Talk:Plot device

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Deus Ex Machina[edit]

Pretty sure the definition of Deus Ex Machina is incorrect. The article calls it a 'strange' or 'unusual' resolution, but I believe it's more commonly associated with an unlikely, improbable resolution (i.e. God arriving on Earth and saving the day).

Additional plot devices[edit]

Maybe those are plot devices, I'm not sure:

  • Amnesia
  • Unescapable Location
  • Chase
  • Hostage situation
  • Fight
  • Internal crisis
  • Dispute
  • Trial

Could somebody comment on them? Peter S. 12:32, 23 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Could also refer to Mary Sue and the Evil Overlord and "Overused Science Fiction Plot Devices" websites.

Who in their right mind would consider evil overlords overused? Just imagine how much better TV would be if more were used. Pat Sajak- Uh oh, looks like Baron von Chaos has replaced the all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii space on the wheel with another bankrupt, and the free spin now has some poison arrow launcher rigged up to it. Good luck contestants!
Most of these are not plot devices. A plot device is something that serves to advance the story towards where the author wants it to go without playing any other part. A fight, for example, may or may not be a plot device. A case where the protagonist is attacked for no reason, but the attacker leaves something behind that allows him to move to the next part of the story, that would be a plot device. But the climactic fight where the hero battles the villain on the edge of the cliff is not a plot device - it's the point of the story. Likewise a chase is usually an element of the story, not a device to advance it. (talk) 21:51, 22 November 2007 (UTC)
Mary Sue isn't a plot device because her purpose isn't to advance the plot. The purpose of the story is to have the character in the story, so really the plot is a "character device" if you like. (talk) 15:42, 23 November 2007 (UTC)
The Evil Overlord is rarely a plot device either, unless he's not the chief bad guy. We mustn't confuse a plot device with a trope. DJ Clayworth (talk) 22:11, 15 January 2010 (UTC)

How about the following under Plot device?[edit]

  • Evil characters are now Good and Good Character are now evil switch. Hero either goes into alterantive universe by accident such as in Star Trek "Mirror, Mirror" or goes back in time and changes the past as in epsiode of "Danny Phantom". In either case "Good" Characters are now "Evil" and "Evil Characters are now "Good".
There seems to be a de facto collection location for these at Mirror Universe (Star Trek). Kineticman 17:19, 19 April 2006 (UTC)
  • Evil gang aginst Hero. Various Evil Villinas having been defeated by hero, gang up against hero and put him/her in deadly peril. Despite this, hero escapes and deposes Evil Villians

These are literary cliches, not plot devices. They are the plot, they don't advance it. (talk) 21:52, 22 November 2007 (UTC)

Not plot devices[edit]

As the article says, a plot device is a thing or event introduces solely for advancing the plot(or story). That means stuff like the sword you have to collect to save the world, or the sudden appearance of pirates who capture the hreoine. Anything that doesn't serve that purpose isn't a plot device, including stock characters, literary cliches etc. I've removed a whole load of stuff that doesn't qualify. (talk) 21:36, 22 November 2007 (UTC)

It would be good to clarify what distinguishes a plot device from any element that advances a plot. Is it that plot devices are irritating? Colin McLarty (talk) 15:19, 10 June 2011 (UTC)

Sexual tension[edit]

I removed 'sexual tension' as a plot device, because it usually isn't one (it doesn't drive the plot, or if it does then it's the point of the plot, not a device). Can whoever added it come up with some examples of sexual tension being used as a plot device? (talk) 20:17, 26 November 2007 (UTC)

Proposed merge[edit]

I would like to see this article merged with MacGuffin. The two concepts are so similar as to be indistinguishable. In fact from the definitions in the articles I can't see a difference at all. Any objections? DJ Clayworth (talk) 21:00, 23 April 2008 (UTC)

Not a cliche[edit]

Just to be clear a plot device is not a narrative cliche - or rather all narrative cliches are not plot devices. A plot device is an object whose nature is unimportant and whose sole purpose is to advance the plot. All the other narrative cliches are just that - not plot devices.

The sacrifice of Harry Potter's parents, for example, is not a plot device. Yes, it allows the story to move ahead (well, to begin actually) but it serves so much more than that. Love and sacrifice become significant themes in the book, and the difference between the Potters giving up their lives for others and Voldemort doing anything not to give up his own life is central to the books. Now if Harry Potter had been saved by a passing superwizard who was never seen again, THAT would be a plot device! DJ Clayworth (talk) 14:16, 30 April 2008 (UTC)

Music a plot device?[edit]

Examples in plays. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Untermenschen (talkcontribs) 18:00, 8 September 2008 (UTC)

Proposing merge[edit]

Plot coupon appears to be a definition of a plot device based entirely around one specific critics review. I would suggest merging it into this ariticle as a type of device, if it hasn't already been included in another form already. -- TRTX T / C 19:31, 13 October 2008 (UTC)

No objection. DJ Clayworth (talk) 20:52, 12 November 2008 (UTC)


As far as I can tell Peripeteia isn't actually a plot device. Plot devices are things that advance the plot without other significance or internal logic. Peripeteia may or may not be consistent and otherwise significant (as can any action in a narrative) and so shouldn't be included here. DJ Clayworth (talk) 20:52, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

