A few years ago, I was reading an adventure/thriller book, and enjoying it immensely. Our Heroes were deep in the Amazon, had just retrieved the item they’d spent the entire book trying to locate & keep away from The Bad Guy, and were running for their lives, Important Item tucked safely inside a canvas bag.
Our Heroes come to a bridge. Oh no! Bad Guy is on the other side. And his men are behind them (“headed off at the pass”, is a nice cliche for it…).
What to do? The item can’t fall into the hands of The Bad Guy, and surely he’ll kill them all, even if they try to make a deal.
In the midst of the action, Our Hero crosses the bridge, and as he fights off Goon #1, he tosses the bag further down the bridge (so it doesn’t impede his ability to fight)… and continues fighting and coming up with a plan.
Needless to say, the plan is a bit predictable: lure The Bad Guy onto the bridge, cut the ropes, find another way around. Day saved, yes?
The plan seems flawless. Our Heroes manage to execute the plan, with much drama and tension and near-death.
In the end, they manage to get safely to one side, while The Bad Guy plunges into the canyon below. Huffing and puffing, they congratulate each other on a successful adventure, sling the bag over a shoulder, and go on their way to complete the Expected Storyline Denouement.
What about the bag?!?
If the bag was on the middle of the bridge, and the heroes had to get back to the original side they started on—then lure The Bad Guy onto the bridge—and then cut the ropes, wouldn’t that mean the precious artifact would plunge into the gorge along with The Bad Guy?!
Yes. In fact, it does mean that.
At no point during the entire climactic scene did one of the heroes retrieve the bag before heading back to safety… y’know, the bag containing the very item they spent the entire book trying to find. The very item the book was titled for.
Moral of the story: If your character has a purse, a bag, a briefcase, a suitcase—any personal item that you’ve specified he/she carries regularly—you must know where this item is at all times.
Even running from the bad guys. Even during a car chase. Especially during one-on-one action scenes.
Otherwise, you’ll have the magic disappearing and reappearing bag, which—evidently—the editing team might not catch, resulting in a reader who’s disappointed and frustrated at the author’s carelessness… instead of turning that final page thinking “what a darn good adventure story!”
Do YOU know where your Hero/Heroine’s bag/purse/satchel is?