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  1. Lovova
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    Lovova New Member

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    Need Help with a Classic Plot Problem

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Lovova, Dec 17, 2008.

    I went and did the inevitably stupid thing most new novelists do. I went and threw my character into a situation I wasn't prepared to get him out of, and now he's stuck.

    Here's the perdicament: My character is a high class prisoner locked away in the lower levels of the palace. He's just found the main staircase to get up into the main floor, but guards have have forced him to run into a dead end hallways near the stairwell. Because the palace guards are aware he escaped, all guards are being sent to guards the exists of the lower levels and search for him through the halls. There's guards everywhere, including one on the staircase he plans to escape through, and two guards are now heading towards the dead end my characters found himself in.

    Originally in pencil formate, my character escapes by using both sides of the wall to climb up to the ceiling and hold himself there until the guards leave for the other end of their patrol, but I realize now that my character does not have the physical strength necessary to do this. He has no weapons, the only thing in the dead end being a painting and a rug, and even if he could somehow take out the two highly trained guards heading towards him, there's still the guard on the staicase to deal with and my character has absulutly no idea how to use the guns the guards carry.

    So basically my guys trapped with no weapons, no skills, and no strengths and is up against three guards, whom all have weapons he doesn't know how to use.

    I hate to have to do it, but at this point I'm afraid I'll have to do something as drastic as a Duex Ex Machina or just plain old dumb luck, such as the guards getting called away at the last minute or something, to get him out of the situation, which is an idea I cringe at. If anyone has any advice, or even better, any good ideas, I'd be infinitly grateful.

    -Annoyed With Myself, Lovova
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Fortunately, as the writer you can wind back the clock. Maybe your character let something slip out to spomeone who ends up following him to where he is facing the predicament. Or maybe one of the guards is an undercover agent or rebel (whatever fits your setting), and takes out the other guard. Now the two of you just have to get by all the OTHER guards between you and the exit.
     
  3. ZionsRodeVos
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    ZionsRodeVos New Member

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    What I'm about to suggest might be a novice error too, but since it sounds like rewriting the situation is not an option then it seems to me that your character needs to stumble upon a secret door that the guards don't know about and that would allow him to escape without having to change anything you've written so far.
     
  4. de la vega
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    de la vega Member

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    This problem could easily be fixed by some writing or rewriting. You can follow Cogito's suggestion, which I think is a good one. Or Zion's as well.

    You're right to want to avoid using deus ex machina as a crutch. However, it isn't something I would necessarily advise you to avoid at all costs. It's difficult to pull off successfully. It has to be surprising but inevitable. If you can do that, then you can pull it off reasonably.

    What's most important is this: obey the character. Would your character have gotten himself in this situation or would he have known better? If the former, what would he do in this situation that would be true to character? Maybe he would fight his way through; maybe he would get captured again. If the latter, then the problem with this particular scene is solved.
     
  5. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ask yourself that fundamental question. Why would the architects build a dead end tunnel into the palace? ...unless it has some other function, like leading to a secret passage. The only attribute your MC needs is the power to reason and a strong sense of smell! LOL

    Good luck.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A dead end could be due to a collapse or from subsequent construction.

    There are famous "tunnles under the MIT campus. Many have become dead-ended because of expansion of other rooms on that level. And, I suspect, the University wishes to discourage the use of those tunnels bye adventurous students.

    Those tunnels are so legendary that they ecame the setting for one of Infocom's early "interactive fiction" computer hames, The Lurking Horror.

    A bit off topic, but old structures DO sometimes change in ways that leave dead end passages.
     
  7. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's my point, a writer can make any kind of dead end he or she wants. It might be a monolithic underground passage below MIT but it can just as easily be a manufactured escape route from a palace, known only to the royals and the MC stumbles upon it. Lovova should have no trouble writing out of this predicament, and using a completely plausible escape mechanism.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    For that matter, the MC might find a way to collapse the ceiling on the two guards, but leaving him trapped - until he finds a weak wall he can break through into another, forgotten tunnel.
     
  9. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Cog, your idea just gave me another way out of the dead end, but I won't mention it because, as mammamaia says so often, thinking up such ideas is what the writer is supposed to do.
     
  10. Dcoin
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    Dcoin Contributing Member

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    Tease :D
     
  11. Lovova
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    Lovova New Member

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    0.0 Oh geez, I thought I'd be lucky to get one response!

    Thank you guys so much for the ideas! I can't really use any of them verbatim because, like I think one of you mentioned, my character wouldn't allow it, but your suggestions have opened up a lot of doors for me! Such as the painting...I bothered to mention it, I might as well do something with it, right? Thanks a lot you guys, I really appreciate it!

    -Eternally Grateful, Anna
     
  12. goldhawk
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    goldhawk Senior Member

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    I would recommend against it. Unless you already hinted that there was something special about the painting, it will seem like deus ex machina. Perhaps, earlier, you could have a long-term prisoner recite a meaningless poem, like a nursery rhyme, but its subject is the same as the painting's...
     
  13. Sylvester
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    Sylvester Member

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    Allies

    Does he have any allies, known or unknown, who could come to his aid? One of the guards a spy perhaps. What if he's caught and lead out of the dead end and then manages to escape?

    As it is, it sounds like you have things figured out. Good luck.
     
  14. Hetroclite
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    Hetroclite Member

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    1) One I've seen several times is the escapee overpowers one guard & switches clothes with him, thus gets out in disguise.

    2) The escapee goes into an area others avoid due to a superstition or an actual danger.

    3) The escapee weaves a disguise out of debris & rubbish lying about.

    4) The excapee uses an incantation to cast a spell causing the guards not to see him or to see him as someone else, but only temporarily.

    5) A friend or ally creates a diversion; such as a fire or a false message that the kingdom is under attack.
     
  15. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Why not have him get caught. Then have him rethink how he will escape. Perhaps he meets someone on the inside that helps him after he gets caught.
     

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