1. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    The use of Deus Ex Machina?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by lordofhats, Nov 19, 2007.

    How do you feel about the use of Deus Ex Machina in a story?

    I was asked a question about it in my English class earlier and was unsure how to answer. Naturally the teacher skipped me and gave extra credit points to the person with an answer :rolleyes:.
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    bottom line: like any writing technique/trick, if it works, it works!

    all too often, this one doesn't... it would take a writer of exceptional skill/talent to pull one off successfully... probably has been done now and then, but no examples come readily to mind... anyone have one?
     
  3. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    I know that HG Wells used Deus Ex Machina in the end of War of the Worlds. I'm also aware that that the Alex Rider series of novels notoriusly uses Deux Ex in advancing the story. Its not a book but AJ Johnson from Halo is regulary called a Deus Ex because he will die in game then reappear in a key story event a level later.

    That is all I can think of off the top of my head...
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you're right... wells' common bacteria was definitely a dem... and one that worked!
     
  5. SAGMUN
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    SAGMUN Member

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    I agree with maia

    A successful "Deus Ex Machina" is true to the genre, the spirit of the times, and makes sense. Well's invaders had no natural defense. Well's Europeans were familiar with this reality. Explorers told stories of natives being decimated by European diseases.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I would disagree that the common virus that wiped out the Martians was a Deus Ex Machina. It wasn't just pulled "out of the blue", but was a logical resolution.

    A more typical DEM resolution would have been if the Martians' mortal enemy swooped down at the last minute, blasted every last one of them, then went on their merry way.

    A DEM ending would be when the villain of a crime novel has the unarmed detective in his sights at point blank range in a blinding rainstorm, but is struck by lightning before he can pull the trigger.

    Basically, DEM applies when the probability of a random event stretches credibility to the breaking point, and that event reverses a hopeless situation.
     
  7. SnipSnap
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    SnipSnap Active Member

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    Lol ... I remember at the end the end of Medea by Euripides, Medea kills her children and then carries them away on a dragon. That's one of the funniest examples of it I've seen. Now I want to write a story which ends w/ dem and see how well I do.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you're right, cog!... i wrote w/o thinking... the logic in that ending does remove it from the DEM camp...
     
  9. trailer trash
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    trailer trash Senior Member

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    Deus Ex Machina is a lazy substitute

    Deus Ex Machina is a lazy substitute for a good ending. IMO it shows only that the writer is weak and too lazy to come up with an appropriate ending. Are that he/she has grown tired with their on story and only want to put an end to it.

    Elmo
     
  10. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I don't use Deus Ex Machina at all, I just find it fake.
    But then again, I have no problem with killing off my main chartors.
    Some times I think an ending is a lot more powerful and meaningful if they die or find them selves lost in an abyss of maddness.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if you're not gonna actually have a god descending in a machine [i.e., lowered by crane] to save the day, for comic effect, i agree you probably shouldn't use the device at all... the ancient greeks weren't as 'sophisticated' as we like to think we are today, and as they also believed in all kinds of god-effected events, they bought it... but most editors and readers nowadays won't...
     
  12. ivy
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    ivy Member

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    When I read Deus Ex Machina in a story, I feel cheated. If I wrote it, which I wouldn't, I would feel I was cheating. It's like those days back in high school, when I would pray for the world to end before I had to take the math test I hadn't studied for. It just...never happened. Part of a character's job, IMHO, is to develop enough to resolve the conflict on his/her own or, if (s)he cannot, to live with the consequences.

    I will concede that maybe this is only true of the genres I like to read and write. There are plenty of them that I'm not very informed about. Maybe it's a more acceptable device in some genre than in others?
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I'd say it's fairly well accepted in humor. But it's pretty well deprecated in serious fiction. Readers want endings that make logical sense.
     
  14. adamant
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    adamant Contributing Member Contributor

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    I liked how it was executed in Lord of the Flies though. When it came, it was so ironic and helped the book's message... in my opinion anyway.
     
  15. Domoviye
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    Domoviye Contributing Member

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    Cogito your right it can work in comedy. An anime called 'Excel Saga' is based around the concept, right down to having God watching it all and complaining about how she always has to step in because the characters keep screwing up. There it works.
     

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