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(Fark)   "Objection." "Overruled." "Sustained." "What?" "Overruled." "You can't overrule me, I'm the judge." "Bailiff, club that man." This is your Weekly Writer's Thread, Courtroom Drama Edition   (fark.com) divider line
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149 clicks; posted to Discussion » and Main » on 20 Nov 2019 at 4:30 PM (26 weeks ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook



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2019-11-20 3:56:29 PM  
The latest thing contributing to my lack of progress in terms of writing is the public impeachment hearings, which aren't actually legal proceedings so much as they are political theater, but still make for fairly riveting watching anyway.  I'll admit I know next to nothing about how actual courtroom proceedings work, other than from television and all the times I get tossed out of jury duty.  Apparently, lawyers take one look at me and decide I'm a loose cannon or something.

That said, I'm pretty sure I could draft a convincing courtroom scene if I needed one in a story, just by going off of television dramas like Law and Order (Dunn Dunn!)  This belief is kind of backed up by the fact that I've written what amounted to a police procedural, and had reader comments that said it was believable, while knowing nothing about how police actually work in the real world other than that time when I was . . . well, let's just say alcohol was involved and leave it at that.

How do you approach writing something you know little about?  Do you do intensive research, or do you wing it in the idea that a good story trumps all?  Have you ever had to go back and change something after finding out that no, Judges are not allowed to have lawyers shot for being irritating or anything similar?

NaNoWriMo Update!

Again, I'm not actually participating in NaNoWriMo this year, but if you are, let us know how it's going!

Fark Fiction Anthology Update!

Actual update news!  We have a first pass at a final, publishable package up for review.  We're looking it over now, and if we don't find any major issues, all we'll have to do is put the final touches of the art and get a proof printed.  If that's good, we should be ready to go soon™.  It's looking very solid for us to have this up on Amazon in the first half of December.  Knock on wood.  Or gavel on wood, I guess.
 
2019-11-20 4:41:00 PM  
A hush fell over the courtroom, injuring six ...
 
2019-11-20 5:06:40 PM  

toraque: How do you approach writing something you know little about?  Do you do intensive research, or do you wing it in the idea that a good story trumps all?  Have you ever had to go back and change something after finding out that no, Judges are not allowed to have lawyers shot for being irritating or anything similar?


I try to do some research, but I've realized that writing mostly scifi has given me the advantage that it doesn't really have to be as accurate, because we're talking about totally fictional scenarios. Was going to consult my cousin's husband, a cop, for the police questioning scene at the end of my 2018 FFA story, and then I realized that fictionalized time-travel police don't have to be realistic at all.

/Did a lot of research on the 1996 Olympics, abandoned buildings in Atlanta, and the then-current status and expected future of Necco Wafers for that story
 
2019-11-20 5:09:37 PM  

Fireproof: I try to do some research, but I've realized that writing mostly scifi has given me the advantage that it doesn't really have to be as accurate, because we're talking about totally fictional scenarios.


Ooh, plus my three FFA stories have been partially based on real job experiences I've had. The first one working retail as a college summer job, the second as being a cruise ship crew member, and the third as being a seasonal UPS delivery helper.
 
2019-11-20 5:12:03 PM  
I've been writing fanfic (Worm fandom), not original fic.  I have a plan for an ofic story, just... eh.

Plus side, I've been posting about 7k/week for most of a month.  Except last week.  Now I even have a buffer!
 
2019-11-20 5:12:42 PM  
I do extensive research but I wouldn't recommend it. I do it for my own satisfaction but look at what sells these days. Stories don't have to be realistic or even coherent, and in fact it will probably hurt your sales.
 
2019-11-20 5:26:30 PM  

toraque: That said, I'm pretty sure I could draft a convincing courtroom scene if I needed one in a story, just by going off of television dramas like Law and Order (Dunn Dunn!)  This belief is kind of backed up by the fact that I've written what amounted to a police procedural, and had reader comments that said it was believable, while knowing nothing about how police actually work in the real world other than that time when I was . . . well, let's just say alcohol was involved and leave it at that.

How do you approach writing something you know little about?  Do you do intensive research, or do you wing it in the idea that a good story trumps all?  Have you ever had to go back and change something after finding out that no, Judges are not allowed to have lawyers shot for being irritating or anything similar?


Writing a story that sounds believable to a layman is easy, because we're all at least trained on the media we already consume.  So long as your story reads like what you imagine police procedure actually looks like based on your experience with police procedurals, it will sound truthy.  But you also won't be able to break any really new ground, because your story will only be believable to the extent it is totally consistent with the general pool of common knowledge about that thing.  Your hacker guy has to say "I'm in." The DNA lab has to put their results into a machine that scrolls through mugshots like a Rolodex until it lands on your suspect.  The killer always tearfully confesses on the stand.

