A Note on the Plot-Contrivance Fairy

It sounded a bit like I bashed the plot-contrivance fairy in my previous post, and I feel the need to elaborate a bit here.

I know, I know, the proper term is “Deus ex Machina,” but “Plot-Contrivance Fairy” has a derogatory-but-endearing sound to it.

The plot-contrivance fairy is a necessary evil for writers. In some cases, were it not for a specific serendipitous or unfortunate moment, the story would not even exist. You can take it too far – which is one reason my first novel failed, and also why I bash James Patterson a bit (because Big Bad Wolf was bad… just bad). However, anyone who reads the newspapers will know that these kinds of things do happen: the mysterious, never-identified voice that calls out for help (http://www.11alive.com/story/news/nation-now/2015/03/12/father-says-baby-who-survived-13-hour-car-crash-ordeal/70232828/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter), the perfectly-clear photograph or dead-on sketch of a suspect that is never recognized, or the cop car that is in just the right place at just the right moment:


Now, I’m using this one not only because it fits, but also because Stephen was a friend from Mercer, so I’m familiar with the case. A great deal of “coply intuition” went into this investigation (I’m also a bit of a Jesse Stone geek… go figure), as well as a bit of serendipity (well, misfortune, if you look at it from Stephen’s perspective).

A writer should not shy away from the plot-contrivance fairy, but she should not have it carry her plot. If a character is in a jam, make it plausible – unlike Big Bad Wolf -_-


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