Monday, May 17, 2010
A cliche of suspense
Cornered by a psychopath who wants to rape and kill her, the heroine fights back fiercely, usually with a weapon. Her efforts are rewarded and the psycho ends up face-down on the floor.
The heroine backs away, unsure whether he's dead or not. At which point he stops playing possum and, having bought himself a breathing space, attacks again.
The most recent example of this I've encountered was in the short story "The Gingerbread Girl" from Stephen King's Just After Sunset. And it's getting annoying. Rather than prolonging the suspense, it just makes me wonder why the heroine doesn't assume he's playing dead and take steps to ensure that he'll be out of commission at least until the cops arrive.
Maybe allowing him to get up and retrieve his butcher knife is playing fair, but it certainly isn't playing smart.
If the heroine is very ethical and just can't bring herself to kill the man who was trying to rape and murder her, she could at least try to render him unconscious or unable to chase her. In the King story, the heroine was in the psycho's kitchen. After he went down, playing dead, she pulled open a drawer to see if there were any knives inside but there weren't.
Well, come on. It's a kitchen. Pull out the drawers themselves. Drop the toaster on him. Don't get me started on what I'd do with the contents of the fridge. She had a momentary advantage, wasted it and ended up worse off.
Until the heroine sees a flatline ECG she shouldn't turn her back. I wonder if it's always a heroine, by the way. Does this ever happen to the hero? I don't read a lot of suspense, so is there anyone out there who knows?