I did something stupid while working on NaNoWriMo. I had a chuckle about it afterwards, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who makes mistakes like this, so feel free to share yours in the comments.

I was writing a scene where my main character free climbs a building. When it came time to get him down, I decided to have him rappel. The thing was this character is a thief who prides himself on leaving no trace that he’s been somewhere and no clues to how he got in or out. So I was trying to figure out how he could rappel down a building and not leave behind any equipment. How would he anchor his rope to the roof of a six story building and then recover it from the ground.

This is a fantasy novel, so I figured he would use magic somehow. I started in on writing out how he would do it and then midway through realized I’d forgotten a detail.

I have specific rules in mind for how magic works. In order to keep the story consistent, I was having the character use an enchanted copper disk as an anchor which would adhere via magic to the roof and could be released remotely. Then I realized that meant when he got to the bottom of the building, there would be a palm sized metal disk dropping six stories to either brain my main character or land in the cobblestone courtyard and make an awful racket. Not the kind of thing a stealthy cat burglar would use.

So I ended up dumping a couple of paragraphs and having him free climb back down.

Oops, That Won’t Work
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16 thoughts on “Oops, That Won’t Work

  • November 11, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Generally, when climbers rappel off of a crag, they double up the rope and wrap it around a tree branch, boulder, or something else sturdy, then just pull it down at the bottom. I suppose that you could find something on the top of a building to fit the bill – a pipe, railing, duct, etc.

    • November 11, 2010 at 12:53 pm

      Thanks! That’s a pretty good idea, I’ll have to keep that in mind when I got back for edits. One of the pitfalls of writing about something that I know absolutely nothing about.

  • November 11, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    How practical is your magic?

    For a falling disk of metal, mightn’t there be some sort of “catch” magic? Or maybe just homing magic? Or perhaps transmutation, allowing him to just create an anchor out of the building itself that then molds itself back into the building afterwards.

    …or just do the rope/pipe trick Bex notes. That might be a nice twist, too; if your world is magically saturated, I’d think that there would be ways to detect magic use, especially in high security areas. A burglar working completely *without* magic may well be able to be *more* stealthy.

    • November 11, 2010 at 9:31 pm

      Magic is fairly practical. Wizards are capable of some pretty flashy stuff, but not the average person. There’s definitely ways to detect it’s use as well. My thief’s not a magic user though, he basically has a friend who’s a failed wizard that makes gadgets for him, so I’m trying to keep the magic stuff to a bare minimum.

      You’re last bit about the absence of magic being more stealthy does give me a couple of ideas though.

  • November 11, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    I was going to go with the idea that he pulls out a small glass vial of acidic type stuff, alchemy related, that when he ties off the rope, he applies it and it slow burns, so by the time he’s down it burns the rope away up there and the rest falls down to him.

    • November 11, 2010 at 9:34 pm

      Definitely something he’d be capable of doing, alchemy/herbalism is pretty commonly used in the setting, but this character is not really a big enough risk taker to attempt something like that. Now that I think about it though, maybe using an adhesive and then having a (very) small explosive charge would work similarly and be a bit more in line with my thief’s personality.

      • November 12, 2010 at 4:13 pm

        Thinking of a charge, if he’s *really* savvy and confident, couldn’t he set a small timed charge that would release *just* as he’s touching down? One more way to show how Batman-prepared he might be; timing is everything.

        • November 12, 2010 at 4:17 pm

          Doesn’t that cross over from confidence into cockiness a little? That’s one line he definitely wouldn’t cross, he’s a very careful thief.

          • November 15, 2010 at 7:28 pm

            It might, depending on the situation. If he’s trying a heist with a time limit or one that has patrols of some sort, he’d have to time things just right.

            Then again, if he’s careful enough, he doesn’t take those jobs or finds ways to do things without letting time limits be an issue. 😉

          • November 15, 2010 at 9:55 pm

            It’s funny that you commented about not taking jobs where time’s an issue. That’s a conflict element I’m using in the plot. 🙂

  • November 11, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    That’s a pretty amusing anecdote. I’ve ended up taking stories in completely weird directions when I run into problems like that.

  • November 11, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    Wow, I need to post next time I get stuck on a plot point, you guys are full of great ideas.

  • November 11, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    Ah the little details. I’ve made plenty of little mistakes like these in my writing. A few years ago in college, I used to be in this Yahoo group where people shared their writing and then everyone would critique one another. There were so many plot points in my stories that made total sense to me, but either didn’t come across well to the others or wasn’t very logical to begin with. There was a librarian and at least one professional writer in this writing group, and they were all so nitpicky! But I think that whole year I hung around with them on those forums really improved my writing.

    • November 12, 2010 at 4:19 pm

      I bet, I’m thinking I may need to look into something like that. I really just posted this on a lark, but I’ve been thrilled with the feedback and ideas. If my first draft wasn’t so rough, I’d consider posting it, but I think I need to at least give it one read-over first.

      • November 13, 2010 at 9:13 am

        Getting into or forming a critique group is a really good way to improve your writing, but I recommend you don’t share anything (other than snippits or technical questions) until after you finish the first draft. If you do share, people will make comments and you’ll get into editor mode, which makes it harder to finish the 1st draft.

        I formed a crit group with some of my nano friends and it went really well. My 2nd draft (and 3-9) all made huge leaps in quality because of the group.

        • November 14, 2010 at 4:23 pm

          Good points there. I had thought about posting very small (twitter-sized) snippets but I’m sure you’re correct about any comments triggering my inner-editor. I really wouldn’t want to post anything more than tiny bits anyway. Based on my cursory spell check reviews, this draft is more of a zero draft, than a first draft.

          What I may do is post a chapter or two next year after I’ve finished and had a chance to read/edit the first part of the book.

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