Most lawyers I know tend to avoid lawyer shows for exactly that reason.  And lawyers like the shows and movies that avoid those tropes.  You know what is universally regarded by lawyers as the best lawyer movie of the modern era?  A Time to Kill?  Nah.  The Pelican Brief?  Nope. It's My Cousin Vinny.  That movie realistically addresses discovery, evidentiary objections, questioning of witnesses, expert voir dire and a bunch of other things that lawyer shows and movies almost never talk about.  It's an enduring classic and no true lawyer will disagree with that.
 
2019-11-20 5:58:28 PM  
Aaron Sorkin couldn't think up anything even approaching what's going on right now in DC.
 
2019-11-20 7:00:16 PM  
My NaNo story got derailed because I ran straight into a wall at a description of a boat.

Seriously. A boat.

I don't know why I even give lip service to NaNo anymore. I've criticized it in the past. Going by the save dates on my existing stories, it looks like my best month for drafting is in February, not November. (Probably just as winter boredom sets in.) And with three books in print, it's not like I have anything to prove.

But I do know that if your planned 120,000 word science fiction epic runs aground on page 24 over the description of a freight barge, there are probably issues that won't be overcome simply by appropriately describing a freight barge. I also know that not being in the headspace for the story right this very second is not the same as never being in the headspace for this story. It's just more a February story than a November one.

I do know that NaNo results in my writing a lot of hot garbage that I usually ensure will never see the light of day because I still have a shred of self-respect and I want to keep it.
 
2019-11-20 8:20:36 PM  
I got my Journalism degree after three semesters of court reporting on the campus cop caught pilfering parking meters to the tune of $250,000 a year for at least 7 years. At sentencing his attorney told of his client's  years of valuable contributions to society, "Well, except for this one unfortunate experience," which occurred every single day for 7 years.

That attorney always said, "No comment," after each court date, so to make my articles "fair and balanced" I had to quote from his paperwork filed with the court. One day he filed a motion to dismiss evidence found by search warrant, originally based on a fellow officer's snooping which the attorney claimed was an illegal search, giving the subsequent investigation the "taint of the fruit of the poisonous tree". So I got to write headlines like, "Defense attorney deplores officer's poisonous Taint." Good times.

More recent news:
I covered Biden's recent town hall meeting for my smallville newspaper.
I took a selfie!
Fark user imageView Full Size
 
2019-11-20 10:38:04 PM  

Nuuu: Most lawyers I know tend to avoid lawyer shows for exactly that reason.  And lawyers like the shows and movies that avoid those tropes.  You know what is universally regarded by lawyers as the best lawyer movie of the modern era?  A Time to Kill?  Nah.  The Pelican Brief?  Nope. It's My Cousin Vinny.  That movie realistically addresses discovery, evidentiary objections, questioning of witnesses, expert voir dire and a bunch of other things that lawyer shows and movies almost never talk about.  It's an enduring classic and no true lawyer will disagree with that.


Love that movie, but there is a problem with that scene. Vinnie calls her to the stand to testify, because she's a car expert and can work out and explain why the kids car could not have made those tyre tracks. Which is great.

But how did Vinne know that? He wasn't a car expert. So how did HE work out that the car couldn't have made those tracks and know that he should call his GF to the stand? Yes, there was the scene with the car stuck in the mud but how would he know that his cousin's car wasn't different or that another car would be?

But the scene works dramatically, so it gets a pass. The Al Capone movie The Untouchables where shocking evidence is revealed in court and Capone's lawyer changes his plea to guilty, over Capone's objections!
The final scene in A Few Good Men, another great court scene, has two (supposed) witness sitting in court before the are called to give their testimony, which is not allowed.
So if you write a fantastic scene, but you have to bend the rules to make it work, do it.
 
2019-11-21 8:43:37 AM  

Nuuu: toraque: That said, I'm pretty sure I could draft a convincing courtroom scene if I needed one in a story, just by going off of television dramas like Law and Order (Dunn Dunn!)  This belief is kind of backed up by the fact that I've written what amounted to a police procedural, and had reader comments that said it was believable, while knowing nothing about how police actually work in the real world other than that time when I was . . . well, let's just say alcohol was involved and leave it at that.

How do you approach writing something you know little about?  Do you do intensive research, or do you wing it in the idea that a good story trumps all?  Have you ever had to go back and change something after finding out that no, Judges are not allowed to have lawyers shot for being irritating or anything similar?

