Episode 4: Midnight Defenders


“If people cared more for others and their surroundings, maybe solving crimes like this would get easier, right?”

Now Playing: A custom playlist of music from the J-dorama “Hissatsu Shigotonin”
Trigger Focus: Novel
Genre: Crime
Output: The Seven-Day Detective, the story that started it all

My first romance story, “The Feast of the North Star”, was written on a whim, in response to the explosion of my emotions that fateful day. It had no kilig factor or hugot lines, the characters were adults, and the story itself doesn’t have a mushy plot. Yet it was a romance story in its own right.

As expected, I didn’t gain a lot of readers. Who would want to read such a heavy, sad story, anyway?

Despite the disappointment, I was determined to write something big, but I realized I have to keep up with what’s hot in the market. There were rules in romance – no, fiction in general, and I had to play along to get my name across. With this in mind, I decided to formally learn how to write novels.

I found myself in a conference room at the Summit Publishing office in Mandaluyong one August weekend in 2015. It was the first classroom session for the #JustWritePH writing workshop.

In brief, the goal of #JustWritePH was to write a story fit for publication in less than six weeks. Writers of all genres joined the workshop to pitch in stories, and learn some of the nitty-gritty bits of writing fiction.

Even then, I was less than confident that I could pitch in a good romance story. I was among better authors than I am. Besides, I was expected to write like a pro, not to doodle like a newbie.

So when it was time to talk about my story idea, I had to look deep inside me for the perfect publication-worthy plot.

Not one single romance plot came into mind. There was nothing in the infinite space in my head but blanks. But I had to chuck out a story idea, and fast.

My immediate response that day would change my fate.

“A rookie cop teams up with four PUV drivers to catch a serial rapist.”

It was a crime story.

One day, in the middle of my writing routine, I came across an interesting article. In Kyoto, Japan, taxi drivers helped prevent convenience store robberies by parking in front of these establishments and keeping watch. The Kyoto Prefectural Police nicknamed this vigilance strengthening program as the “Midnight Defender Scheme”.

The name set off a chime in my head. We have our own vigilance programs, but not anywhere close to this. But the idea fits our local setting, and my story idea.

Once again, I have found a trigger.

With this information on hand, I reviewed all the information I had ever since I became a journalist. I studied everything I could get my hands on: facts about the PNP and NBI, PUV routes, investigation procedures, anti-crime initiatives, rape statistics, even modus operandi. I wrote and studied every afternoon, putting it all together to make a cohesive story.

The result was a police procedural, with a cop plying the streets as he investigates his latest assignment. He was a rookie, yet he had to be special, talented, someone with an extraordinary trait or a quirk. The PUV drivers had to be ordinary people undergoing extraordinary circumstances. The setting and the crime itself had to be close to home.

At the end of the #JustWritePH workshop, twenty authors finished their stories, which were then published in e-book bundles at the Buqo Digital Bookstore. One of them was “The Seven-Day Detective”.

Let me stop here for a while. It took me longer to write down my thoughts in this post. I had to take a few steps back since this was about a major crossroad in my journey as a writer. For now until my next post, I need to reflect on what I’ve become and what I have to do from this point onward.


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