#TheWritingDesk: A Detailed Study of Plot Devices with Examples
If you read or write fiction, you would have come across plot devices. Even if you didn’t know what these are called. So, what are they?
Well, plot devices are techniques or elements used in storytelling to drive the plot forward, introduce conflict, reveal information, or change the direction of the story. They are an essential part of any well-crafted narrative, and as authors, we often use them to create tension, suspense, and surprise for the reader.
Foreshadowing is a plot device where the author hints at future events in the story, creating tension and anticipation for the reader. In J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series, the author foreshadows the return of Lord Voldemort throughout the early books.
A cliffhanger is a plot device where the story ends at a critical moment, leaving the reader in suspense until the next installment. The TV series "Breaking Bad" often used cliffhangers at the end of episodes to keep viewers engaged and coming back for more.
A red herring is a plot device where a false clue or piece of information is introduced to mislead the reader or characters. In Agatha Christie's "Murder on the Orient Express", the killer's identity is obscured by a series of red herrings.
An unreliable narrator is a plot device where the narrator's perspective and version of events may be distorted, biased, or intentionally misleading. In Gillian Flynn's "Gone Girl", the two narrators present conflicting versions of events, leaving the reader uncertain of the truth.
A flashback is a plot device where the story jumps back in time to reveal past events that are important to the plot. In F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby", the narrator uses flashbacks to reveal the backstory of Jay Gatsby.
A dream sequence is a plot device where the story jumps into the character's dreams, which can reveal important information or symbolize deeper themes. In William Shakespeare's "Macbeth", the character has a series of prophetic dreams that foreshadow his downfall.
Deus ex machina
A deus ex machina is a plot device where a sudden, unexpected event or character solves a seemingly insurmountable problem. In J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings", the Eagles serve as a deus ex machina to rescue the heroes at the end of the story.
Deus ex machina reversal
A deus ex machina reversal is a twist on the deus ex machina plot device, where a sudden, unexpected event or character makes the problem worse, rather than solving it. In Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games", the sudden appearance of muttations at the end of the story serves as a deus ex machina reversal, as they complicate the already dire situation for the main characters.
Chekhov's gun is a principle where everything introduced in the story must have a purpose or payoff. In Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Adventure of the Speckled Band", the speckled band of the title is Chekhov's gun, which is revealed to be a poisonous snake that kills the victim.
A MacGuffin is a plot device that refers to a valuable object or goal that drives the characters and the plot forward, but is often not important in and of itself. The briefcase in Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" is a MacGuffin that drives the story forward, but its contents are never revealed.
These are just a few examples of the many plot devices used in literature and fiction. By using plot devices effectively, authors can create engaging, suspenseful, and satisfying stories that keep readers hooked from beginning to end. Whether it's a MacGuffin that drives the plot, foreshadowing that builds tension, or a cliffhanger that keeps readers guessing, plot devices are an essential tool for any storyteller.