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Darzian
12-10-2008, 03:43 PM
I've seen several very good stories ending in a disappointing way due to the author involving Deus Ex Machina. IMHO, it's very unfair to the reader and sometimes insults the intelligence of the reader. I'll expand on that a bit: readers would be wondering about how the plot would be resolved etc... and would be trying to put together the clues throughout the story to figure out how the story would end. Deus ex destroys all that and introduces new elements to conveniently conclude the plot. In this situation, I, as a reader, may feel that my intelligence has been insulted.

My question is simple. Why does this happen? The books are usually extremely good otherwise- but end disappointingly. I can think of a few reasons.

1) The writer is lazy. Upon reaching the end of a novel after several years of work, he just wants to finish it. Hence he does not spends enough time concluding the book meaningfully.

2) Pressure from external sources. This may be the case if the writer is popular and if there is pressure for a quick release. She may lack the time she would otherwise require to produce a good book.

3) The ending was not planned well. Upon arriving at the ending, the writer realized that he would have to heavily edit his MS to give a good ending but cannot make himself do so for various reasons.

These are just suggestions, of course. I think the last is the most likely and I hope the first is very unlikely- considering the amount of editing that a MS undergoes anyway. I'm really curious why writers find themselves in a situation where they must employ Deus Ex.

Why does it happen?

JJ Cooper
12-10-2008, 04:01 PM
To save me going to a search engine and figuring out what 'Deus Ex Machina' is, then coming back and pretending I know all about it; care to explain in what that means?

I'll put my hand up on behalf of the other member here who probably isn't familiar with the term.

JJ

Mr Flibble
12-10-2008, 04:09 PM
Okay JJ

The term comes from the Greek plays where the gods would appear at the end to sort everything out. So the characters didn't solve their problems, God did.

So, for our purposes it is the sudden unexpected nad contrived solution to the problem / plot. ( esp if such an ending has not been foreshadowed in the book)


If at the end of say LOTR, the gods had turned up and beaten the snot out of Sauron, or it turned out Gandalf was actually powerful enough to do so - he'd just never mentioned it before - that would be a deus ex machina.

Of course it doesn't have to be literally a god. But a sudden coincidence etc would count.

JJ Cooper
12-10-2008, 04:13 PM
Thanks. So, you mean an epilogue?

JJ

Mr Flibble
12-10-2008, 04:15 PM
Um no.

IIRC an epilogue is after the climax. The Deus ex machina IS the climax. The highly improbable climax tat renders the rest of the book pretty much a waste of paper.

ETA: think about War of the Worlds. The whole thing is about the fight against the Martians and how they are destroying us puny earthlings. Then DAH DAH! the common cold kills them.

JJ Cooper
12-10-2008, 04:26 PM
Ok. So, because the reader didn't find the ending suitable - they call out 'Deus Ex Machina' and hang the author out to dry?

Thanks to IdiotsRUs, maybe I can now debate some points.

1. Writers aren't lazy. Despite what you may think of writer's, generally speaking - we don't get published if we are lazy.

2. Pressure. Always pressure from somewhere for the published writer, but we are professionals. If we weren't - you would abandon reading our books.

3. Ending not well planned. Move to the outine or wing-it debate. Not all writers plan. Not all writers plan their ending. Endings are subjective. Just because you didn't like it as a reader, doesn't mean it wasn't planned that way.

JJ

alleycat
12-10-2008, 04:30 PM
Ok. So, because the reader didn't find the ending suitable - they call out 'Deus Ex Machina' and hang the author out to dry?
Still not quite right, JJ.

Think of a story where the protagonist and antagonist have battled all the way through the story; sometimes the protagonist is winning, sometimes the antagonist. Then, just when it looks like the protagonist is going to lose everything, along comes some force out of nowhere (God as machine) that suddenly saves the day. The end. It's generally very unsatisfactory to the reader.

Mr Flibble
12-10-2008, 04:31 PM
Ok. So, because the reader didn't find the ending suitable - they call out 'Deus Ex Machina' and hang the author out to dry?

Well not exactly. Not that it's not suitable. Just that it's improbable / comes completely from left field. Or the characters didn't actually do anything to resolve their problem.

You have all this tension, lots of OMG! How are they going to get out of this? *bites nails* and then...and then it's a complete and utter cop out.

This (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deus_ex_machina#Modern_uses) probably explains better than I can.

KTC
12-10-2008, 04:34 PM
I don't really care why it happens...it shouldn't happen.

JJ Cooper
12-10-2008, 04:40 PM
Starting to get it now - hey look, it's turning into an educational thread (add appropriate smilie).

It's still subjective in it's application of the term, Right?

JJ

Mr Flibble
12-10-2008, 04:43 PM
It's still subjective in it's application of the term, Right?

