That Warehouse, Looming

by wjw on December 27, 2016

undercover_girl_-6So I’m reading along in this novel, and I come to the scene where the protagonist, desperate to find the answers to his questions, decides to go into the abandoned warehouse alone, knowing that the bad guy is there with all his minions.  Or maybe it’s not a warehouse, but the bad guy’s manor house.  Or if not a manor house, a tall modern skyscraper with the answers on a laptop in an office on the 88th floor.

Now the protagonist is just some doofus, okay?  He doesn’t know how to break into anything, he doesn’t know how to bypass alarms, he doesn’t carry a weapon or know how to use one, all he’s got is an obsession that he’s got to somehow get to the truth, and that the truth is in the middle of an abandoned warehouse/skyscraper/isolated castle along with the chief villain and his posse of well-armed henchmen.  Our protagonist’s stuck in the role of a detective, but he doesn’t know how to detect.

I mean, really?  When does this ever end well?

I’m always amused when characters in a TV cop show sneak into an abandoned warehouse every other week to overhear the bad guys in the middle of their insidious plotting, and then run into trouble, just like they did a couple weeks earlier.  (I’m also mildly surprised they can find an abandoned warehouse that isn’t the site of a nightly rave.)  But at least these heroes are cops, presumably with weapons and training and (maybe, if they remembered to call for it) backup.  They’re not just some bystander who somehow got caught up in the action.

What we’re dealing with here is not a failure of the character, but a failure of the writer’s imagination.  Really, you can’t think of a plot device more original than the one that’s already been beaten to death by a thousand episodes of bad TV?

But if I don’t put him in the villain’s lair, my hero can’t have the confrontation scene with the bad guy!  Personally I think these sorts of confrontation scenes, with the antagonist monologuing away about his evil plans, are just as cliche as the abandoned warehouse, but I can think of lots of ways to get a confrontation into the story without having my protagonist check half his IQ at the door.  You can confront the baddie by IM, for instance, and avoid having all those guns pointed at you.  You can wait till the baddie’s arrested, and then confront him in the interview room.  You can lure the bad guy to your own warehouse, which you have pre-stocked with a DJ and a hundred ravers, and slip him some Molly and get him talking.

I mean, he’s a villain!  A dose of MDMA can only improve him!

Of course any clever plan can go wrong, which can provide a suspenseful plot twist in which the protagonist needs to improvise in order to avoid humiliation, bodily harm, and/or being eaten alive by the large jungle cat the villain has brought with him.

Just don’t have the plan fail in a stupid way.  That’s all I ask.

If you can’t manage to have respect for your book, at least have respect for your protagonist by not making him an imbecile.

Shash January 4, 2017 at 5:37 pm

Very enjoyable. Thanks for sharing.

Shash January 4, 2017 at 5:38 pm

And I just placed that comment on the wrong post. D’oh!

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