Sandie Bergen, Author

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'Gun on the Mantle'

Posted by Sandie on August 16, 2011 at 12:45 AM

Strange things come into my mind on the nights I have trouble sleeping. Usually they revolve around the books I'm writing or am planning to write. Not last night. For some reason I coudn't stop thinking about the writing 'rule' that says 'If you show a gun on the mantle at the beginning of the story, you'd better use it by the end'.

First of all, I say 'rule' because thier are no rules in writing, just guidelines. Any of these guidelines can be broken as long as it's done right. I'm not going to get into 'right', because it means different things in different readers' minds. One 'rule' that doesn't seem to get broken, however, at least as far as I've seen, is the 'Gun on the Mantle.'


I think maybe it should be broken from time to time. A few years ago, my son asked me how I can predict occurances in so many TV shows and movies. It's because of the 'Gun on the Mantle'. For example, a novel I started reading at the beginning of July takes place in medieval England. One of the characters is shown to have a mole in a discreet place. At that time, moles were believed to be devil's marks, at least believed by those who chose to believe and wished harm to certain people. As soon as it was mentioned, I knew the character, a female, would be accused of witchcraft. Surprise, surprise, I was right. There are a lot of other very predictable occurances in the book and as a result I haven't picked it up in weeks. I just can't get into finishing it.


It's stuck in my head ever since. It could be that the book is so very predictable. I love it when books throw me a curve. Show me the gun, but have it misfire or blow up in the protag/antag's face. Have a child pick it up and threaten to use it on a bad guy. Maybe, during a fight, one of the combatants is thrown against the mantle and the gun falls to the floor...and shatters because it's actually made of glass and because of the glass, someone cuts their feet and loses the fight. Okay, maybe I 'm stretching it a bit. But only a little.


I will confess to using the 'Gun on the Mantle' myself. In 'The Cairngorm', posted on my Stories page, I use the scottish brooch, the cairngorm, as a 'Gun on the Mantle'. It's shown at the beginning of the story and becomes something quite important. Perhaps that's the difference, it isn't just used as a prop that shows up somehow later in the story to cause a bit of difficulty for the protag. It's a very important part of the story.


Baybee, in The Jada-Drau, is different. She's almost a charcter in her own right. The only example of a 'Gun on the Mantle' that I can think of in that book is the outfit and necklace Cenith buys when he thinks he's marrying Iridia. The outfit shows up at his father's funeral. The necklace....well, you'll just have to wait until Tyrsa's Choice to find out.


Now that that's out, maybe I can sleep tonight, and dream about something equally silly but hopefully useful in a book somewhere.

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1 Comment

Reply Grumpy
11:46 PM on September 18, 2011 
Again you make us wait, use the gun. Damn it. Shoot.