Possibly. But then if you have a novel set in say modern day London and there's a big face off between Protag and Antag and then BAM! suddenly the antag gets eaten by a heretofore unmentioned crocodile that happened to snaek out of the toilet, I think you've got a pretty good case for Deus ex machina. :D

Darzian
12-10-2008, 04:48 PM
Ok. So, because the reader didn't find the ending suitable - they call out 'Deus Ex Machina' and hang the author out to dry?

Thanks to IdiotsRUs, maybe I can now debate some points.

1. Writers aren't lazy. Despite what you may think of writer's, generally speaking - we don't get published if we are lazy.

2. Pressure. Always pressure from somewhere for the published writer, but we are professionals. If we weren't - you would abandon reading our books.

3. Ending not well planned. Move to the outine or wing-it debate. Not all writers plan. Not all writers plan their ending. Endings are subjective. Just because you didn't like it as a reader, doesn't mean it wasn't planned that way.

JJ

I'm not going to degrade writers for inappropriate reasons. There is no reason for me to do so. This is an educational thread.
Deus Ex Machina is more or less unacceptable.

IdiotsRUs explained it well, but I'm afraid you haven't exactly grasped it right. It's not that an individual reader finds the ending 'suitable.' It's a situation where the entire plot is more or less rendered useless.

A perfect example comes in fantasy with magic. Certain rules for magic may have been established and readers expect the world in the story to follow those rules. However, if, at the ending, those rules are broken to resolve the story then it is probably Deus Ex. Why? Because the readers are lead to believe that those rules cannot be broken, and then we get a resolution out of nowhere. In such situations, typically the entire plot may seem meaningless as pointed out by the LOTR example above.

The entire trilogy focuses on the ring somehow being taken to Mount Doom to destroy it because Sauron cannot be directly assailed. If-suddenly- Frodo is in Mordor and finds himself surrounded by Nazgul and Orcs and cannot reach Mount Doom, and if at that moment Gandalf declares "Behold my true power!" and stabs Sauron to conclude the plot- then it is Deus Ex. Why? Because all this time we thought that Gandalf couldn't kill Sauron. And it also turns out that it wasn't necessary to take the ring to Mordor after all! What a waste of pages! That is Deus Ex.

This thread is actually meant to be educational to myself as well as to others because by discussing why Deus Ex occurs, we may be able to prevent getting into such situations in our own work. As the title reads: Why are writers cornered by Deux Ex?

alleycat
12-10-2008, 04:50 PM
It seems to be particularly prevalent in science fiction and some mystery stories.

Think of one of those cheesy sci-fi movies from the fifties. The aliens invade earth. Nothing can stop them; all earth weapons are powerless against the advanced aliens. The brainy scientist (and his love interest, a hapless but shapely young woman) may be able to find the answer if only they can escape detective by the alien probes. The scientist and the young woman run (probably to an old farmhouse), but they can't hide. It doesn't look good for either the scientist or the earth. The scientist and his comely love interest say their goodbyes, knowing that this is the end. But . . . just then the alien spacecrafts begin to retreat during the last five minutes of the movie. What's going on? Ah! It turns out the aliens are allergic to cat hair! The military just has to sling a bunch of Siamese at the aliens and they begin to die. Yah! The earth is saved! The scientist and the young woman kiss while gazing at the heavens above. Then a cat runs by scaring them both for a second, and then they both laugh. Run credits.

JJ Cooper
12-10-2008, 04:57 PM
I'm hearing what you are saying - but we're writing fiction. Anything can happen.

I'm contracted to sell books and write the best book my memory and imagination will allow. My readers will judge me.

The ending is difficult - but there is usually a few paths to take. If the author makes shit up that doesn't seem logical or reasonble, then they deserve to be outed as 'Deus Ex Machina'

JJ

KTC
12-10-2008, 05:04 PM
Yes, JJ. And usually it's so incredibly insulting the reader has to question how it ever got published in the first place. I'm sure thousands do not get published because of it.

RobJ
12-10-2008, 05:04 PM
2. Pressure. Always pressure from somewhere for the published writer, but we are professionals. If we weren't - you would abandon reading our books.
You may already be aware of this, but it doesn't come across from your posts. Readers do abandon books.

Cheers,
Rob

illiterwrite
12-10-2008, 05:24 PM
The example that immediately comes to my mind is My Sister's Keeper, by Jodi Picoult. She sets up this great conundrum, and you wonder how it'll work out, and then at the end, something totally out of the blue happens that takes care of the whole issue. I know I felt cheated, and I haven't read any other book of hers because of it.

