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A plot device is anything that moves a story forward. This can be something material like a character or an object or something immaterial like a situation or a change in the film world. Many plot devices have become tropes over time, such as a Macguffin (physical object) and Deus Ex Machina (situational resolution.)
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A love triangle occurs when one character cannot decide between two possible romantic prospects. This results in conflict, drama, and a thrilling final decision. Hence why it works as a plot device in all sorts of genres, not just romance!
If the basic elements are your ingredients and the story structure brings it all together into a solid foundation, storytelling or plot devices are the decorations, the sprinkles on top. Storytelling devices are anything you use to help drive the story forward: how you reveal information, direct attention, and make the reader feel what you want them to feel.
This plot device creates an extra layer of heart-racing suspense in your story, since readers will worry whether the characters will make it in time. It can also be a way to create energetic pacing in your story, since events need to happen quickly.
Flashbacks can be key plot devices in getting across context about the plot, characters or setting. They can be an integral part of the structure. Or they can feature intermittently to provide exposition.
A Deus Ex-Machina is a plot device intended to solve an unsolvable conflict or point of tension. This is usually by the unexpected appearance of an implausible character, object, action, ability, or event.
If written correctly, a time bomb plot device can keep your readers captivated from page one, breathlessly waiting to find out if the hero can save the day before the clock counts down to zero. Although there are many factors to keep in mind when including this plot device, there are three major points to consider for it to work.
While it may seem uncomfortable or foreign to allow your protagonist to take false turns or make mistakes, allowing this will not only heighten tension surrounding your time bomb plot device but will also provide realism for your character.
In fiction, a MacGuffin (sometimes McGuffin) is an object, device, or event that is necessary to the plot and the motivation of the characters, but insignificant, unimportant, or irrelevant in itself. The term was originated by Angus MacPhail for film, adopted by Alfred Hitchcock, and later extended to a similar device in other fiction.
The use of a MacGuffin as a plot device predates the name MacGuffin. The Holy Grail of Arthurian legend has been cited as an early example of a MacGuffin. The Holy Grail is the desired object that is essential to initiate and advance the plot, but the final disposition of the Grail is never revealed, suggesting that the object is not of significance in itself.
While plot devices may initially be thought of as clichés or tropes, they are actually quite effective as a screenwriting tool. Even the best screenplays and films utilize them. The secret, though, is to craft and utilize them well.
If you have the time, you should definitely dig into our exhaustive guide on plot devices, but if you're looking for something a little more bite-size, here are 18 of the best plot devices that can elevate your story, from "Big Dumb Objects" to "Plot Twists."
Mission: Impossible movies are notorious for using disguises as a plot device for plot twists within the story. Disguises can hide the true identity of a killer, protect the protagonist from harm, or offer a reveal within the climax of the story.
An audiovisual cue within a screenplay that is used to bring some object or situation to the attention of viewers. Later on within the script, the object or situation will be referred to once again, somehow advancing the plot forward as most plot devices should.
Perhaps the best plot devices that screenwriters can use. Plants and payoffs are cinematic examples of foreshadowing. You plant images, objects, or information throughout your story and later create payoffs that explain why those elements were present in the first place.
Whether it occurs between acts or at the end as a twist ending, plot twists are some of the most fun and entertaining plot devices you can use. Why? Because they add depth and mystery to your narrative, catching your viewer/reader (hopefully) by surprise, which will keep them engaged in your story longer.
A quibble is a plot device that is used to fulfill the exact verbal conditions of an agreement in order to avoid the intended meaning. Quibbles are used in legal bargains and especially in fantasy stories that contain a magically enforced one.
If you've ever read unmade screenplays or watched early student films, one plot device is used over and over again: someone wakes up in the morning and has a fuzzy memory of what is going on. Sometimes the script starts with an alarm clock. Sometimes with the sun coming up. Sometimes this script becomes 2009's The Hangover. But, with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the idea of memory erasure wasn't just a plot device; memories as a metaphysical setting was the plot.