It's way, way too soon for me to do anything with this, but I'm putting the ideas down now.
There are aspects of this whole bombing-manhunt-thing that can be lifted for fiction, and gaming, and things like that. My mind is already looking at ways that you could take the outlines of this thing and turn it into genre fiction of types.
Not going to do it now, of course, not for some time, and even then only with the serial numbers filed off HARD so as not to stomp on anyone's emotions. But the ideas are going on now, so I'm writing them down now. And in public, so, if you're the kind of person who likes this sort of thing, feel free to read and "play along", as it were. I reiterate -- it's too soon to actually USE this stuff for entertainment. But I feel okay putting it down for future reference.
So, a few months ago, I started playing FIASCO, and also watching more "fiasco genre movies." To repeat the definitions: a "fiasco movie" is a movie in which a bunch of people who think they're smarter than they are decide to do something stupid, and then things go to hell. The characters start in over their heads and then start sinking fast.
The Coen brothers do these, as does Guy Ritche. And others. Some titles: A FISH CALLED WANDA, LOCK STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS, ROCK'N'ROLLA, THE BANK JOB, FARGO, IN BRUGES, KISS KISS BANG BANG. I'm sure you can fill in a dozen more. There is backstabbing, tragic flaws, just plain dumb luck, and things getting worse and worse for the characters as things go on. At the end, some characters may be scott-free, some may be dead, maybe EVERYBODY is dead or in prison or stuck in Brazil being hunted by the CIA, living in Rio with millions of dollars in stolen diamonds, or whatever. No way to tell at the beginning.
The game FIASCO is a co-operative storytelling game where you create a story in this genre, and so I've been thinking a lot about this style of story.
And I just keep seeing ways that the Tsarnaev brothers' story could fit into this framework.
Now I'm going into fiction-mode. These are things that the reports on the brothers made me imagine, not things that exist.
Let's start with imagining that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a lifelong loser who managed to knock up a woman, get married, had an unhappy marriage with a baby that he couldn't deal with, and retreated into some form of radical Islam, picked up some Islamist ideas. Blue-collar college dropout, good boxer, tends to the violent, not completely stable.
That's a pretty standard fiasco-genre-move character trope, yes?
Now let's imagine Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as a bright-eyed college student, happy, well-adjusted. Act 1 is his brother coming to him, and Dzhokhar getting sucked into Tamerlan's crazy. Dzhohar keeps just doing ONE more little thing to keep his brother from getting in TOO much trouble, Tamerlan keeps guilting Dzhokhar into doing just ONE more little favor... another pretty standard genre trope. Act 1 ends with Dzhokhar planting bombs at the Marathon, having been sucked completely into this murder plan. And they get away clean, and breathe a sigh of relief.
Act 2 starts with their faces being plastered all over the news -- the first "turn" of the plot. And they start working out how to hide out. They're laying low, working out how to get out of town, things are pretty stable. They're in the MIT neighborhood, nobody's spotted them.
And then a cop car pulls up right next to them. Responding to a completely unrelated armed robbery.
And this is the REAL twist that kicks Act 2 into high gear: Tamerlan assumes that the cop is there for them, and straight-up murders the guy. (In reality, of course, we have no idea which of them killed Officer Collier or why. I'm making up a scenario that would fit into this genre.) This is the mistake that turns the "lie low and escape" plan into the absolute clusterfuck -- from the point of view of the Tsarnaevs -- that ensues. Act 2 continues with the action sequences of carjackings, gunfights, another officer shot -- and ends with Tamerlan's death by being LITERALLY hoist by his own petard. Dzhokhar flees.
Act 3 is him on the run from EVERY SINGLE POLICE OFFICER IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. Ending with his capture, and either trial and conviction, or death by injuries sustained; don't know yet.
That is the framework of a fiasco movie right there. To work as fiction, you need to keep Dzhokhar reasonably sympathetic throughout the plot, and keep Tamerlan kind of sympathetic for at least the beginning of the first act. Obviously, the audience will not, CAN not have sympathy for Tamerlan by the time that he murders Officer Collier -- the question is "can you make Dzhokhar into a victim of Tamerlan's crazy" and keep some sympathy with him?