievable step
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motive

What kind of murderer does not resort to flight?  This doesn’t include the subterfuge of going to jail on a lesser crime.  No, this has remoteness built in so that flying away is unnecessary.  Does that mean the murderer sticks with the corpse?

No, this could fit the role of the master criminal murderer accomplishing murder to their plan through others.

Removing the element of remoteness, necessarily brings the murderer back into the same room with the corpse, but with the murderer now straightening up—scene building—and roping in the False Suspect (now very necessary).

Case of the Missing Murder

10. The necessity for eliminating the little overlooked clues and loose threads
9.   The false suspect
8.   The cover up
7.   The flight
6.  
5.   The first irretrievable step
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motive

What is the murderer’s ladder without a murder?

This could be found in the realm of the missing corpse.  But what if there is no suspicion of there being a corpse?  Could it be a confession to an unknown murder?  Could this be a mystical murderer?

 

Case of the Missing Irretrievable Step

10. The necessity for eliminating the little overlooked clues and loose threads
9.   The false suspect
8.   The cover up
7.   The flight
6.   The actual killing
5.  
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motive

The leap from opportunity to killing shows immediacy, and the plunge past the point of no return.

There is no hesitation in the murder, it must be a passionate murderer who does this.

Case of the Missing Opportunity

10. The necessity for eliminating the little overlooked clues and loose threads
9.   The false suspect
8.   The cover up
7.   The flight
6.   The actual killing
5.   The first irretrievable step
4.  
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motive

What is the murderer’s ladder without opportunity?  Every detective moves forward on motive, means, and opportunity being the three supports to a murder.

The first irretrievable step being a leap, without timing or blending is another mark of the amateur murderer.  Or this could be the plunge of a romantic murderer.

 

Case of the Missing Plan

10. The necessity for eliminating the little overlooked clues and loose threads
9.   The false suspect
8.   The cover up
7.   The flight
6.   The actual killing
5.   The first irretrievable step
4.   The opportunity
3.  
2.   Temptation
1.   Motive

What is the murderer’s ladder without a plan?

The opportunity is merely a second temptation, and thus falling to temptation, this must be the amateur murderer.

 

Case of the Missing Temptation

10. The necessity for eliminating the little overlooked clues and loose threads
9.   The false suspect
8.   The cover up
7.   The flight
6.   The actual killing
5.   The first irretrievable step
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.  
1.   Motive

What is the murderer’s ladder without temptation?  Every detective moves forward on the motive of the criminal, just as they count off their suspicions in that the suspect had the motive, means, and opportunity (fled the scene, resisted arrest, etc.).

This a professional murderer.  The temptation is anticipated by the motive (the need for money), and the remaining ladder steps (at least to actual murder) are expected to be performed professionally (and even the problems that may crop up during and after).

How is the professional murderer distinct from the psychotic murderer?  The professional may be psychotic; but the psychotic is not professional.

If the absence of temptation so closely hews to psychology, it could also be the hallmark of the romantic murderer.  However, this would an obsessive, romantic murderer.

The Case of the Missing Motive

10. The necessity for eliminating the little overlooked clues and loose threads
9.   The false suspect
8.   The cover up
7.   The flight
6.   The actual killing
5.   The first irretrievable step
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.

What is the murderer’s ladder without motive?  Every detective moves forward on the motive of the criminal, just as they count off their suspicions in that the suspect had the motive, means, and opportunity (fled the scene, resisted arrest, etc.).

This could be said to be the psychotic murderer’s ladder.

As the psychotic murderer has no personal stake in the murder, it must come from another source (a syndicate, or well placed or wealthy individual putting out a contract on the victim; possibly from the victim).  It might be argued that the contract price is the motivation for the murderer—but, no.  The contract’s price is simple business decision.  If a contract murderer did it for free, then there would be a motive for the murderer to deviate from business practices.

There is another perspective that comes from Strangers on a Train, by Patricia Highsmith.  There two murders are performed by swapping victims between the two murderers so that motives are lost, means are lost, and opportunities are lost when unassailable, simple alibis are provided.

 

The Necessity for Eliminating the Little Overlooked Clues and Loose Threads, the tenth rung on The Murderer’s Ladder

10. The necessity for eliminating the little overlooked clues and loose threads
9.   The false suspect
8.   The cover up
7.   The flight
6.   The actual killing
5.   The first irretrievable step
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motivation

What is the necessity about?

Loose threads have tripped up the antagonist into creating or explaining a rat’s nest of  counter-theories that fail to match up with the known facts.

This is the denouement between antagonist and protagonist.  The antagonist manipulates situations, people, and facts to try to piece together a rationale that removes the antagonist from suspicion or pursuit.

