Plot Device


(permanent link) added: 2010-04-27 12:24:21 sponsor: VampireBuddha (last reply: 2010-05-02 10:09:38)

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Because I'm sick of people misusing MacGuffin

A plot device is an object or character in the story whose purpose is purely to drive the plot. It could be something everybody wants to obtain, a device that must be destroyed, or an annoying teenager who must be protected at all cost.

It may also be an object or gadget introduced early in the story for the sole purpose of solving a sticky situation later on.

The term is commonly used in a derisory manner, on the grounds that the best stories are character driven, and using an object to make things happen is thus seen as a sign of Bad Writing. However, there are plenty of good stories which do indeed revolve around a plot device; equally, a plot device can very easily be used to generate conflict and thus spark a character-driven story.

Subtropes:
  • Artifact of Attraction: An item which magically causes everybody to lust after it, generating conflict.
  • Artifact of Doom: A powerful item that causes corruption in all who use it.
  • Plot Coupons: A set of items which the characters all want to collect.
  • MacGuffin: A plot device which nobody actually uses, and whose nature and identity are basicall irrelevant.
  • Magnetic Plot Device: A plot device whose very presence causes things to happen.

Examples (some taken from MacGuffin:

  • The One Ring in The Lord of the Rings: the entire story is an attempt to destroy it.
  • Energy is a plot device in Transformers: Generation 1, Headmasters, Masterforce, Victory, Zone, and Energon, as the Transformers were all after energy to revitalise some planet or other. Angolmois fulfilled a similar role in Beast Wars II and Beast Wars Neo, with the AllSpark being the device of choice for the movies and Animated. In Armada, it was Mini-Cons, and in Cybertron, it was the CyberPlanetKeys. Generation 2, Beast Wars, and Beast Machines did not use this trope, relying instead of extraplanetary threats, screwing with time, and a fight for power to have toys beat the slag out of each other.
    • Also, in several continuities, there's the Matrix, used to appoint new Autobot leaders and sometimes create new robotic life. Naturally, the Decepticons generally want it.
  • One could very well argue that the Evas from Neon Genesis Evangelion are plot devices for the purpose of destroying the sanity of the children. Sure, the bulk of the series is about them, but if we follow the progression of the series, it arcs around the Evas destroying Shinji's identity and causing great mental strife in Asuka ending at Shinji realizing he doesn't need to be an Eva pilot to be alive. It's not that pretty when you see it this way, and again proves it's not really a Mech show, but it does make that bit more sense, if you think Evangelion can have sense be made of it.
  • Eric Flint made up a plot device for his book 1632 (he originally thought he was only going to write one book, not a series) called an Assiti Shard that transports a spherical area through time and space to an Alternate Universe. Flint openly states that he made the things up so that he'd have an easy way to create various Alternate History and Science Fiction books.
    • In other words, they serve no purpose other then being an excuse for why George Washington is negotiating with Julius Caesar, or why there's US prisoners and Native Americans fighting dinosaurs, or any other such historical shenanigans.
  • The titular Emblem in the Fire Emblem games takes on the role of the local plot device in the majority of the games.

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