Dead End

While my Player 2 and I were in North Africa on a medical mission trip in June, one of the tourist activities we got to do was actually going inside and up into the Great Pyramid in Giza.  Just standing next to the pyramids was something else.  You learn about them as a child and you see them in pictures, but it’s completely different being right next to one.  It’s hard to know until you are right next to one, just how massive they are.  Each individual block on its own is huge.  Together, they form something unbelievable.

When you go inside, you go through some narrow and steep spaces to climb up to the burial chamber.  I wasn’t on my hands and knees crawling, but more crouching down very low and scooching forward.  Some opted to crawl through.  There are a couple more open spaces where you climb, but mostly very tight, very small spaces you must get through to get to the more open areas.  Think of a crawl space below a house, but dark, hot, and only wide enough for one person to pass through at a time or in a line, one in front of the other.  There are wooden bars on the ground to use for steps and boy is it hot.  I really thought with it being inside, that it had to be cooler than out in the scalding sun in the Egyptian desert.  I was very wrong.  It’s so much hotter inside the pyramids with virtually no moving air.  You can see where what looks like vents have been put in, but you don’t feel it.

Once you get up to the burial chamber, you are in an open room with high ceilings and a single open, empty sarcophagus.  Here, people stop for a break and to take pictures.   And then, you must go back down the way that you came.  This got me to thinking about its relation to one of the tougher situations for characters in a horror story—one way in, one way out.

In this type of situation in a story, the hero has reached a destination or completed a goal that wasn’t easily done, and now before the glory of their accomplishment can set in, they need to go.  But for our protagonist, good deeds don’t go unpunished.  In this situation, the suspense sets in when it’s time to turn around and there is some type of roadblock—someone hunting them down, a paranormal force, a monster, a broken path.  Being able to just walk out would be too simple, right?

When it rains, it pours.  How must the character feel to have made it to the end of an agonizing stretch, only to realize that it was the easy half?  Where does their mind go?  If you’re writing a story, what would your main character do in this situation? Would they freeze, hide, or fight their way out?  How would your main character feel being in a dead end?


How would your main character feel being in a dead end? Trapped? Click To Tweet

It can be applied metaphorically to situations for characters in our writing, too.  When there is really only one option for a way out.  What is our character doing mentally when they’ve looked at the pickle they are in and have convinced themselves there is only one route or way out and for some reason it’s blocked?  When they’ve mentally cornered themselves?

Would your main character have the motivation to fight their way out? Click To Tweet

I think of the characters in my book that I’m working on right now.  The differences in their personalities and temperaments would certainly make a difference in how they would react if I placed them in a one way stretch at the dead end and a monster raging in through the entrance.  But what I think it ultimately comes down to is their motivation for getting out.  Would your main character have the motivation to fight their way out?

Until next time.

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S.L. Ember

Horror and dark fiction writer.

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