Mail Bombs

Sorry it’s late, friends – I had an unexpected visit from a couple of friends from out of state. Like, seriously, I heard a knock at the door, was not expecting anyone, and bam, two of my friends from out of state. It was a little distracting.

Which brings us to mail bombs.  Because they asked my husband for our address to surprise me, and said they were sending me a gift. And my husband has the teensiest bit of OCD which is based entirely in obsessing that something bad is going to happen to me. So despite the fact he knows my friends love me, and he worked in the post office for a few weeks and knows sending a mail bomb is incredibly difficult nowadays, when he texted me about getting a package and I was too busy being delighted at unexpected guests to reply, he started to worry that they had sent me a mail bomb.

Remember, he can recognize this obsession is ridiculous and still believe it because that’s OCD.

Anyway it got me thinking about mail bombs and villains sending them. The thing about a mail bomb is that it’s an unexpected surprise of an unpleasant sort. When the hero gets it, they probably have no reason to expect it’s a bomb and will likely just open it. And the thing about bombs is that if you’re holding it when it explodes, there’s really no chance of you making it out of that alive. You’re blown up. Game over.

Really, that should be the case with all bombs in general, supernatural powers aside.

…Of course, that doesn’t stop even the best of writers from having heroes escape from explosions. And fall damage and falling rocks, too, apparently. THERE’S NO REASON FOR YOU TO LIVE, CID!

The thing about bombs is that they’re a cheap shot, which of course* your villain would use. Especially a mail bomb surprise.

The thing about a cheap shot is that they’re quite hard to justify a hero’s escape, and the best way to keep your hero alive is to avoid putting him up against things like bombs altogether. However, if it was possible for your villain to do some simple mail bomb and he didn’t, you get the “why didn’t they just shoot Voldemort” kind of problem.

How It Should Have Ended thought he should have been shot, too.

How It Should Have Ended thought he should have been shot, too.

Why didn’t the villain just, y’know, blow up the hero, or otherwise take the cheap shot? Like I mentioned, it’s actually really hard to mail something like a bomb to someone nowadays so if you’re writing modern fiction, it’s not like a mail bomb is a super viable solution that you’d have to worry about. But watch for obvious solutions you’re ignoring because you can’t figure out how your hero survives them. That just makes your villain weak, which makes your hero weak.

If your villain can kill off your hero easily, he needs to do it. And if you can’t afford to kill your hero, you need to come up with a good reason why either your hero survives or an excellent reason why your villain doesn’t try to take the cheap shot. *It is possible that your villain could just have a higher moral standard than that, or be psychotic enough to prefer a proper game of cat and mouse.

This guy (Rubicante, Final Fantasy IV) heals you before battle because he wants to fight you at your full strength. He’s weirdly a gentleman that way – it’s not even a hundred percent about his proper battle prowess against yours, it’s in part about being considerate before he kills you.

You don’t ever want your readers or critics wondering, “Well why didn’t he just ____?” I mean, that’s the big thing with LOTR.

You know what I’m talking about. “Why didn’t they just have the eagles fly the ring?”

So look out for an easier way and make sure you have a viable reason as to why either hero or villain didn’t just take it. Especially villains with a cheap shot.

And maybe if it’s just far too easy for your villain to kill your hero…your hero needs to be killed and someone else must rise up or take over. Kill your darlings, Stephen King said – killing the main hero is a unique enough of an occurrence that it could be worth your while to try…and it could be that it’s just what your story needs.

About Rii the Wordsmith

An aspiring author, artist, avid consumer of storytelling medium, gamer, psychologist (insomuch as one with her bachelor's is a psychologist), wife, mother, DM, Christian, a friend to many, and, most importantly, an evil overlord.
This entry was posted in Making Villains (Making Villains la-la-la!) and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Mail Bombs

  1. One of the things I really liked about Woven by Michael Jensen and David Powers King is that the uber-powerful villain succeeded in killing the hero near the beginning of the book (with a cheap shot). The hero’s ghost then proceeded to work on taking the villain down.


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