Sunday, 4 November 2018

D is for Deus Ex Machina

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Welcome to Week D of the A to Z Writing Series. My post for the week is 'Deus Ex Machina'. 

Did you say, what the heck is that? So, here's a little definition. Deus ex Machina is a Latin term which actually means 'God from the Machine'. The term originated in Roman and Greek Drama where at a certain point in the climax of the story God would drop down from the sky (via a crane, and hence the reference to machine) to provide a resolution to the story. 

In modern story telling using the Deus Ex Machina - or divine intervention - is considered to be poor writing. While it may be argued that in life, coincidences and random events do happen, when you're telling a story, use of such a device to resolve the protagonist's dilemma or crisis can often leave your reader dissatisfied.

Whether your story is a romance or a thriller, your protagonist is the one who drives the story with his/her choices. To keep the reader engaged and turning the pages, the writer needs to make life difficult for the Main Character.

Source: https://tvtropes.org
As the stakes are raised for the Character, the reader feels invested in the story and wants to know how things will turn out. So using a random/sudden event to resolve the crisis is not advisable as the reader will end up feeling cheated.

Notwithstanding such writing wisdom, one of the most popular movies of all time (Raiders of the Lost Ark) has used the 'Deus Ex Machina' to resolve the crisis that its lead character Indiana Jones (played by Harrison Ford) faces at the end of the movie. Watch this short video by screenwriting guru Robert McKee who explains why despite using "divine intervention" the writers scored big with this movie.

Enjoy the clip and let me know if you can think of films/books where they used the Deus Ex Machina without completely destroying the plot.

Happy Writing!

















4 comments :

  1. This is so cool - didn't know this. Thanks for explaining it so well

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  2. Nice one! Brings me back to my days of learning Latin.

    ReplyDelete