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Planning a Heist

Alex Richards

A musical Hubble Space Telescope
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Published by SLP
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Derbyshire
I think to some extent 'heist' is just sort of assumed to be another word for 'plan for criminal activity', which probably explains the confusion here.
 

Fenwick

Well-known member
Published by SLP
Which is fine. Yet when you say "heist" story there tends to be specific elements which go alongside it. An example of this to me is a recent film called Hustlers. More then one critic said it was "Ocean's Eleven" for women (seemingly ignoring Ocean's Eight) or "a fine heist film for a Friday" by the LA Times. Yet the film is about strippers who drug their clients and rob them blind by overcharging their credit cards cause "they are rich and will never admit to being robbed by a woman." I think most familiar with, even if they dislike, Ocean's 11 would agree that is in no way the film.

Now the film explained above is a crime film. So is Goodfellas, so is Wolf of Wall Street, and so is the film Ronin with Robert DeNiro. Yet Heist has somewhat specific narrative elements to it. Look it up for a moment, and you will see that when you have a heist as the focus of the story that is different then a crime. In the article I spoke of what is basically an embezzlement scheme.

A heist is the Brinks Robbery or the Great Train Heist or Baker Street robbery. Now we can differ on the terms but as a genre of crime literature and media it has specific tropes. A wide range of characters who are colorful in someway and the focus is more action oriented as compared to more social or psychological crimes like a con.
 

Charles EP M.

Well-known member
Published by SLP
Kermode's Secrets of Cinema did a whole episode on the heist film and its tropes, one I remember being 'you establish the plan in advance so when they're actually doing it, it can go wrong'
 

Fenwick

Well-known member
Published by SLP
Kermode's Secrets of Cinema did a whole episode on the heist film and its tropes, one I remember being 'you establish the plan in advance so when they're actually doing it, it can go wrong'
The one part of that which I am annoyed by is when pre-heist someone goes "THEY CHANGED THE LOCKS!" or something. So all the planning fails.

I like when things go wrong during the Heist. As it is adds more suspense to the moment.
 

Tabac Iberez

Impetious
Published by SLP
@Fenwick I think your various "plan a crime" threads would work better as one big thread, since I completely missed the 'plot a heist' one popping up, and it takes me a day or two to get the plan together.
 

David Flin

Real people take priority over imaginary people
I remember being 'you establish the plan in advance so when they're actually doing it, it can go wrong'
Well, that's a truism for any fiction of any type. If the plan is shown in advance, then something has to go wrong, or else the reader/audience gets the same thing twice. If you are going to maintain tension, you simply can't let the reader know in advance what's going to happen.

Heist, rom-com, action adventure, whatever. The only time you spell the plan out is when it goes wrong.
 

Charles EP M.

Well-known member
Published by SLP
Well, that's a truism for any fiction of any type. If the plan is shown in advance, then something has to go wrong, or else the reader/audience gets the same thing twice.
True, but it was presented as show-the-plan-crap-it-failed has become a standard trope for the genre that we see the plan (to buy that these guys can do a heist) which then is undone (for the tension). I don't think it's as common for others?
 

Fenwick

Well-known member
Published by SLP
Well, that's a truism for any fiction of any type. If the plan is shown in advance, then something has to go wrong, or else the reader/audience gets the same thing twice. If you are going to maintain tension, you simply can't let the reader know in advance what's going to happen.

Heist, rom-com, action adventure, whatever. The only time you spell the plan out is when it goes wrong.
Some handle this by having smaller crimes occur with failure before the "big one." So it establishes the "skill" of the thieves. More over it tends to be used when "we are professionals" is deemed the key feature of the group. Failure being unexpected because the expectation tends to be that one fails are the large scale crime and not the small one.

Six guys stealing millions in diamonds ending up in a shoot out with three dead and one wounded while trying to steal a machine to cut through a vault door is hardly expected.

I do enjoy that to an extent. Playing with the idea of tension and throwing it at unexpected places.


True, but it was presented as show-the-plan-crap-it-failed has become a standard trope for the genre that we see the plan (to buy that these guys can do a heist) which then is undone (for the tension). I don't think it's as common for others?
Bank Job I think is one of the better heist films given that the crime and the crew succeeds in full. The issues come POST-Crime. In Bank Job a really important part is in that the crew does not exactly know what they are stealing.
 

