THE DETECTIVE SCRIPT: PART ONE
The Detective Script is so named because the protagonist is a detective. About 25% of the time he’s a private detective. If the detective works for a city, about 75% of the time it’s New York.
The detective is almost always (90%) divorced or separated. Otherwise, he’s a widower. If the detective is married and she’s still alive, his wife will (90%) become a victim of the antagonist, or at least be menaced.
If the detective is divorced or separated, there is very frequently (80%) a kid involved. The child always lives with the mother; the detective might have visitation. If there is a kid involved, then it’s 90% likely the detective owes the mother money: back child support, their share of schooling or medical, etc.
The detective almost always (90%) has a drinking problem. If he’s divorced or separated, then the drinking was a big factor in the split. The detective is likely (75%) trying to dry out. If the detective is trying to dry out, then there is a concurrent 75% chance he will fall off the wagon at plot point two. If he doesn’t fall off the wagon, there is still a 90% chance he will be sorely tempted. (The scene is typically the detective sitting in a bar, staring at a shot of whiskey). If the detective has a drinking problem and is also a widower, he’s currently drinking too much, and it’s in reaction to the grief over having lost the spouse.
The detective often has a partner. About 75% of the time the detective “likes to work alone,” but the department forces a partner on him. About 90% of the time this character is younger and more straight-laced and by-the-book. If the detective has an existing partner, this partner is usually a crass, sloppy guy who likes to swear a lot. There is a good chance (60%) we’ll get a scene in which he eats a meatball sub. If the antagonist is a Killer, the Killer will usually (75%) murder the partner around plot point two.
The typical detective deals with two types of antagonist: The Killer, and the Corrupt Public Leader. Since SEVEN hit in 1997, there have been one million thriller specs written about a detective chasing a serial killer. This killer has a kooky M.O. about 95% of the time: Killings based on nursery rhymes, etc. There is a 20% chance the killer is supernatural in nature (a vampire, alien, demon, etc.)
The Killer likes to taunt our protagonist; it’s likely (95%) we’ll get at least one scene in which the Killer says to the protagonist “We’re not so different, you and I” (or some variation thereof).
In the climax, the detective will confront the Killer in a gloomy location, with an 80% chance of thunder showers. There is a 95% chance the Killer will either a) die by falling from a height or b) be getting ready to murder someone when another character shoots him.
In Part 2 we’ll talk about the Corrupt Public Leader.