KTC
12-10-2008, 05:28 PM
The example that immediately comes to my mind is My Sister's Keeper, by Jodi Picoult. She sets up this great conundrum, and you wonder how it'll work out, and then at the end, something totally out of the blue happens that takes care of the whole issue. I know I felt cheated, and I haven't read any other book of hers because of it.


My wife read a couple before this one and really liked them. I can't repeat here what she said when she came to the end of that book...but it's the last Picoult book she'll ever read. And my wife wouldn't know what Deus means if it jumped up and bit her. (Actually...that's exactly what it did...bit the book right out of her hand.)

ajkjd01
12-10-2008, 07:05 PM
I always thought that a good example of Deus ex Machina was the C.S. Lewis books/movies.

Have you seen the movie version of Prince Caspian? (I have not yet read the book, so I don't know if the movie was true to the book.)

At the end, after all of these catatrophes and battles, and losses and all of that, the Good Guys are cornered right near the river and it looks like it's the end. There is no conceivable way out. And lo and behold...here come Aslan, who saves the damn day. With nothing in the plot that shows that he was even paying attention to them, much less ready to save them. In fact, the characters were actively looking for him...and didn't find him until they were in over their heads. Voila....day saved, plot solved...so why did we have to have the whole drama with the fricking prince if Aslan was gonna save the day anyways?

(My mom and I walked out of the theater and she was going on and on about how good the movie was...I was grumbling that something with that bad of an ending got published and sold movie rights.)

Palmfrond
12-10-2008, 07:41 PM
LOTR always did seem a bit deus ex machina to me. The giant eagles fly Frodo and Sam out of Mordor at the end. Why couldn't the eagles just fly Frodo and the ring directly to Mount Doom from the Shire? What's with all the walking?

scarletpeaches
12-10-2008, 07:43 PM
Starting to get it now - hey look, it's turning into an educational thread (add appropriate smilie).

It's still subjective in it's application of the term, Right?

JJ

No; DEM happens when the characters have no influence over their own final fate and the conclusion comes completely out of the blue, removing their personal autonomy from out of their hands.

scarletpeaches
12-10-2008, 07:44 PM
My wife read a couple before this one and really liked them. I can't repeat here what she said when she came to the end of that book...but it's the last Picoult book she'll ever read. And my wife wouldn't know what Deus means if it jumped up and bit her. (Actually...that's exactly what it did...bit the book right out of her hand.)

I love your wife.

Plus, I would happily slap Jodi Picoult for that book alone.

I mean, really hard.

Darzian
12-10-2008, 07:48 PM
LOTR always did seem a bit deus ex machina to me. The giant eagles fly Frodo and Sam out of Mordor at the end. Why couldn't the eagles just fly Frodo and the ring directly to Mount Doom from the Shire? What's with all the walking?

I do not remember why they arrived when they did. If there was a strong reason given, then it wouldn't fall into deus ex- but I agree that it was rather convenient.
Your point is valid too- a large group of Eagles could have infiltrated Mordor- especially before the Nazgul got winged beasts.

Captshady
12-10-2008, 07:49 PM
Would the last Indian Jones, where the whole thing is a highly technical space craft that landed a few thousand years ago and made a rock machine to release said craft at a later date, qualify?

jvc
12-10-2008, 07:59 PM
It seems to be particularly prevalent in science fiction and some mystery stories.

Think of one of those cheesy sci-fi movies from the fifties. The aliens invade earth. Nothing can stop them; all earth weapons are powerless against the advanced aliens. The brainy scientist (and his love interest, a hapless but shapely young woman) may be able to find the answer if only they can escape detective by the alien probes. The scientist and the young woman run (probably to an old farmhouse), but they can't hide. It doesn't look good for either the scientist or the earth. The scientist and his comely love interest say their goodbyes, knowing that this is the end. But . . . just then the alien spacecrafts begin to retreat during the last five minutes of the movie. What's going on? Ah! It turns out the aliens are allergic to cat hair! The military just has to sling a bunch of Siamese at the aliens and they begin to die. Yah! The earth is saved! The scientist and the young woman kiss while gazing at the heavens above. Then a cat runs by scaring them both for a second, and then they both laugh. Run credits.

This sounds familiar although not sure about the cat thing (why is everything with you cats. Always cats. What's with the cats? :D ).

Would this be the plot to War of the Worlds?

tehuti88
12-10-2008, 08:10 PM
Without reading the other replies:

I think points one (laziness) and three (poor planning) are much similar and probably intertwined. If a story is plotted out well from the start (whether mentally or in an outline), deus ex machina won't be needed. If the writer has to resort to such a technique at the end because of poor plotting, it smacks of laziness that they didn't plan in the first place or else redo what needed redoing to avoid such an outcome. Anybody can make the mistake of poor planning. But when one decides to whip out such an easy escape to avoid the hard work of fixing a story, then they're being lazy.

