I read a lot, mostly mysteries, and so often the protagonist goes through plenty before solving the case. He or she may be threatened, beaten, run off the road, locked in a dark room, or any number of things. What happens when the protagonist has something else working against them besides a bad guy?
How many books have you read or movies you’ve seen where the sweet young thing is being chases through the woods, trips and falls, and sprains an ankle. It’s been done over and over. However, I have a feeling if someone was chasing me I might not see the tree root sticking out of the ground, or the hole some critter dug, and I’d probably trip, too.
Now let’s take this to a different level and add the extra degree of difficulty. What if the character has a sprained or broken ankle before the chase? He or she is going to have to be pretty creative or there won’t be a chase. What this means is the author is going to have to be pretty creative.
Let’s say the character is sitting out on the patio, babying a bad case of allergies. She’s sneezing, sniffling and blowing her nose. Her ears have stuffed up from all the sniffling.
Now the bad guy is sneaking around the side of the house, weapon in hand. I’m going to say the protagonist lives in the desert and has a yard full of gravel rather than grass. (Grass doesn’t do well in the desert heat.) No matter how hard the antagonist tries to be quiet, the gravel crunches under his feet. He stops and listens, but all he hears is a sneeze. Onward bad guy.
Meanwhile, between the sneezing, blowing and stuffed ears, our innocent allergy sufferer doesn’t hear his arrival. Oh, and let’s say she doesn’t have any pets who might warn her of the impending danger. What’s a girl gonna do?
The bad guy leaps around the corner of the house and comes after our girl. Here are a few things she could do. She could throw her box of tissues at him, but that probably wouldn’t do much good. She could wait until he’s close enough and start squeezing her nasal spray toward his eyes, repeatedly. Or, since this is a mystery and she may have had some idea that something might happen, she could reach for her own weapon which is lying conveniently in her lap or on the patio table next to her. The bad guy has a knife and she has a gun. Never bring a knife to a gunfight. Well, she could have a container of mace or something similar. I’m partial to a can of bear spray. It’s supposed to spray for something like thirty feet.
Changing the scenario just slightly, our female is still blowing her nose and sniffling, but this time she has a dog who’s sitting next to her on the patio. Through her teary eyes she sees the dog stand and stiffen. The hair on his back stands up, and although she can’t really hear him, she can tell by his face that he’s emitting a low growl. The bared teeth are a dead giveaway. When the bad guy steps round the corner of the house, he finds a woman with a gun or bear spray pointed at him and she has a phone in her hand. She’s just called 9-1-1.
I realize these examples are silly, but sometimes making the protagonist more vulnerable makes the story a bit more exciting. What if, as I mentioned before, he or she had a broken leg before the confrontation? Remember the Hitchcock movie, Rear Window? If you’ve never seen it, you might want to check it out. Very creative self-defense. However, unless your protagonist is accident prone, I wouldn’t overdo it. One broken leg per series would be plenty.
Would you like to know what brought on this particular post? My daughter sprained her ankle yesterday when her thick-soled flip flops twisted and she fell off of them. Once again, real life sparks ideas.
Until next time, I hope you have a healthy week with no falls, no allergies and no bad guys.
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Here’s hoping you’ll take the time to give One Adventure Too Many – A Sandi Webster Mystery a try. The biggest accident in this story is a visit from Sandi’s busybody mother and aunt who want to help solve a murder.