The protagonist has a complete view of the crime, and command of all the facts in a complete time-line that refuses forced insertions or deletions by the antagonist, or the antagonist’s agents.

The necessity contains the basic elements of who, what, where, when, and why.

The who: The antagonist and characters in conclusion.

The what: Examining the antagonist.

The where: Here.

The when: During the investigation.

The why: The antagonist’s need for personal distancing.

There is no more that can be done by the antagonist.

The antagonist is under absolute stress of imminent failure.  Thus, at the elemental level it engages either anger or fear.

The False Suspect, the ninth rung on The Murderer’s Ladder

10. The necessity for eliminating the little overlooked clues and loose threads
9.   The false suspect
8.   The cover up
7.   The flight
6.   The actual killing
5.   The first irretrievable step
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motivation

What is the False Suspect?

This is a character who fills many essential traits as antagonist, but not all.

In the closing rounds, there are several possible candidates, characters who could be the unknown antagonist.  Investigation, events, or competition reduces that pool.

The false suspect contains the basic elements of who, what, where, when, and why.

The who: Characters showing similarity to the antagonist.

The what: Examining each as suspect.

The where: Here.

The when: Closing the investigation.

The why: Narrow in on the antagonist.

More that may be needed is for the antagonist to argue away the loose threads that connect to the killing.

The antagonist is under a high stress of anticipation of failure.  Thus, at the elemental level it engages either anger or fear.

The Flight, the seventh rung of The Murderer’s Ladder

10. The necessity for eliminating the little overlooked clues and loose threads
9.   The false suspect
8.   The cover up
7.   The flight
6.   The actual killing
5.   The first irretrievable step
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motivation

What is the flight?

For the antagonist, flight (not necessarily escape) can vary from on-the-run if they become a suspect—to psychological distancing if the antagonist remains, but feigns innocence.

If all goes well, this is part of the antagonist’s plan that follows the commission of the crime.

If the protagonist is involved, then the antagonist may be forced to improvise.  The antagonist’s improvisations to cover up the crime and its association to them will undoubtedly include personal characteristics that conflict with the details offered in the cover up.

The flight contains the basic elements of who, what, where, when, and why.

The who: The antagonist and other characters.

The what: Distancing.

The where: Here or away.

The when: Following the killing.

The why: The antagonist’s apparent remoteness as alibi.

More that may be needed is for the antagonist to control the evidence.

The antagonist is under a high stress of near failure.  Thus, at the elemental level it engages fear.

The Actual Killing, the sixth rung of The Murderer’s Ladder

10. The necessity for eliminating the little overlooked clues and loose threads
9.   The false suspect
8.   The cover up
7.   The flight
6.   The actual killing
5.   The first irretrievable step
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motivation

What is the actual killing?

The antagonist is fully acting on the plan to completion.

This may be one of the entry points for the protagonist as witness, secondary victim, or investigator.

Here, the antagonist either moves on in obscurity through successful planning, or meets with unforeseen obstacles through which they must play it by ear, or become ensnared in their obvious fulfillment of their motivation.

If the protagonist is involved, then the antagonist may be forced to improvise.  The antagonist’s improvisations to ill-adjust the plan will undoubtedly include obscured, but personal characteristics that conflict with the details revealed in the crime’s commission.

The actual killing contains the basic elements of who, what, where, when, and why.

The who: The antagonist and the victim.

The what: Murder.

The where: Here.

The when: Now.

The why: The plan’s promise of relief.

All that is needed is for the antagonist to move away from the scene (fly, escape).

The antagonist is under the greatest stress of anticipation of discovery or capture.  Thus, at the elemental emotional level it engages either anger or fear.

The First Irretrievable Step, the fifth rung of the Murderer’s Ladder

10. The necessity for eliminating the little overlooked clues and loose threads
9.   The false suspect
8.   The cover up
7.   The flight
6.   The actual killing
5.   The first irretrievable step
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motivation

What is the first irretrievable step?

This is the point within the time-line where the antagonist’s action cannot be taken back.

This step may not involve the actual commission of the act necessary to supply the needs of the antagonist’s motivation.  However, this step, if observed, will reveal motivation or the goal behind motivation.

The first irretrievable step contains the basic elements of who, what, where, when, and why.

The who: All the characters are in their societal roles.

The what: All have convergent motivations.

The where: Here.  The stage is set.

The when: Now.  The curtain is about to rise.

The why: Pain is still near and relief might be achievable.

All that is needed is for the antagonist to engage the plan fully.

The antagonist is under the greatest stress of anticipation of success or failure.  Thus, at the elemental level it engages either joy or fear.