I speak from all sorts of experience of being way confused by my stories and needing to look back on them to see what might need work.

Point number two is unfortunate but I bet it happens. That's the price of being famous.

Toothpaste
12-10-2008, 08:17 PM
JJ - Deus Ex Machina is a device. It is neither good nor bad. However it is not a very popular device these days as people want to see their heroes solve the problem, and not some third party you haven't been introduced to until the moment they come in and save the day.

As has already been explained, the term comes from the ancient Greek plays. Something would be going on on stage, a war, something, and then, lowered or raised by machine (Deus Ex Machina - God in the Machine), an actor dressed as a God would come on stage and solve all the problems. This was acceptable at the time because the Greeks believed in the Gods and the whole point was that the Gods make the ultimate decisions, and if you are worthy they will support your cause.

These days that isn't as popular a theme. But it could be one. Conceivably someone could write a novel where good guy vs bad guy go at it and then suddenly out of the blue a god-like character that we've never met shows up and saves the day. The moral of the story could be, "Ultimately we have no control over our lives."

However, Deus Ex Machina, for the most part, doesn't work. It doesn't work because it is often a solution the author chooses having written himself into a corner with no way out. Instead of solving the problem it's like, "Um . . . and then . . . ah . . . then . . . a magical dog shows up and grants him three wishes." It's unsatisfying because typically it breaks from the style of the story, the reader feels cheated because they invested all this energy in the main character and the conflict he was facing and then it is resolved by a third party who has nothing to do with the story.

It is often seen in literature today as lazy writing.

But as with everything, Deus Ex Machina isn't bad in and of itself, but how people use it.

And btw here is the dictionary definition of it:

deus ex machina |ˈdāəs eks ˈmäkənə; -ˈmak-|
noun
an unexpected power or event saving a seemingly hopeless situation, esp. as a contrived plot device in a play or novel.

ORIGIN late 17th cent.: modern Latin, translation of Greek theos ek mēkhanēs, ‘god from the machinery.’ In Greek theater, actors representing gods were suspended above the stage, the denouement of the play being brought about by their intervention.

Cyia
12-10-2008, 08:48 PM
I'm hearing what you are saying - but we're writing fiction. Anything can happen.

I'm contracted to sell books and write the best book my memory and imagination will allow. My readers will judge me.

The ending is difficult - but there is usually a few paths to take. If the author makes shit up that doesn't seem logical or reasonble, then they deserve to be outed as 'Deus Ex Machina'

JJ

When you write fiction, you write your world within the rules you create for it. Then you stick to those rules. Your readers accept them as fact just as much as they would accept gravity on earth and a blue sky. You treat the world you create as though it's not fiction - because to the characters you create, it's the only reality they know.

There can be last minute saves pulled off effectively, but it HAS to be done within the confines of the mythology you create, otherwise anyone invested in the story will make a sour face, call foul, and post nasty things on the Internet.

A good last minute save, IMO, was the end of the first Jurassic Park movie. The T-Rex came in and ate the raptors - I don't think too many people were expecting that, but it was acceptable within the world the movie created. We knew T-Rex was on the loose; we knew he was an alpha dog predator who was going around eating other dinos, and the whole point of that movie (sort of) was that eventually the dinosaurs would get around to doing what it was dinosaurs were supposed to do. It wasn't like they had established that T-Rex had never been created on the island or that he was malformed in some way so that he couldn't attack and survive.

Then there's DeM...

Imagine that for say 3 LONG novels you have a writer who establishes certain rules for her universe. Let's say these rules are:

1. My characters don't play well with others in large numbers unless they only eat animals as opposed to humans.

2. My characters are so unbeleivably gorgeous no one can miss them.

3. My characters cannot procreate sexually.

4. My characters have a pact with a secondary set of characters forbidding ONE action; going against this pact will result in the death of all of my characters.

5. My characters must answer to a higher social body that only leaves Europe in extreme cases where eradication is necessary for punishment. One member of this social body has the ability to see the entire life of anyone - beginning to end - simply by touching them; he has touched at least one of my characters.

6. One of my characters is a precognitive telepath who can see her family at all times -- especially her two favorites: her brother and new sister in law; the ONLY time she can't look in on them if she wants is when one is in close proximity to their mortal enemy and therefore in mortal danger.

7. No one knows my characters exist as anything other than human.

8. It is agonizing to become one of my characters' species so that it requires writhing in agony for three days as though one's whole body were on fire.

9. One a character transforms from human to my other species, they are uncontrollable, insatiable, blood crazed fiends for at least a year.

