Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Write Away: S is for Sidekick and Subpoena

Welcome back to the April A-Z challenge in which I am posting 26 days of mystery terms for mystery and crime fiction authors.

S is rich with options for today’s post. I rejected sleuth because I already detailed sleuths on D-Day (the other D-Day). I also felt I had covered suspect enough in previous posts.

Suicide-by-cop remained a possibility right up to the writing of this post. There are two kinds of suicide-by-cop: the one you probably think of (a suspect who draws/appears to draw a weapon on the police so they will kill him) and the scenario of the police officer who kills himself. Since I recently wrote this post on suicide-by-cop, I decided not to take it on again so soon.

That left me with the two options in the title.

Sidekicks are really important in certain subgenre mysteries. But even if not intimately involved, almost all mystery and crime fiction has a sidekick, a counterpoint character necessary to the crime solving or involving.

The sidekick character (or sometimes characters) allows the sleuth to discuss the crime, tries to hold the sleuth back from rash actions, and sometimes is the reason the sleuth is involved at all.

We all know our sleuths strengths and limitations. We designed them as specific personalities. When designing sidekicks for my culinary mystery series, I made a list of personality traits and quirks and aspects for my detective. Then, next to each I listed an opposite trait, when possible. That list of opposites is what I mine when creating counterpoint characters, sidekicks, for my heroine, Alli.

The main sidekick for all the books in the series is Gina, best friend since elementary
school and current partner in their personal chef business. Like sisters, these two have an extreme closeness which allows for problems when they are in a significant disagreement or misunderstanding situation. Alli is impulsive; Gina is reflective. Alli is so creative and intuitive she misses steps; Gina is methodical so she sometimes doesn’t see the big picture.

I also use other minor sidekicks to illustrate other aspects, good and bad, of my detective’s personality. Alli has a police officer on-again, off-again boyfriend. She makes friends with an investigative reporter. She colludes with Gina’s mother and best friend behind Gina’s back. Sidekicks allow for the flawed detective to succeed.

I see my sidekicks as completing the detective. They mesh, each satisfying things missing in the other. Together the sidekick and detective are better than each alone.

Subpoena is both a noun and a verb. It is a writ (formal written command) ordering someone/something to court or it summons someone/something to court. You can get a subpoena or be subpoenaed. The term comes from Latin sub poena which means “under penalty.”

The “b” is silent, and the “oe” is pronounced like the long e in “keep”--suhpeenuh. Don’t ask me why as I have no clue. In other sub- words, the “b” is voiced.

A subpoena is used to get someone to court to testify or it is used to compel evidence be produced. The most common types of subpoenas are subpoena ad testificandum and subpoena duces tecum. The first orders a person to testify or be punished. The second requires physical evidence be produced or be punished.

Subpoenas are issued by a clerk of the court (my son is currently clerking, so I know that doesn’t mean a secretary) in the name of the judge. Court rules may also allow attorneys, as officers of the court, to issue subpoenas to compel testimony. You’ve seen the scene dozens of times: A process server posing as a floral delivery guy asks, “Are you Joe Schmoe?” At the yes response, the delivery guy hands him the subpoena, not flowers, and says, “You’ve been served.”

What is Frieda’s response to Mort’s bombshell? 

            She breathed a sigh of relief. There would be no degradation. There was no “other woman”. She hadn’t expected of herself that she would want to hold onto Mort. In fact, she thought of him so rarely that she was frankly surprised she even wanted to figure out what was causing his defection at this late stage. But at least she wouldn’t be humiliated by a replacement woman one-third her age. Still, she had her image to consider. She willed her fingers to relax and cradled one hand in the palm of the other as she considered how to manage the situation. Because she would manage this.

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