Proposed merger from Literary technique[edit]

Both this article and Literary technique describe and list devices or techniques used to advance story lines. Can they be merged? Shawn in Montreal (talk) 01:31, 7 September 2009 (UTC)

It occurs to me that the problem might be that the Literary technique article has been populated with things that are plot elements, Alien space bats and so on. But it seems to me that there are bona fide literary devices/techniques such as Metaphor. So perhaps the solution might be to lift all the plot elements out of Literary techniques, leaving us with a very different article and much shorter list? Shawn in Montreal (talk) 16:27, 17 September 2009 (UTC)
Absolutely and definitely under no circumstances do this merge. The reason is simple: these are actually two different things.
Literary techniques cover all sorts of stuff: flashbacks, first person narrative, framing story, foreshadowing. A plot device is an object (usually an actual physical object) whose sole purpose is to advance the plot. The current definition in the article is wrong. (Actually I'm gong to fix it how, so it won't be by the time you read this).
Note that a plot device is different from a plot element. DJ Clayworth (talk) 18:41, 17 September 2009 (UTC)
As a sidenote I'm searching desperately for a good definition of plot device on the web. But Wikipedia has so corrupted Google space that every definition I have found (down to page 20) is a copy of this or a previous Wikipedia article. DJ Clayworth (talk) 18:59, 17 September 2009 (UTC)
Oppose: I think they are different things, but the current articles are poor and confuse the two. They need extensive rewriting, with reliable sources for the definitions of both terms. - Fayenatic (talk) 18:54, 17 September 2009 (UTC)
I'm so glad to have both your input. Would a literary device fall under literary technique or plot device? Because I may have caused some problems a while back with this successful CFD. We can always recreate Category:Plot devices or just rename Category:Literary devices so as to better distinguish. And please note this related CFD. I think I'm on more solid ground here, but you tell me. Shawn in Montreal (talk) 19:07, 17 September 2009 (UTC)
In my mind literary techniques and literary devices are closely related, but not identical. I would rename the category to Literary techniques, which is the more general. Then we can let people add techniques such as flashback if they want. DJ Clayworth (talk) 00:55, 18 September 2009 (UTC)


Hi I've taken note of your edits and tried to reintegrate the things you removed. I disagree that the quote from Nick Lowe is out of context. Nick does indeed say that the term is flexible, but that's because it comes in many forms - he is in fact going on to describe several varieties of it. I think the issue probably comes from a slightly different working definition of the term. I'm working with a definition where if the construct in question arises naturally from the story and the characters then it ceases to be a plot device at all. In almost all cases the construct is serving some other function than plot advancement. My understanding is that you accept the idea of an 'elegant plot device', that blends with the story and is barely noticeable by the audience. If that is the case I would be interested to see examples of your usage; I don't doubt they exist but I think mine is the majority. However let's see if we can come to an agreement here. DJ Clayworth (talk) 21:09, 29 January 2010 (UTC)

This is the sentence that I have issue with: "Appearance of a plot device in a work is usually considered a sign of poor writing." It is widely considered that Hitchcock used MacGuffins in many of his films. An example would be the $40,000 stolen by Marion Crane to kick off the plot of Psycho. But few people would consider Psycho an example of poor writing. Yes, it is a plot device, but it's not as if Hitchcock was stuck in a tough place; the film was not really supposed to be about that. Along those lines, Ebert uses the phrase MacGuffin in a positive manner in his four-star review of Children of Men. [1] Again, he states that the MacGuffin is used to get to what the film is really about without getting bogged down in distractions.
Perhaps you would not define a MacGuffin as a plot device? On the MacGuffin page there is a quote from Lucas that the MacGuffin should be powerful and that "the audience should care about it almost as much as the dueling heroes and villains on-screen." In your definition, wouldn't that cease to become a plot device at all? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:37, 29 January 2010 (UTC)
You make a good point. I would have to concede that neither Psycho not Children of Men are "poor writing". OK, you've convinced me of the existence of the 'elegant plot device'. I'll take the sentence out. DJ Clayworth (talk) 21:45, 29 January 2010 (UTC)
Thank you. I appreciate your open mind. (talk) 05:32, 30 January 2010 (UTC)
An if you want to edit what I wrote, feel free. DJ Clayworth (talk) 16:29, 30 January 2010 (UTC)

You mentioned the article's reliance on Nick Lowe. I'm open to a wider variety of references, but they are surprisingly hard to come by. It's one of those things where little enough is written that Wikipedia has poisoned the Google space - almost everything that shows up with a high Google ranking is a Wikipedia clone. If you can find other high quality references I'll be very happy. DJ Clayworth (talk) 21:33, 29 January 2010 (UTC)

You're right. There isn't much. Maybe I'll be able to find something when I have some more time to search. (talk) 05:32, 30 January 2010 (UTC)

Why Fallout 3 as the only example????[edit]

and a rather strange one, by the way... — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:39, 30 July 2011 (UTC)

I've removed it. It was unsourced and there was no clear indication of which type of plot device was supposedly in evidence. IMO, examples go in the subarticles with, at most, 1 or 2 well sourced, very clear examples for each here. - SummerPhD (talk) 19:05, 30 July 2011 (UTC)