10. There's a nifty love triangle built based on the fact that the two males involved are natural enemies.

Now, imagine that in book (LONG book) 4, this same writer just disregards all of those rules and in doing so undercuts all of the dramatic tension she's built through all of those other novels. She poises a massive all in battle and....

1. Well, the nice one asks nicely so suddenly there are allies.

2. A few hundred of them show up in a town so small they go ga-ga over EVERY single new face... but I don't think anyone noticed. (and they all had "sparkling" personalities to boot...)

3. But those MC's were too darn pretty not to have a perfect little rock hard bundle of terror.

4. Well, I guess it's ok if the character's old friends go out and hunt around the little town while they're visiting; the secondary characters can turn a few blind eyes. They're only honor bound to protect the humans from brutal, painful death... it's for a good cause after all. (that kid really is cute.)

5. The hierarchry makes a mass exodus from Europe. The leaders; the guard. (yikes, even their wives) AND... AND... they shake hands, shrug and walk away.

6. She lost contact with both of them (because of the rock hard bundle of terror)... and didn't think it was worth mentioning.

7. Except that one maid from an obscure tribal region who just happens to be cleaning the love nest and knows instantly what the MC is and how to fix things when they get out of hand.

8. Except that my female MC doesnt want the others to feel bad... so she keeps quiet.

9. Now she wouldn't be special or ladylike if she went all blood happy; she can control herself - it doesn't even take much effort. Now we all marvel and her wonderfulness.

10. Nevermind - he wasn't in love with you; it was the rock hard bundle of terror (that's ten minutes old) he wants.

11. While we're at it, lets just give supergirl a nice shiny telepathic shield that she can magically extend around her family/friends at will to make sure the bad guys can't hurt them at all. And while we're going down this road the bundle of terror gets to be a superchild who's not only a genius of mythic proportions, but grows superfast so she can marry her true love by the time she's two.

THATs Deus ex Machina.

Darzian
12-10-2008, 09:22 PM
Cyis, that was excellent. I especially agree with 8 and 9. You ought to have a look here. (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=37209)

Kitty Pryde
12-10-2008, 09:31 PM
The example that immediately comes to my mind is My Sister's Keeper, by Jodi Picoult. She sets up this great conundrum, and you wonder how it'll work out, and then at the end, something totally out of the blue happens that takes care of the whole issue. I know I felt cheated, and I haven't read any other book of hers because of it.

I don't think this is a Deus ex Machina. It is annoying as hell, I will grant you. But JP always goes for the maximum emotional gut-wrench, so it's not that surprising. Here's why I think it's not: the family all battles each other, and by the end the big sis gets her way (trying not to spoil it here folks). IMO the climax comes when we find out who really incited the court case. The book's basically over, the conflict has receded, and then BOOM! The really bad thing happens and the big sis changes her mind. But in my opinion, the story's conflict had ended before then. The really bad thing that comes out of the blue is more for concluding character development (and for breaking your heart) than it is for concluding the plot.

scarletpeaches
12-10-2008, 09:34 PM
Oh, that's definitely a prime example of DEM all right, for reasons I won't go into here in case other thread-readers haven't read the book.

But Jeez...the Really Bad Thing enables her sister to, well...let's just say the RBT negates the previous 300 pages, renders the entire book unnecessary and had me considering tracking down Picoult and bludgeoning her with a baseball bat.


...The really bad thing that comes out of the blue is more for concluding character development (and for breaking your heart) than it is for concluding the plot.

Which shows it was completely unnecessary.

HeronW
12-10-2008, 09:46 PM
Wasn't it Checkov (paraphrasing wildly here) noting that if you have a gun in act 1 or 2 it better go off in 3 and if a gun goes off in 3 it better appear before then.

Cyia
12-10-2008, 09:57 PM
Wasn't it Checkov (paraphrasing wildly here) noting that if you have a gun in act 1 or 2 it better go off in 3 and if a gun goes off in 3 it better appear before then.

I don't know about that, but there's a screenwriting axiom that if you place a rifle over the fireplace, someone better be getting shot at some point.

Soccer Mom
12-10-2008, 10:02 PM
Yes, in the Greek plays, the conflict was often resolved by the gods appearing at the very end. Actors were lifted onto a roof by the mechane (a sort of crane). Thus the Gods appeared by nowhere from a machine.

It has come to mean any improbable plot device used to resolve the conflict, most especially those that take the resolution from the characters' hands and render the entire conflict and drama essentially meaningless.

I do consider the end in the Picoult book a deus ex machina. It's a cheap and easy out.
Sometimes it is laziness on the part of an author, but I think that on the most part it is simply poor planning. Someone writes themselves into a corner and can't figure their way back out.

Toothpaste
12-10-2008, 10:07 PM
I don't know about that, but there's a screenwriting axiom that if you place a rifle over the fireplace, someone better be getting shot at some point.

