Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Moving Target


Woodcock Hunting,
Ogden Pleissner ( 1905-1983)
watercolor.
Readers are our target, our game, our snipe.
We should always have them in our sights.
One way to look at readers - as long as we don't take the analogy too far.
And one way to bag them is to pay attention to the trajectory of our scenes.
When you set up a scene you are flushing game, of sorts.
Leading the target. Trap shoot.
Less predatory people may refer to this technique as the twist.
Recently, Charles has put up some interesting posts on twists and stakes which are well worth thinking about.
I think I managed this type of target aquisition in the opening of A Malignity of Ghosts.
A zombie walks into her bathroom. She defends herself. He dissolves.
The reader relaxes a little in anticipation of a familiar flight path.
Until she says ...I managed to kill my husband a second time.

BTW: Have you ever looked around an ordinary room and catelogued what your present character might use as an unconventional weapon if faced with an unexpected intruder?

35 comments:

writtenwyrdd said...

I am reminded of a line on "Random Facts About Vin Diesel": In an average living room there are 1,242 objects Vin Diesel could use to kill you, including the room itself.

The predator analogy works well for me, too. I tend to think in terms of baiting the reader. Think scent bagging, where they draw a scent trail by dragging a bag of scent. Technique for training dogs to track.

I guess that the folks who came up with the term 'red herring' thought the same way. ;)

kmfrontain said...

I view my surroundings and look for weapons for my own use in the advent of an intruder, lol. Hyper anxiety woman stares at sharp pencil and thinks... No, can't admit to that.

Ooo, and look at that telephone cord! That'll do for... And I have this cat toy that's a wee bit sharp...

Bernita said...

Alternatives to running and screaming are always welcome.
I also think of it in terms of the second barrel, Written.

Bernita said...

Eyes, nose and throat, Karen.That's a good start.
Creative defenses in novels always tickle me.

Gabriele C. said...

Lol, I hate it when the good guy (armed with a chair or something) and the bad guy (armed with something long, sharp and pointy) go at each other while the heroine stands pressed to the wall eyes wide, when I see a room full of fun stuff you could knock the bad guy over the head with.

writtenwyrdd said...

I can't recall which Carl Hiassen book it was, but it began with the hero defending himself (and killing the intruder) with a tarpon or swordfish on the wall.

Talk about your unique defense weapon...

I have gotten very sick of the need to worry about my surroundings, to be aware of approach vectors, of checking to see if someone is carrying concealed, to look for signs of unusual stress. Working in a job that forced me to be paranoid was exhausting.

Jaye Wells said...

I found a great book called FINAL EXITS by Michael Largo. It's an encyclopedia of the weird ways people die. An excellent resource for writers who want to add a little oomph to a demise.

Robyn said...

I remember a story about a woman who froze when faced with a rapist. Weeks after the crime, she hadn't done the martial arts self-defense class but she had gotten angry, at him and at herself.

When he returned for a second rape, in the kitchen where he had assaulted her before, she grabbed the coffeepot and hit him in the face with it. Hot coffee and glass shards in his eyes allowed her to run to a neighbor, and prevented him from getting away.

Church Lady said...

Bernita, About the zombie who killed her husband twice (by the way, GREAT line!)...could it be the nice old lady with the ax from yesterday's post. The ax that doubles as a walking cane?

I just wanted to know.

;-)

If I need an unconventional weapon, I go to my kids' rooms.

In all seriousness though, I've heard self-defense experts on T.V. advise women not to use weapons that can be taken away by a stronger attacker. Things such as knives can be taken and used against the victim. ?

writtenwyrdd said...

My biggest pet peeve when watching movies or tv is when people hold a gun on an attacker WHILE WITHIN ARM'S REACH. Just for the reason you describe, CL. People in such scenarios aren't serious about using the weapon and are basically just handing it to their attackers. Stupid.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I cage rooms for weapons and my surroundings for escape routes all the time. Just talking about it landed me the job of writing a screen play for a sci-fi action flick.

One of my characters uses a curtain rod to beat an intruder senseless. Hot tea scalds. If it's nighttime, whisky stings the eyes.

And yeah, Wyrd. I've only shot a gun once, but it came with a lecture: if you pick up a gun in front of an enemy, always shoot it. That's why Sean actually shoots his pistol at his attackers in Hinterland, rather than just waving it around like a flag.

Gabriele C. said...

Yeah, that's another peeve of mine, those characters (mostly women) who hold a pistol or something aimed at the bad guy and then let him talk to her until he can snatch the thing.

One warning, girl, and then shoot. Or don't complain if you get raped, taken as hostage/shield and whatever. Silly b-ch.

Bernita said...

Yes, Gabriele. Ack, ack, ack.
The cow could at least run for help - if nothing else.

That's a neat one, Written.
I imagine that Condition Yellow is instinctive by now and very difficult to turn off.

Thank you, Jaye.
An ideal resource!

Surprise/shock can paralyze, but anger is a weapon in itself, Robyn.
Scenes where a character smashes a bottle, for example, make me retreat along with the antagonist.

Thank you,Chris. The character who claims she killed off her husband a second time is not a zombie. Her husband has become one.
And no, she does not resemble old Aggie from yesterday in the least.

