Enough Rope

The final chapters of my WIP involve rope. Rope is useful. My characters use it to get themselves into and out of trouble.

I have had to visualize the operations involving rope in detail, because there are certain realities about it. To wit:

  • a person has to be able-bodied to climb up or down a rope
  • if someone is going to climb up or down a rope, said rope must be solidly fastened to something
  • after descending via a rope so fastened, there is no way to untie it from beneath and remove it
  • a rope left in place can be used by someone else, including enemies/pursuers

In my longhand first draft manuscript, there is much evidence of agonizing about ropes. First a rope ladder just happens to be lying around. Hurray! Ah, but there’s a note in the manuscript that says “NO ROPE LADDER. TOO EASY.” Replace rope ladder with a basic rope. First it needs to be there, then it has to leave the scene. Where does it go? (Remember: PLOT MUST BE LOGICAL.) A few paragraphs later, the rope is back (“Yay!” say the characters), but I see another added note: “NO ROPE YET.” Fine. The rope keeps sneaking in, and the Editorial Voice keeps sticking in directions to remove it, so as not to give the characters a break.

Meanwhile, the person pounding the keyboard (that would be me) is having fits.

I have to say, this is one of the most tedious aspects of writing–working out practical details in a way that’s realistic but not too easy for the characters. For one thing, tiresome details are a pain. For another, my natural tendency is to figure out the simplest, easiest, and most efficient way for the characters to get something done, not the most torturous, error-prone, and frustrating way. But readers of fiction prefer the latter, so the writer first has to imagine the right way to do something, and then a number of wrong ways. And the plot must be logical.

Just for the record, I have never climbed up or down a rope, but I have certainly become tangled up in a fictional one.

I have now finished keying in that longhand ms. I’ve sorted the rope. Now the rewrite begins!

Featured image from Pexels.


  1. When you’re in a jam or jelly
    make sure there’s a rope
    wrapped round your belly
    At least find a monk
    to loan you his, and some hope.

    Rope. No rope. This is the best story I’ve read about managing details in a manuscript. It might also be the only one. I really appreciate the lessons in writing and I promise to dedicate my first book to you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The things we tangle ourselves up with!
    There are a couple of ways to not leave a rope behind. Both are dangerous.
    One: a noose or slipknot with the rope hooked over a protuberance that isn’t too high (and without jagged bits). From below, the rope can be hoiked with a strong flick to lift it over the anchor.
    Two: Anchor the rope, then cut part-way through it (requires some skills with weight estimation, distance, etc.). The rope will break at some stage. That’s the danger, but if the first one gets down, the risk is increased for any following.

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  3. Climbing down, experienced mountaineers know of release knots that allow them to recover their expensive rope. Climbing up an existing rope, more than say 20 feet, is nearly impossible without means of binding gear that can grip the rope for you. But, even shoelaces can work, I’ve learned.

    Unless this is a mountaineering story, blurring the details about the need to first be here and then be there would seem prudent to keep the story from becoming mired in minutia. But, I know the need for consistency. “How the hell did he get the sail up the mast if the mast had been snapped in half in the storm three chapters ago?”

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    1. Not a mountaineering story, by any means. The distance is no more than 20 feet, so I’m hoping knots will do the trick for climbing by people in their 20s. And the rope being available or not is one of those consistency things. And there are other factors, which I won’t reveal at this stage.


  4. This post made me laugh, Audrey, because it’s so darn familiar! Lol. I just had this issue over a “ladder” to get over a high wall. There’s this ladder hidden in the bushes? Yeah right. Red-lined the ladder. Much too easy and way, way too contrived. I’m glad you got your rope sorted. Happy Writing!

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  5. You have us all thinking about rope now! We visited a rope factory and brought home a sample, but it’s only a few inches long! I love the smell of real rope – sisal or whatever it’s made of, but your characters probably won’t have time to notice that.

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