Death's Companion

General Ugg Apologist.
Well, that's a truism for any fiction of any type. If the plan is shown in advance, then something has to go wrong, or else the reader/audience gets the same thing twice. If you are going to maintain tension, you simply can't let the reader know in advance what's going to happen.

Heist, rom-com, action adventure, whatever. The only time you spell the plan out is when it goes wrong.
I've heard the reverse of this is called the unspoken plan guarantee.

If someone is acting with purpose or hints at a plan without details but the situation is pretty grim its a fair bet that its going to work out.


The genre savvy version is in Harry Potter when the titular character decides to wing the final third of the movie/book on the grounds that none of their plans have ever worked, they plan, they prepare, they show up and all hell breaks loose.
 

David Flin

Real people take priority over imaginary people
I've heard the reverse of this is called the unspoken plan guarantee.

If someone is acting with purpose or hints at a plan without details but the situation is pretty grim its a fair bet that its going to work out.


The genre savvy version is in Harry Potter when the titular character decides to wing the final third of the book on the grounds that none of their plans have ever worked, they plan, they prepare, they show up and everything goes to hell.
It is, indeed, a tough one to balance. Somehow, the author needs to be able to keep the reader in a state of uncertainty. Figuring out how, well, that's a whole pretty conundrum, and better writers than I am have struggled.
 

Death's Companion

General Ugg Apologist.
It is, indeed, a tough one to balance. Somehow, the author needs to be able to keep the reader in a state of uncertainty. Figuring out how, well, that's a whole pretty conundrum, and better writers than I am have struggled.
It can still be fun trying to figure out what they are up to and just how it will work out, if its an objectively bad plan however is when it feels cheap. And sometimes you still fall for it anyway because the writing is that good.

Some tropes and cliches are still used so much because they work and you can enjoy them the thousandth time as much as the first if used right.
 

Fenwick

Well-known member
Published by SLP
I think what all writers, be it comedy or romance or of course mystery, needs to know about the Kansas City Shuffle. Namely as it is by its nature about expectations and luring the reader into a comfort zone only to ruin it... but ruin it in a good way.

So I will look to the "Gentelmen Bastards" series of books. Try it out. Really fun. Fantasy world which looks like the Renaissance Italian states and a small group of thieves trying to get rich.

1. The gang meets nobles and pretends to be wealthy merchants looking to smuggle in some very expensive alcohol. No taxes no nothing. Now he is not smuggling into the nation but smuggling it FROM his nation. So there is no crime for the nobles he is trying to con.
2. Late one evening the Secret Police arrive and inform the nobles "you are being conned... but YOU WILL PLAY ALONG"
3. Nobles knowing the con play along and ENJOY how the con artist thinks they are so dumb.
4. The con artist... pretended to be the secret police and actually WANTS them to play along. So they ALWAYS hand him over the money he wants.

Now this con fails due to no fault of the crook or ability of the nobles. It fails cause the gang falls apart and a total side story makes the con more dire and drastic for the con artist.

But that is the Kansas City Shuffle. A con artist finds a mark, the mark becomes aware of the con but has interest in trying to trick the con artist, but the entire con really was the mark THINKING the con artist was found out.
 

Tabac Iberez

Impetious
Published by SLP
Now this con fails due to no fault of the crook or ability of the nobles. It fails cause the gang falls apart and a total side story makes the con more dire and drastic for the con artist.
Also not mentioned is how the marks somehow become the chief of secret police of I Can't Believe It's Not Venezia afterwords, because they were the first ones who managed to score any points on the thieves.
 

Fenwick

Well-known member
Published by SLP
Also not mentioned is how the marks somehow become the chief of secret police of I Can't Believe It's Not Venezia afterwords, because they were the first ones who managed to score any points on the thieves.
Oh finally someone else read the book.

I will say The Spider was an awesome character. It was not excepted.

As a side note there was a great line never explored in which the head of the secret police openly says the con artist will be a great new agent after his punishment is determined for stealing from nobles.
 
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Charles EP M.

Well-known member
Published by SLP
But that is the Kansas City Shuffle. A con artist finds a mark, the mark becomes aware of the con but has interest in trying to trick the con artist, but the entire con really was the mark THINKING the con artist was found out.
I saw a street magician get £20 out of a woman that way once, and three minutes we're all going "wait we just watched a bloke emotionally blackmail a woman out of money and we were part of it".
 
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