It originated from Chekhov though, yes. It's even called "Chekhov's gun".

Kitty Pryde
12-10-2008, 10:11 PM
I guess I don't think My Sister's Keeper is a DEM for this reason: the book could have ended before Really Bad Thing happened. The plot had concluded. The conflict had concluded. The girls were satisfied. The parents were satisfied, at least that everyone got their wishes, if not really pleased about the whole thing. The family had grown emotionally. It was heartwarming. Like I said, it felt like it was only there to make the reader sad, and reveal one last thing about the big sis's character. Definitely a book throwing moment, but not a DEM. And it didn't render the rest of the book unecessary. All the characters grew in all sorts of ways. Just because you make it back to where you started from at the end, doesn't mean the journey was wasted!

scarletpeaches
12-10-2008, 10:14 PM
SPOILERS FOR MSK AHEAD.





If a girl getting run over at the end of the book and having her organs donated to her sister, thereby saving her life isn't DEM, what the hell is?

As you said yourself, it wasn't necessary. The conflict was concluded, more or less...except, Picoult had to play God and wrap everything up in a way that took the resolution out of the hands of her characters.

Cyia
12-10-2008, 10:22 PM
SPOILERS FOR MSK AHEAD.





If a girl getting run over at the end of the book and having her organs donated to her sister, thereby saving her life isn't DEM, what the hell is?

As you said yourself, it wasn't necessary. The conflict was concluded, more or less...except, Picoult had to play God and wrap everything up in a way that took the resolution out of the hands of her characters.


I just Googled this book (having not read it before) and I was sitting here thinking "don't go there... don't go there... don't... GAH!!!!" *reaches for red hot spork*

I figured it was something like this - it's not always good to be right.

Kitty Pryde
12-10-2008, 10:22 PM
MORE SPOILY SPOILERS:

I guess I felt like the point of 'My Sister's Keeper' was that at the beginning, the big sister needs to make her own choices about her health and her body, and by the end, she's gained the right to do so. Conflict resolved. So when the little sis dies, the big sis chooses to accept tissue donations, rather than being forced to take them. Showing the outcome of autonomy in action. Yet still infuriating.

ETA: In a lot of books, the conflict is 'we gotta save the little sick girl.' But in this book the conflict is, 'should we let the little sick girl have control over her life?'

illiterwrite
12-10-2008, 10:38 PM
MORE SPOILY SPOILERS:

I guess I felt like the point of 'My Sister's Keeper' was that at the beginning, the big sister needs to make her own choices about her health and her body, and by the end, she's gained the right to do so. Conflict resolved. So when the little sis dies, the big sis chooses to accept tissue donations, rather than being forced to take them. Showing the outcome of autonomy in action. Yet still infuriating.

ETA: In a lot of books, the conflict is 'we gotta save the little sick girl.' But in this book the conflict is, 'should we let the little sick girl have control over her life?'

I disagree that all the conflict was resolved. I don't think anyone was happy with the sister's decision, and that's why the ending felt like a cop-out to me. I felt like there were only two ways to end the book; instead, Picoult chose a totally random, tragic event to take any further decision-making out of the characters' hands.

To you, it WAS resolved. And I think there are a lot of people who agree with you, because I know others who didn't mind the ending.

maestrowork
12-11-2008, 12:21 AM
ETA: think about War of the Worlds. The whole thing is about the fight against the Martians and how they are destroying us puny earthlings. Then DAH DAH! the common cold kills them.

I wouldn't call it a DeM -- it's actually an interesting, ironic conclusion. The WORLD of intelligent humans can't defend themselves against invaders... leave it to the world's smallest (and brainless) organisms to save the world.

Also, DeM is not just inappropriate or unsatisfying endings. DeM is very specific: it's literally a divine intervention.

Imagine a thriller: the hero went through hell and fire trying to save the world from destruction, and at the very end, when nothing seems to work anymore and there are only 5 seconds left before the nuclear bomb blows up, an angel comes down from the clouds and say, "Look, you people are good people, so we'll give you a chance" and she makes the bomb disappear. The end.

That's a Deus ex Machina. It's a divine intervention that comes from nowhere, resolving the central conflict nicely and neatly without any forethought.

trickywoo
12-11-2008, 12:27 AM
LOTR always did seem a bit deus ex machina to me. The giant eagles fly Frodo and Sam out of Mordor at the end. Why couldn't the eagles just fly Frodo and the ring directly to Mount Doom from the Shire? What's with all the walking?

This has always bothered me too!

maestrowork
12-11-2008, 12:27 AM
To answer the OP:

Personally, I don't know why authors resolves to using that device. Sometimes it has to do with the genre -- fantasy may allow a bit more "divine interventions" than, say, a contemporary drama.