I'm concerned here with fiction. In real life, it's a judgement call.
And I would suggest that, in real life, in such situations if you have a weapon, don't threaten and give your attacker time to react - use it.
Go for the kill.
Most of us are unable to unleash our inner berserker, even when in peril, unfortunately.

Bernita said...

Along with that, Written, are the other characters who stand around in the line of fire or get in front of the frigging gun!

So I'm not the only one who checks out exits and sits with my back to a wall, etc., SS. Nice!

December/Stacia said...

I'm with kmfrontain. I have a book about SAS self defense for regular people. I can use almost anything as a weapon.

My favorite is an electric plug. If you whip it at someone it apparently really, really hurts. And then you can pull on the cord and do it again!

December/Stacia said...

Oh, and yeah, that thing with the guns always bugs me. It's possible to shoot to HURT, you know. You don't need to sit there worrying about killing someone. Shoot them in the damn knee and call the cops while they scream and writhe.

Bernita said...

I think the most important thing, though, December, is the mind-set - the willingness to go all out.

raine said...

Yes--love the surprise jolt to the reader once they think they've relaxed into the story (and well done, Bernita).

Ever cased an ordinary room for weapons for a character?
Definitely. Gleefully (I should see somebody about that).

My favorite example EVER (although it was a murder, not self-defense), was one show from the Hitchcock TV series, in which a woman, in the heat of an argument, clubs her hubby with a frozen leg of lamb, sees that she'd killed him, cooks the lamb, then feeds the considerably shrunken meat with wide-eyed innocence to the famished detectives who come to investigate the murder. Absolutely heavenly...

writtenwyrdd said...

The sad thing is most women do freeze when confronted with violence because we are so socialized to BE NICE.

It is a little unfair, though, to castigate someone who is caught flatfootted and freezes in an emergency. They aren't mentally prepared and so have to dredge up a reaction.

But it's also the reason so many small animals get run over.

I always tell women who talk the helpless me talk: Just do something, anything at all, so long as you DO it. Scream, swing a lamp, run away. Just ACT. The less you behave like a victim the less of a victim you will be. Even if you do still get beaten, robbed, raped or whatever. Because you have to live with yourself. Meeting violence at least in part on your own terms gives you some sense of victory.

Unfortunately, a lot of mental health professionals disagree with this stance.

writtenwyrdd said...

"Along with that, Written, are the other characters who stand around in the line of fire or get in front of the frigging gun!"

Sad to say, but even cops can forget about the cross-fire problem in the heat of a gun fight. Adrenaline causes tunnel vision, and in a fight it is all to easy to forget that there is something past what you are aiming at. No backstop, but real people and property lurk there.

for a laugh, check out the staging of gun fights in tv shows. Or, a recent example I saw, in UltraViolet, where they are shooting in a circle at Violet, in the middle. WTF?

Gabriele C. said...

That's why I stay far away from mental health professionals. :)

Bernita said...

Thank you, Raine.
See someone? I consider it evidence of a healthy survival instinct.
Sort of a lamb for the slaughter, heh?

Not just women, Written, which is why fire department/Emergency planning officials urge people to have an evacuation plan - when a disaster occurs there's no time to work through the options.
To me, those officials consolidate victimhood.

Charles Gramlich said...

Now I'm going to start looking at every room for potential weapons. It's like being told not to look at the elephant in the room now.

I like the twist on your story. Good hook for the reader.

Seeley deBorn said...

Wait a minute....is that a twist or a hook?

Seeley deBorn said...

Nevermind...Charles answered that: it's both.

Nice one.

Sam said...

I always loved the murder story about the leg of lamb. (The Leg of Lamb). Read it when I was about 9 or 10, and have been looking at ordinary objects as murder weapons ever since.
LOL

writtenwyrdd said...

In Beyond Hypothermia, the woman assassin opens the movie by killing her mark with a bullet made of ice. Cool! (heh)

Jon M said...

'Lamb to the Slaughter' by Roald Dahl (His parents couldn't spell Ronald). One: I'm going to check Charles' ideas about scenes. two: Now everywhere I go I'll be looking at things as potential weapons! Not sure whether to thank you or not! :-)

Bernita said...

Thank you, Charles, Seeley.

Suppose you could call it setting the second barb, Seeley.

An interesting exercise in strange places, Sam.

Heh, Written!

Lots of good stuff on Charles' blog, Jon.

Sam said...

Lamb to the Slaughter is the English title, lol. Now I remember. I read it in French with my daughter last year - and its 'Le Gigot de Mutton' here.
I thought Roald Dahl HAD to be a mistake!! That is funny. Whichever parent registered his name forgot the 'n', eh?

writtenwyrdd said...

I knew someone named "Timonthy" due to a typo.

Jeff said...

I like to think of it as luring readers into my fictional world with an intriguing opening line or paragraph as bait, and then adding scenes that leave them laughing, crying, or shivering, depending on the genre of the story.
Most of all I want them to be glad they were "hooked."

The Anti-Wife said...

In my house, for the uninitiated, my dog's farts can be lethal weapons.

Shesawriter said...

Gee Bernita, no I never looked around the room for weapons....for my characters....

Thanks for making me even more paranoid! LOL!

Bernita said...

Yes, Jeff, and there's a rhythm/pattern to it.
One needs a constant supply of ammunition.

Hee, AW! Gas attacks by the automatic anti-theft devices.

Doesn't need to be physical, Tanya. Psychological gun fire works too.