Created By: Earnest on June 25, 2011

Signs Of Recent (In)Activity

Ways to tell a character/object has (not) been recently active

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You use something, odds are it will show having been used in some way. Conversely, not using something for a while will make its disuse obvious. Car engines heat up; soup will go cold. When a detective or questioning character wants to know if a suspect has been in a given area, looking for Signs Of Recent Activity can be a big tipoff as to whether their alibi holds true.

For objects it tends to be temperature, but people will usually show it as stains on clothing, dirty/clean hands, or the typically muddy shoes.

This is a basic skill for the Scarily Competent Tracker.

  • Encyclopedia Brown: a man claims to have just driven over. But while he's talking to the police his barefoot young son plays on the hood of the car and it doesn't burn his feet.
  • Similarly in The Three Investigators' The Secret of Phantom Lake a man claims to have just pulled up during a downpour, but Jupiter Jones happens to put his hand on the hood of the man's car and noticed it wasn't hot. Then he looked under the car and it was dry, meaning that the man had been parked there for some time.
Community Feedback Replies: 3
  • June 25, 2011
    Brackets in a trope name aren't a good idea.

    Just stick with Sign Of Recent Activity, and let the inactivity case be an inversion.
  • June 26, 2011
    Sherlock Holmes, in William Gillette's play:
    "It's very easy to discern one thing about Miss Faulkner, and that is that she is particularly fond of the piano... She plays a great deal; indeed I see it is her chief diversion, which makes it all the more remarkable that she has not touched the piano for three days!"
  • June 26, 2011
    Seinfeld: George's car had broken down in the parking lot of his job, so the boss thought he was the first one there in the morning and the last to leave. But then his car started getting dusty from disuse, and gulls started hanging around it.