While trying to figure out what I should write about next, I realised that April 1st (a.k.a. April Fools) was just around the corner. What better way to start off the month than with a post about fish!
… Just Kidding! :P
In today’s entry, I will discuss various plot devices, among which will be the Red Herring.
A plot device can be anything which helps move the story forward. It is often used to assist the characters in one way or another; it can be done by creating sense of urgency, supplying needed resources or removing an obstacle from the protagonists path. Following are a list of popular plot devices:
The Red Herring
In the narrative, a Red Herring is a type of misdirection which is meant to lead the audience (or characters) to a false conclusion. It can be a clue, fact or other piece of seemingly important information, whose purpose is to divert attention away from the actual pertinent issues within the story. This form of plot device is most commonly used in mystery, horror and crime stories.
Deus ex machina
The term deus ex machina is Greek, meaning "god from the machine". It’s origins date back to ancient Greek theater, where stagehands used a crane (called mechane) to lower actors playing a god onto the stage. Today, the term is used in literature to describe a situation where a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly resolved by a means unrelated to the story (as if it was fate, luck or the will of God). This improbable intervention is used to surprise the audience, to bring the tale to a happy ending, or simply to move the story forward when the writer sees no other way out.
In fiction, a MacGuffin is a term referring to an object, person, goal or location whose specific nature is not important to the story. It is merely a plot device which serves to motivate the protagonist in a certain manner, often with little or no narrative explanation as to why it is considered so important. The MacGuffin may be the central focus of the story for some time, but its importance will fade as the story progresses, leaving the center stage to the actual Goal.
“Chekhov’s gun” is a literary term which originated from Russian author Anton Chekhov. While sharing advice with other writers, Chekhov said “One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it.” The idea behind this dramatic principle is that every element mentioned in a story must be necessary and serve a purpose, and that extraneous details must be removed. Giving an object attention should be considered a signal to the readers that it has some importance to the story.
The Shoulder angel
We’ve all seen the cartoons where a character has a moral dilemma, and their inner argument is depicted by having both an Angel and a Demon on their shoulders trying to convince said character to listen to them. This plot device is often used for either dramatic or humorous effect, and helps to show the inner conflict of a character, whereas the Angel represents the moral good, and the Demon represents temptation.
Anagnorisis is the moment a protagonist suddenly discovers their own (or another character's) true identity and/or nature. This technique allows the hero and audience to gain a sudden awareness of the situation, as previously unforeseen information is revealed at a specific moment in the story, increasing it’s impact on the readers.
A sudden change in the chronological order of a story is occasionally used to surprise the reader, giving them access to previously unknown information in order to better understand a inexplicable situation. This plot device can come in one of two forms: a flashback or a flashforward. A flashback, also known as analepsis, is an interjected scene that takes the narrative back in time from the current point in the story. A flashforward, also know as prolepsis, reveals events that will occur in the future. There is also mention of a plot device named In medias res (Latin for "into the middle of things"), which is when a book begins from the middle of a story, then goes back to the events that caused it (the true beginning) before working their way back to the present event.
As a literary device, Poetic Justice serves to create an ironic twist of fate, where virtue is rewarded or vice punished in a way that has a logical connection to the character's own conduct. A good example of Poetic Justice would be to see a villainous mastermind be caught in their own, meticulously planned trap.
A Hand Wave is referred to as any clarification which is noteworthy for its lack of detail or coherence. By using minimal or even sketchy information, this plot device hopes to suspend the reader's disbelief long enough to continue past this point of the story without interrupting its momentum.
In closing, I learned through these various plot devices that events in a plot do not always need to be straightforward, adding a twist or surprise is what keeps the audience on their toes.
Until next time, you will be herring from me again! :p
(edited on 30-03-2016)