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Deus Ex Machina

 

Disciplines > StorytellingStory Devices > Deus Ex Machina

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Use magical or improbable devices to 'save the day'. Particularly if you have painted the hero into a corner by throwing all kinds of problems at them.

More generally, it can be used to describe anything that defies the internal logic of the story and where some suspension of disbelief is challenged. This can include a change in the storyline as a person realizes they are seeking the wrong goal and hence changes direction.

Example

Star Trek uses assorted futuristic devices to get over production and physical problems, from transporters that save having to have more space ships (and get people out of dire trouble) to 'inertial dampers' that solve the problem of people falling over when the ship accelerates.

The hero is cornered but finds a trapdoor that leads to a tunnel by which they can escape.

The 80s soap 'Dallas' famously brought Bobby back from the dead by making several years of the show just a dream.

Discussion

The term 'deus ex machina' mean 'god from the machine' and is a Latin translation of the Greek trick of lowering an actor playing a god on a mechanism down onto the stage to resolve a tricky situation.

The use of this device can be a result of poor storytelling, although the real success or failure depends on the reaction of an audience -- and it can be surprising what they will believe, particularly if you have drawn them in such that they desperately do not want their suspension of disbelief to be spoiled.

See also

Magical computers, Suspension of disbelief

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