1. Silhouette
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    Silhouette Member

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    Is This A Cheap Trick To Pull?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Silhouette, May 20, 2012.

    I'm writing about two characters trying to solve a mystery. Right now I'm calling them Arthur and Helen. Helen works for a very secretive investigative unit. For instance they don't reveal to people that they are investigating a crime until after they've finished, and anyone who asks too many questions is given a number to call. They mysteriously stop asking questions by the next day.

    My problem is: I want Arthur to ask about a specific device that Helen has, and I want her to reply that she's not allowed to tell him about that. Then, several scenes later, I want that device to be what saves them from a tight spot. It's also meant to implicitly reveal some things about the agency she works for.

    Does this strike you as a deus ex machina? I'm planning it from the beginning so I hope that will remove that 'came out of nowhere' feeling that dei ex machina are known for. But at the same time, I'm not planning to drop any hints along the way about what it does (I don't see how I can without spoiling the whole thing). If you were reading this story, would such a thing surprise you or make you throw the book down in disgust?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    First, it is not deus ex machina, which is when the day is saved with no logical reason for the intervention to take place.

    Whether it is cheesy is solely a matter of the writing, not the premise. MAKE the reader believe it makes sense.
     
  3. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    Yeah, as long as it makes sense to exist, the reader doesn't have to know specifically what it does until it saves them.
     
  4. PeterC
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    PeterC Active Member

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    It works for me. Helen doesn't want to talk about the device anyway so you don't need to go into detail about it until it's needed. Just let the reader know it exists. The mystery will help make things interesting.
     
  5. thecoopertempleclause
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    thecoopertempleclause Contributing Member

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    It's not a Deus ex Machina, it's Chekhov's Gun. Therefore, go nuts.
     
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  6. KazuHirA
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    KazuHirA New Member

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    Meh..It depends to be honest. I'm not a fan of "holy shit we just got saved by this thing we know nothing about outta nowhere."
    It isn't deus ex machina as far I know, but i usually don't like such saved in a pinch stuff. I don't really mind if it's a character saving them as long as they have a pretty damn good reason for it, but with a device. Naw, i would probably get pissed reading that and be like, "what a happy concidence!" And frown. Remember, in storywriting, luck shouldn't play as big a factor as it does in real life. People/readers want things to occur in a logical manner, not in a "wow they just got real lucky" manner. I think it lowers sympathy for the characters as it makes them out to be lucky rather than capable.

    That might be just me though..
     
  7. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    I'm with you Kazu to an extent. I don't like it when books just go "oh, we're saved by some mysterious object" without really going into much detail. However, depending on how you explain how the object saved you... it can work. I've seen plenty of times in TV shows and books where something you didn't know about appears to save you. I don't know if you've ever seen the TV show Leverage, but they do this every episode. They'll try and con a bad guy and with 10 minutes left in the show everything seems to be messing up, but then when the commercial break ends it turns out they were really okay because of some complex back up plan that they had set up just in case.
     
  8. Silhouette
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    Silhouette Member

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    Thanks for your help guys. I have lots to think about, but I guess ultimately it's like Cogito said: it depends on how well I can write the scene.

    @KazuHirA: you've pretty much summed up my fear. Even if it isn't technically a deus ex machina I worry that it will feel a little too convenient to be tolerable.

    But I don't think I'll know if it's a good choice or not until I write it. So for now I'll keep it in and if I don't like it (which is what I'm starting to anticipate happening) I'll just have to come up with something else.
     
  9. KazuHirA
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    KazuHirA New Member

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    Yeah, most detective and suspense tv shows are like that. I don't mind most of them although that csi nonsense pisses me off. Like, the guy tries to be all cool and composed all the time and it annoys beyond anything else. However, I enjoy shows like The Mentalist or other one's because I know there's some bullshit explanation that's gonna appear outta nowhere, but atleast it keeps me entertained along the way, and for what it's worth, It doesn't try to hide it. By thirty minutes in, you know they'll need a miracle, the only question is what will it be? But that's fundamental different from what your trying to do. Your trying to hide it from us and then spring it on us like "KaBAAM!" And expect us to like it.
    I personally don't like it since there's no foreshadowing, no sense of scale of what that device can actually do, and no "You-shoulda-seen-it-coming" to soften the blow.
    I don't like it personally, but maybe others will.

    *Sorry bout that man, I replied late... Oh well
     
  10. bo_7md
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    bo_7md Member

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    Search for Checkhov's gun, Foreshadowing and Telegraphing. Mix the first two, avoid the third, and you have a common practice/technique.
     

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