The Opportunity, the fourth rung of The Murderer’s Ladder

10. The necessity for eliminating the little overlooked clues and loose threads
9.   The false suspect
8.   The cover up
7.   The flight
6.   The actual killing
5.   The first irretrievable step
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motivation

What is opportunity?

It is a new or repeated temptation that fits into the plan, but is yet to be completely acted upon.

Given a good plan, when opportunity arises, the antagonist can be assured that the wheels of the plan will turn smoothly and lead to the fulfillment of motivation’s needs.

Opportunity contains the basic elements of who, what, where, when, and why.

The who: All the characters are in their societal roles.

The what: All have convergent motivations.

The where: Here.  The stage is set.

The when: Now.  The curtain is about to rise.

The why: Pain is still near and relief is achievable.

All that is needed is for the antagonist to enact the plan.

The antagonist is under the subdued stress of anticipation of success or failure.  Thus, at the elemental emotional level it engages joy (because the motivation pay-off is possible).

The Plan, the third rung of The Murderer’s Ladder

10. The necessity for eliminating the little overlooked clues and loose threads
9.   The false suspect
8.   The cover up
7.   The flight
6.   The actual killing
5.   The first irretrievable step
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motivation

The plan is the structuring of motivation to use the components of temptation to anticipate probable opportunity.

The plan needs to cover the who, what, where, why, and when of action.

The who: the antagonist and temptable characters.

The why and what: found where the motivations of the antagonist and tempted characters converge.

The where and when: as observed in the temptation

What is needed next is an opportunity that looks much like the temptation that was offered in rung 2.

The antagonist is under a modest stress of optimism where temptation proves there are opportunities.  Thus, at the elemental level, planning engages the emotion of joy.

The Cover Up, the eighth rung on The Murderer’s Ladder

10. The necessity for eliminating the little overlooked clues and loose threads
9. The false suspect
8. The cover up
7. The flight
6. The actual killing
5. The first irretrievable step
4. The opportunity
3. The plan
2. Temptation
1. Motivation

What is the cover up?

This is work on diminishing all connections of the antagonist to the crime.

If the protagonist is involved, then the antagonist may be forced to improvise.  The antagonist’s improvisations to cover up the crime and its association to them will undoubtedly include personal characteristics that conflict with the details offered in the cover up.

The cover up contains the basic elements of who, what, where, when, and why.

The who: The antagonist and characters in pursuit.

The what: Examining the evidence.

The where: Here.

The when: During the investigation.

The why: The antagonist’s need for evidential distancing.

More that may be needed is for the antagonist to frame a character as suspect.

The antagonist is under a high stress of anticipation of success or failure.  Thus, at the elemental level it engages fear.

Temptation, the second rung of The Murderer’s Ladder

10. The necessity for eliminating the little overlooked clues and loose threads
9.   The false suspect
8.   The cover up
7.   The flight
6.   The actual killing
5.   The first irretrievable step
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motivation

What is temptation?

It is the imagining of motivation’s needs being fulfilled.

Temptation, as a social interaction observed by the antagonist, contains the necessary elements to lead to the antagonist’s preferred outcome.  Those elements are the who, what, where, why, and when.

The who: characters that can act on the antagonist’s needs.

The what: needs of the characters that mirror those of the antagonist.

The where: the setting of the characters’ social interaction is suited to the antagonist’s preferred setting.

The why: the characters display flaws (their own motivations) that can be manipulated.

The when: the characters’ social interaction exhibits a problem that is not isolated in time, it remains unsolved, and it can resurface later to the antagonist’s advantage.

The antagonist’s observed social interaction’s outcome may not be the preferred one, but the antagonist appreciates the temptation of being able to prompt the characters, stage the setting, and direct the action.  This only requires planning.

The antagonist is under a modest positive stress (eustress) of release.  Thus, at the elemental level it engages joy.

Motivation, the first rung of The Murderer’s Ladder

10. The necessity for eliminating the little overlooked clues and loose threads
9.   The false suspect
8.   The cover up
7.   The flight
6.   The actual killing
5.   The first irretrievable step
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motivation

What is motivation?

Emotional energy to apply toward fulfilling needs.

Motivation contains the elements of who, what, where, when, and why.

Who: The antagonist—or any character.

What: Unfulfilled need.

Where: Here.

When: Now.

Why: Pain is always near.

What is needed next is for the antagonist’s motivation to be engaged through the observation of social interaction that fulfills needs and supplies a model of movement.

For my purposes in writing espionage fiction, the CIA has already done my work for me in a clever report called The Psychology of Treason.

Defector’s Motivation

  • Motivation comes from outside and personal character traits are magnified by the crisis of despair.

  • Defection is seldom ideology based, and then only in the form of nationalism or religion.

