I keep things pretty professional here on the blog, but there’s something that’s been on my mind, and I just need to rant a little… Bear with me.
Because there’s a certain story device that has always bothered me and I feel it’s my duty, as someone who writes about the craft of writing, to bring it to the attention of other writers out there, so that, together, we can stamp out this stupid plot device.
Forced Into A Car At Gunpoint
You’ll see it in the scene where the hero is walking along and the car/van pulls up beside them and points a gun at them and they get in the car. This is a terrible story device (unless your main character is an idiot). I always want to scream at the TV/movie screen/book whenever it comes up (which it does a lot) “don’t do it, you idiot!”
It’s such a stupid plot device. Here’s why:
If you’re being kidnapped by a stranger, than you’re an effing idiot to get in the car if someone points a gun at you. What exactly do you think the plan is exactly? Take you to the spa for a little quiet time away from the dog-eat-dog world we live in?
No, they’re going to kill you, or worse (especially if you’re a woman) – and they’re going to do it at their leisure, in the private spot of their choosing, and then they’re going to dispose of your body where no one will ever find it.
I say, if you’re going to shoot me, do it right there in the damn street, where there will be evidence, and (hopefully) witnesses and the cops will be on your ass within the hour.
At the very least, my mom will know I was shot and left for dead and won’t lay awake at nights wondering why I disappeared or where I am. (Not that I hope to ever be shot, mind you, I’m just saying – if I HAVE to be shot, I’d rather it be in a public place.)
I can almost understand this device in political thrillers – where the hero knows that there are larger issues at stake. I seem to remember a scene where someone is kidnapped by a dignitary or something, so the hero knew who it was.
In that case, you (as the writer) shouldn’t even need to bring a gun into it. If you (the writer) have done your job in setting up the stakes, the gun is unnecessary – the whole world will die if he/she doesn’t get in that car.
So you see, there’s no good reason to use this device of the gun coming out of the car/van window and forcing someone to get in. Unless, of course, your hero isn’t too bright. I guess that would be a valid reason. But if that’s the case, the rest of your story better pretty damn entertaining (“The Man Who Knew Too Little” comes to mind – I love that film).
And don’t even get me started on the scene where the poor sap is digging his own grave at gun point (I’m looking at you “24”). If anyone ever tells me to dig a hole so they can shoot me and bury me in it, I plan on giving them the finger and letting do their own dirty work.
Consider this my Monday public service announcement for all you writers out there.