Is it because the author is lazy or pressured? I don't know, but my guess is that sometimes writers have GREAT premises, beginnings and middles, but they don't know how to end the damn thing. Even Stephen King does that -- sometimes he has a great story idea but he just ends it poorly because, perhaps, he can't think of a great ending to a great story. Still, it's not a reason enough for a DeM. To me, that's a cop-out. It's akin to the writer saying, "Oh, I give up. I can't think of anything, so I will let God/fate take care of the final resolution."

katiemac
12-11-2008, 12:42 AM
JJ, you're right when you say that we're working on fiction and anything can happen.

However, foreshadowing and setup are your friends. You don't have to give away the big ending, but you should also not have a god appear and save the day when it was unknown whether or not gods exist in the world you're writing. Big twists and clever reveals almost always work better when the author leaves a trail of breadcrumbs throughout the story, not when they smack you on the back of the head with it at the last second.

kuwisdelu
12-11-2008, 12:42 AM
LOTR always did seem a bit deus ex machina to me. The giant eagles fly Frodo and Sam out of Mordor at the end. Why couldn't the eagles just fly Frodo and the ring directly to Mount Doom from the Shire? What's with all the walking?

There were couple explanations for this, though I don't recall them very strongly. For one, Eagles flying into Mordor would be a lot more obvious than two little Hobbits sneaking into it. There were millions of orcs between the Black Gates and Mt. Doom, and it's quite conceivable that, seeing Eagles coming, they could be waiting. Also, remember how Treebeard and the Ents had to be convinced into going to war, and how, for a long time, they hadn't wanted to interfere? I've heard it explained that the Eagles acted similarly, and probably took time to reach their decision to interfere. For example, think of America's reluctance to join the fray during the world wars.

kuwisdelu
12-11-2008, 12:43 AM
JJ, you're right when you say that we're working on fiction and anything can happen.

Anything can happen that makes sense within the context of the story. It doesn't matter if it makes sense in reality or on TV or on Pluto. It just has to make sense in the context of the story. When it doesn't--even if it is something that would make sense in real life--it's necessarily bad.

Shadow_Ferret
12-11-2008, 12:47 AM
In my current WIP Thor literally comes and helps my MC out. Not sure that's DeM though, since Thor is bar hopping throughout the novel.

Mr Flibble
12-11-2008, 12:59 AM
I wouldn't call it a DeM -- it's actually an interesting, ironic conclusion. The WORLD of intelligent humans can't defend themselves against invaders... leave it to the world's smallest (and brainless) organisms to save the world.

Hmm possibly. Still disappointing for me.


Also, DeM is not just inappropriate or unsatisfying endings. DeM is very specific: it's literally a divine intervention.

It's a divine intervention that comes from nowhere, resolving the central conflict nicely and neatly without any forethought.


Originally yes. Yet the phrase has evolved. My dictionaries give the definition as : a contrived climax or denouement.

Websters gives these definitions:


1 : a god introduced by means of a crane in ancient Greek and Roman drama to decide the final outcome 2 : a person or thing (as in fiction or drama) that appears or is introduced suddenly and unexpectedly and provides a contrived solution to an apparently insoluble difficulty

It doesn't have to be literally god.

Darzian
12-11-2008, 06:29 AM
Just a funny side thought:

Since Deus Ex apparently happened all the time in Greek plays, would it still be called deus ex? I mean, the audience would, by then, be expecting the play to be resolved by divine intervention. That sort of negates the current meaning that we are giving the term.

Jen_D
12-11-2008, 08:21 AM
For LORT in the book version, yes the eagles had to be convinced to join the cause. They came to frodos aid in mordor only after the the bulk of the enemies had been destroyed and it was then safe to do so.

And not only that, but like the other person said, a bunch of rather large eagles flying into mordor would have caught the attention of the "great eye" therefor they would have been killed and probably quiet easily.

Also, in the movie version because I can't remember this specific part in the book version, you'll notice that they don't go in of their own accord. Gandalf whispers to that seemingly ever present moth thing that then goes and alerts the eagles, just as had happened when gandalf was caught on the tower of isengard by sauraman, or whatever his name was.

maestrowork
12-11-2008, 08:29 AM
It doesn't have to be literally god.

No, it doesn't have to be god, but my point is it's not just "an unsatisfying, illogical ending." It has to have some elements of "intervention" be it god's grace, or a tornado, a suddenly fallen tree branch, or a magical cat that happens to walk by and save the day.

blacbird
12-11-2008, 11:14 AM
Ok. So, because the reader didn't find the ending suitable

Then the giant meteor struck.

The End.

