October 28, 2012

Writing Tip: Deus Ex Machina

How many books did you read in which the situation looked as worse as it possible could be for the hero and even then he manages to escape in a ridiculous way by the help of a unknown powers? Certainly you read that at least a hundreds times and that only in this year. These moments are not only bad for the credibly of the story but that situation also bury the chance of develop the character through a dramatic scene or kill of unneeded characters. The method is practically found everywhere and is called Deus Ex Machina.
[Picture by Praetoris01]

But what is a Deus Ex Machina and how can you discover it yourself if you used such one in your own story? Let me firstly begin with the definition.
A deus ex machina  (/ˈd.əs ɛks ˈmɑːknə/ or /ˈdəs ɛks ˈmækɨnə/ DAY-əs eks MAH-kee-nə; Latin: "god from the machine"; plural: dei ex machina) is a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly solved with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability, or object. It can be roughly translated as "God made it happen," with no further explanation, and, depending on usage, is primarily used to move the story forward when the writer has "painted himself into a corner" and sees no other way out. However, in other cases, it is used to surprise the audience, or, commonly influenced by editors and/or publishers, bring a happy ending into the taleSource - Wikipedia
Now i will tell you how you could discover such a situation in your own work. You used a Deus Ex Machina device whenever your main character solves a problem without working it out himself. This could be the case if your character develops a power that wasn't teased before, or an magical object gets activated, or someone mysterious saves him or a unknown higher power helps him out. There are many more possibilities but these are the most common in books.

Using this device isn't bad for the first draft but you should get rid of it at the revising phase. But how? Thats really easy but sometimes it changes your beloved character... entirely. Every situation should be solved instead by your character through his actions, even if it breaks him. If he can't rescue himself then let him die in vain. It may be a harsh ending but thats the one which would naturally occur. If you don't want him to die, then you have only 2 possible options.

1: Use a deus Ex Machina and keep on writing. Try to change that with your next work.
2: Change the previous chapters and give him the possibility to develop a method to save himself.

If you change these situation you add deep to your characters and make your story more believable which could lead to better reception of readers.

Do you have Deus Ex Machina Moments and if, could you get rid of them? How did you do it?

3 Kommentare:

  1. Good advice!
    One observation though:
    Deus Ex Machina might be Latin but only because the Romans took/borrowed it from the Greeks. "O apo Michanis Theos" is the Greek phrase that has survived and used today from ancient times. It translates: "The god from the machine"
    Couldn't help but interject that! :)

    1. I got the definition from the incredibly reliable (not true...) source called "Wikipedia" as it is stated in the post. You may change or mark that in the source to improve the article.
      Thanks for pointing that out and for liking my advice.

  2. It's always disappointing to come across this in a story.
    I was having escape problems, having painted my protagonist into a corner. After a lot of thought, I finally figured it out.
    Good advice. Thanks for the post.
    Louise Sorensen
    louise3anne twitter