Writing a story that sounds believable to a layman is easy, because we're all at least trained on the media we already consume.  So long as your story reads like what you imagine police procedure actually looks like based on your experience with police procedurals, it will sound truthy.  But you also won't be able to break any really new ground, because your story will only be believable to the extent it is totally consistent with the general pool of common knowledge about that thing.  Your hacker guy has to say "I'm in." The DNA lab has to put their results into a machine that scrolls through mugshots like a Rolodex until it lands on your suspect.  The killer always tearfully confesses on the stand.

Most lawyers I know tend to avoid lawyer shows for exactly that reason.  And lawyers like the shows and movies that avoid those tropes.  You know what is universally regarded by lawyers as the best lawyer movie of the modern era?  A Time to Kill?  Nah.  The Pelican Brief?  Nope. It's My Cousin Vinny.  That movie realistically addresses discovery, evidentiary objections, questioning of witnesses, expert voir dire and a bunch of other things that lawyer shows and ...


I agree with this.  My Cousin Vinny is pretty good.  When I went to law school, it was a good choice to watch with other students - along with the Paper Chase.

Going back to literature, Grisham's early works were decent - his movies are a bit over the top which isn't his fault.  His book, Rainmaker, is my favorite of his works.

I enjoy reading Rumpole of the Bailey, but that's a different legal system, although the office politics resonate pretty well.  And of course, it's damn funny stuff.

The best book I've read regarding lawyers and the legal system is A Class Action.  The movie was decent, but the book was absolutely excellent and truly accurate about the risks of burning out as a litigator and the finances of going against the large defense firms, and some of the tactics in litigation.
 
2019-11-21 11:19:31 AM  

Carter Pewterschmidt: The final scene in A Few Good Men, another great court scene, has two (supposed) witness sitting in court before the are called to give their testimony, which is not allowed.


Happens more often than you think.  Lawyers forget to invoke The Rule.  If they don't invoke it then there is no problem.  Also, The Rule doesn't apply to many sorts of witnesses, such as expert witnesses.  There was a recent appellate case that hinged upon the failure to invoke The Rule.
 
2019-11-21 1:58:59 PM  

Carter Pewterschmidt: Love that movie, but there is a problem with that scene. Vinnie calls her to the stand to testify, because she's a car expert and can work out and explain why the kids car could not have made those tyre tracks. Which is great.

But how did Vinne know that? He wasn't a car expert. So how did HE work out that the car couldn't have made those tracks and know that he should call his GF to the stand?


I haven't seen the movie and have no idea what you're talking about, but it's quite possible they filmed some dialogue rationalizing that and the director decided it was too pedantic or bogged down the action or no one would care, so it got cut.  That happens all the time, where a movie has some leap of logic that the screenwriter had painfully detailed but wound up on the cutting-room floor[1] for dumb reasons.

[1]  These days, cleaning the cutting room floor is a lot easier since all they need to do is vacuum up the bits.
 
2019-11-21 2:01:48 PM  

RussianPotato: Carter Pewterschmidt: The final scene in A Few Good Men, another great court scene, has two (supposed) witness sitting in court before the are called to give their testimony, which is not allowed.

Happens more often than you think.  Lawyers forget to invoke The Rule.  If they don't invoke it then there is no problem.  Also, The Rule doesn't apply to many sorts of witnesses, such as expert witnesses.  There was a recent appellate case that hinged upon the failure to invoke The Rule.


Last time I was in court it was as a witness.  I was seated right next to the defendants, who were loudly discussing me an a threatening manner.
 
2019-11-21 2:28:59 PM  

Creepy Lurker Guy: Carter Pewterschmidt: Love that movie, but there is a problem with that scene. Vinnie calls her to the stand to testify, because she's a car expert and can work out and explain why the kids car could not have made those tyre tracks. Which is great.

But how did Vinne know that? He wasn't a car expert. So how did HE work out that the car couldn't have made those tracks and know that he should call his GF to the stand?

I haven't seen the movie and have no idea what you're talking about, but it's quite possible they filmed some dialogue rationalizing that and the director decided it was too pedantic or bogged down the action or no one would care, so it got cut.  That happens all the time, where a movie has some leap of logic that the screenwriter had painfully detailed but wound up on the cutting-room floor[1] for dumb reasons.

[1]  These days, cleaning the cutting room floor is a lot easier since all they need to do is vacuum up the bits.


It took Vinny six tries to pass the bar.  In the mean time he was working as a mechanic.  At one point he analogizes his bad hearing performance to fixing a carburetor.  They give you enough material in the movie for you to know that Vinny is as much of a car expert as Mona is.

That's another realistic point.  Generally speaking, the lawyer has the same or better knowledge of the science as the expert does, at least as it relates to that specific case.  But you can't put the lawyer on the stand to tell the jury all the science he learned specifically to prove his client correct.  So the lawyer gets an expert to do it instead.
 
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