I am writing a story for a comic book and at this point I am stuck. I want my protagonist to learn that a delivery of a key item by the bad guys will occur. I already thought about the possibility of interrogating a bad guy, but I find this a little overused. Can you suggest a way he can find that out?
The X-Files Approach Your protagonist has a secret friend in the bad guys organization who sends him cryptic hints and clues.
The Classic Batman Approach (also known as the 007 Approach) The bad guy is so arrogant that he tells the whole plan to your protagonist while trying to kill the hero in an elaborate and inefficient way. Then walks away, allowing the hero to escape.
The Sherlock Holmes Approach Through a series of extraordinary deductions, using mundane and readily available facts, your protagonist calculates that the only possible time and place for the delivery is...
The other answers outlined the basic methods and hopefully you've already used one of them in your story.
Another possibility is that the protagonist works in an industry that the bad guys require to carry out their plans.
- A piano moving company that is asked to move a strange box. The right size and weight for a piano, but the wrong shape.
- A police station clerk takes the routine notification call of the movements of the local armored delivery service. And recognizes the address.
- If the item requires lots of electricity, the workers at the local gas and electric company will figure something's up when the transformer blows and has to be replaced. Normally this happens when people start growing pot in large quantities indoors and legal issues keep them from just telling the G&E company they need the upgrade beforehand (seriously!) but the lineworkers sent out to fix things can tell it's not agriculturally related.
Many possibilities here. Just remember that nobody works alone. The bad guys either have an insanely large staff working for them (which means they can't control them) or they outsource some of the labor (cleaning, delivery, even cooking 100 pizzas).
If the protagonist is the in the right place at the right time, or someone close to her/him is, that's all it takes for the wheels to start turning. Add in a name (person's name or a shell company) s/he recognizes as involved, or a known address, or something else that turns a routine event into a suspicious one.
A couple of other ideas that haven't been suggested yet:
- The protagonist gets lucky. He's off chasing an unrelated (or seemingly unrelated) lead or clue, and just happens to stumble across evidence of the impending delivery: financial records, an overheard mook conversation, or even the actual delivery preparations.
- Someone defects. One of the villain's mooks decides he wants nothing more to do with whatever's going on, and tells the hero about it.
- Sabotage by another villain. If this is a superhero comic with a rogues' gallery of different villains, Villain B might decide he doesn't like Villain A muscling in on his territory and rat him out to the hero.
A few quick thoughts (thinking of Batman here)
Overhear a conversation While the hero is sneaking around, he hears two henchmen "You know, the Joker got the bomb, we should get out of town"
Text Message Beat up the henchmen, look at his phone, there is a message from Joker. "Gotham ready for boom boom! Thanks for the delivery! :P :D :P >D
Informant The Hero has informants feeding him the information. This could be a person or a video camera/ tracer/ hidden microphone.
There are many ways for him to learn the information. It might even be fun to let the reader know, but not the hero... then have the hero arrive very late (or too late)... Depends on the story.