Use with Caution.
A plot device is an object or character in the story whose purpose is purely to drive the Plot
or resolve situations. It could be something everybody wants to obtain, a device that must be destroyed, or an annoying teenager who must be protected at all costs
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.
Whenever someone uses the term derisively (if they are using the term properly), it is because there is a dissonance between it and the actual needs of the story. For example, the hero has a chance to stop the Big Bad
but he is called away because his wife is Trapped by Mountain Lions
. It makes the story more complicated without adding anything in return. The villain doesn't build any credentials by setting up the sadistic choice
and the hero doesn't spend time agonizing over his missed opportunity.
Almost by definition, stories have plot devices. Examples should be limited to lampshade hangings and references to the term.
- There is a character in Sheep in the Big City, literally called The Plot Device, which is a robot that can cause nearly anything to happen to advance the plot.
- Dr. Bill Ernoehazy, an Orion's Arm contributor'', wrote another story with a Faster-Than-Light Travel system called the Plott-deVice drive.
- One of the various Mac Guffins that City of Heroes radio missions will ocassionally ask you to retrieve is a "P.L.O.T. Device." Its description:
The Phased Linear Oscillation Transducer
is a miraculous device, capable of producing such a variety of effects that many find it simply unbelievable. However, overusing a P.L.O.T. device can have serious consequences, and the more egregious
uses can strain the very fabric of reality. P.L.O.T devices have fallen out of favor overall, but many a young and reckless pioneer has picked up a well-used P.L.O.T. device and run with it.
- Mr. Mighty of Everyday Heroes realizes that he can subject Matt O'Morph to a bit of Harmless Freezing with a carbon-dioxide fire extinguisher ... which has a label on the side that reads, "Warning, Plot Device!"
- A literal plot device can be seen here in this Cyanide and Happiness strip.
- In Nip and Tuck, when a character complains of an obvious plot device in the Show Within a Show, someone else informs him it was Real Life.
- This short by Seth Worley features a device called Plot Device, which is a yellow box with large friendly letters reading "Plot Device" with a Big Red Button on its top and enables the user to turn his life in a movie and travel between different film genres.
- One Captain Mar-Vell comic, starring Genis-Vell, featured a very clever Kree fellow named "Plaht," whose "device" cleared away several plot inconveniences.
- In The Dresden Files RPG, certain characters are noted as being "plot device level" characters. Most of them are considered Plot Devices because they're so ridiculously powerful that no Player Party would ever reasonably be able to take them on directly, making stats meaningless, and thus would have to outmanuever, work around, or run away from them; these include the Faerie Queens, Angels, and Dragons. A handful, however, are noted as being a Plot Device because they're so far down on the other side of the scale that they can only really provide one specific and specialized purpose, such as Elidee, a tiny pixie—even by pixie standards—who shows up briefly in one book to serve as a guide/flashlight for Dresden.