  • Benefit comes from opportunity to counterattack, to get even, to get vengeance and justification.

  • Principal motivation can be found in problem areas: marital, mistress, wrong sexual preference, drinking, gambling, money, career.

  • Subordinate motivation described as “having been passed over,” disregarded, humiliated, about to be arrested for a common crime (embezzling), being jilted. Each crisis is measured in terms of appropriate age and experience.

The material above is equally applicable to other antagonist psychologies (returning to murder, or family drama).

The antagonist is under a modest to intense stress of anxiety.  Thus, at the elemental level it engages either fear, anger, or disgust.  However, as a matter of the antagonist (or any character for that matter) coming to becoming filled with motivation, the experience is energizing.

Erle Stanley Gardner’s “Murderer’s Ladder”

This discussion comes from the work Secrets of the World’s Best-Selling Writer, by Francis L. Fugate and Roberta B. Fugate, which describes the writing strategy of Erle Stanley Gardner through his novel writing phase of his long writing career.

The premise is that in writing the story from the protagonist’s point of view, the antagonist’s driving force is largely underdeveloped or developed just enough to only serve the author’s needs to propel the plot.  The unstated problem is that this can lead to complexity and elaboration that does not serve the plot or the reading.

Where does complexity and elaboration come into this, and why is it a problem?  These characteristics, which in any novel may be a qualities to hope for, often arrive unplanned in revisions and re-writes where clues and time-lines are backfilled in clumsily.  The appearance of a forced ending is also evidence of this clumsiness.

How did Gardner solve this for himself?  He codified antagonist character development programmatically in The Murderer’s Ladder.  Writers should recognize this as a back-story for the villain.  There are ten rungs on his ladder, the bottom-most is motivation.  At some point in the development of the antagonist’s side of the story, they will climb this ladder rung by rung until they reach the commission of an act that cannot be undone, and would reveal the crime in progress.  It is the point of no return.  The villain is committed even if the crime has not been fully performed.  Rather than describing the rungs fully (which I will do in succeeding posts), the following is the architecture where the entry point is at the bottom, with rung 1:

10. The necessity for eliminating the little overlooked clues and loose threads
9.   The false suspect
8.   The cover up
7.   The flight
6.   The actual killing
5.   The first irretrievable step
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motivation

For the writer who is seeing this for the first time: although you are preparing a rough story out of these ten rungs, your own novel may enter anywhere—probably at step six, or soon before or after.

Although what I have offered is generally the substance of the topic, The Murderer’s Ladder, that is posted across the web, for me it is insufficient.  That said, I will embark upon posting an article for each rung to examine the intent of these ten key words and key phrases.

An Author’s Inspiration Development Journal Entry 7

The state of design has reached a moment exhibiting either an abundance of opportunity, or an abundance of clutter.

If this sounds bad, it isn’t.  The abundance is manageable through thoughtful editing where poverty is more difficult to reverse through forced creation.  My design of An Author’s Inspiration makes few demands for data entry by the writer, but at this stage, I have more options to fulfill than I have reasons to use them.

So, the question to answer is do I march forward into what might be a baroque design, or do I sit back and trim it down into a straightforward one?

To the writer, it may seem that the few configuration files available for editing don’t carry much material.  By number, for instance, the character files do have 20 entries to fill in.  19 of those 20 are single word  or numeric entries.  This amounts to two or three sentences, tops, for the writer to characterize their characters.  Then there is the 20th entry which could easily top this several times over with a character sketch; however, it barely tips the scale in outline generation.

The inspiration of An Author’s Inspiration is that in those 19 entries, their combinations as keys to character analysis bring the abundance of psychological revelation.  I have to be careful that this abundance does not fatigue the writer with too many emotional twists.  When it comes to two characters being considered within a beat, this promises to raise the stakes 19-fold.  Considering the full set of characters within a beat raises the stakes further which could render a novel-length outline.

To this point in the design, it has been focused on the Point Of View character, typically the protagonist, but An Author’s Inspiration is agnostic here, and should be able to present the antagonist with equanimity.  What I am saying here is that An Author’s Inspiration should present an authentic psychological vision of any character that is consistent with the writer’s description of them in 20 entries.

However, each character carries a suite of buddies, friends, and one loathsome individual that they are sensitive too.  So far I’ve done nothing with that association, but in every beat there is the possibility of their contributions to the character’s motivations add in complex ways.  Do I compound all their stress contributions into one?  And if I do, how does this risk in upsetting the expected narrative arc?

Another way of approaching this crowd of supporting characters is to simply provide each with their own response to the situation, and abandon the complexity of combining them into one expression of tension and its resolution within the beat.  This last may be achievable if, in fact, the user of An Author’s Inspiration would find it useful.