Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Tied to a chair

A brief post at John McFetridge's blog caught my eye the other day. It opens:
Three of my favourite authors - Denise Minna, Christopher Brookmyre and Ian Rankin - all have a scene in one of their books in which someone is tied to a chair and killed. In the Rankin the guy tied to the chair manages to get to a window and jump out, but he's impaled on a fence.
(Doesn't Rankin's gambit sound like something that happened with a bad guy who tied Sipowicz to a chair in an old episode of Hill Street Blues?)

As it happens, I once wrote a screenplay where I had a major character tied to a chair. I worried about the cliché, but compensated for it by throwing in a couple of truly original (I swear!) and surprising twists into the scene.

To further shake my wobbly confidence about the scene, the day after I wrote it I read Roger Ebert's review of 15 Minutes in which he writes:
I have a private theory that half the time you see a character tied to a chair, the screenwriter ran out of ideas.
You know you're in trouble when Ebert is slamming your plot devices before you've even sold the script.

So I did what every writer does in a situation like that: I whined to a friend. Luckily, I have very generous friends.

And, sure enough, Friend of the Blog Andrew Grant-Thomas had the perfect response to my crisis in confidence: "Ebert said half the time, yo."

Moral of the story: get and keep some good friends.

--Marshal Zeringue