Got it now?

caw

mscelina
12-11-2008, 11:24 AM
I just had a huge altercation with a writer whose work I edit about deus ex machina endings recently. I'm not certain this person even knew what the term meant. My problem was that the book has this hugely convoluted plotline that was IMO almost impossible to resolve. The way it was resolved? A galactic god shows up five pages before the end and fixes everything! My response, admittedly not the most tactful editorial comment I've ever left, said it was a 'copout.' The characters not only hadn't learned anything from their ordeal, but they were incapable of resolving it for themselves. They therefore had not only resolved the conflict, they hadn't evolved as characters. What, then, was the purpose of the book?

The writer's response? "I won't change that because it's my artistic license not to do so."

WTF? Artistic license? There isn't an artist alive who is LICENSED to be BORING.

Short story to the point: if your characters don't evolve, they can't resolve the plot. If they don't resolve the plot, there's no reason to HAVE THE DAMN BOOK.

TheAntar
12-11-2008, 08:55 PM
only 5 seconds left before the nuclear bomb blows up, an angel comes down from the clouds and say, "Look, you people are good people, so we'll give you a chance" and she makes the bomb disappear. The end.

I've always hated the ending to The Stand, and feel that its ending was the literal definition of Deus ex Machina.

And don't get me started on the protag's magic tricks in Needful Things. Grr.

Phantasmagoria
12-13-2008, 12:59 AM
My Sister's Keeper was the first Picoult book I read, and it'll be my last. I couldn't stand the ending; I'm siding with those who say it's Deus Ex, definitely.



SPOILERS FOR MSK






Sure, the story ended up being more about the big sister's right to choose her own course of treatment (or, er, to opt out of treatment entirely) than the little sister's right to bodily autonomy, but here's the thing. The book raised a lot of questions about the morality of basically having and raising a child to farm out their body tissues for your older, sick kid- and a lot of the book *was* based around the idea that this younger child was her own person, and that it was important to consider her interests as well as her sister's. By randomly killing this younger sibling off at the very end, she's again reduced to nothing more than a bunch of organs and bone marrow, etc, for the harvest.

And also, the big sister now faces significant pressure, I'd think, to choose to take those available tissues. For one thing, if she dies too, then her parents will have double the grief; she's got to be thinking of that. If she gives up now, her little sister will have died for nothing, or at least, that's how some people are going to look at it. Plus, there's no point in worrying over any further harm to her little sister from invasive and painful procedures, right?

So yeah. Her little sister no longer matters as a human being- despite all the fuss the book made about that issue- and that choice the big sister wanted to make for herself, which was the whole point of the book? Is she really going to make any other decision, given what happened at the end? That ending totally negates the entire book, for me. It's like Picoult got to that point, couldn't decide upon which choice the big sister would actually make, and decided to just take the whole matter out of her hands. OHHH it made me so mad, I'm still ranting. LOL

Phantasmagoria
12-13-2008, 01:07 AM
originally posted by TheAntar

I've always hated the ending to The Stand, and feel that its ending was the literal definition of Deus ex Machina.

I'm sure Trashcan Man would be honored to be compared to a god ::grins::

Saint Fool
12-13-2008, 01:23 AM
The ending of IT has THE STAND beaten hands down.

I suppose that it was deus ex bicycle instead of machina, but that ending really dissappointed me. Dead people ought to stay dead, you know? Not be revived by playing cards clacking against a spoked wheel.

Mr Flibble
12-13-2008, 01:30 AM
I don't think the Stand is Deus ex Machina - in that you don't usually get chapters from a deus's POV, because the Dues ex machina is illogical / contrived and normally a complete surprise to get the characters out of their predicament without them doing anything.

And we knew what Trashy was doing. It was foreshadowed throughout the book. Besides it didn't exactly get those three out of a predicament in one piece now did it?:D

Atlantis
12-13-2008, 04:21 AM
Is Deus Ex Machina ever considered acceptable in some stories? Because I have one story that was called that by an editor. The problem is I can't rewrite it because it would ruin the whole thing. I wrote a novel that had Zeus as the villian. The stort story I wrote Forever in Your Arms is a prelude to a novel I am going to write about Zeus later on. It basically sets up his story. I wanted Zeus to be the hero in Forever in Your Arms. Basically, the plot is simple, an old woman unknowingly invites Zeus into her house when he is dressed up as a mortal homeless man and gives him a meal and a place to sleep for the night even though both she and her husband are poor. Zeus disapears in the morning. The next next she invites another man back to her house for a meal and a place to sleep. He turns violent, kills her husband, and almost kills the old woman but is stopped when Zeus returns, this time not in disguse. He defeats the man and takes the woman out into the street. In her dying moments she uses her powers to look into the future to tell Zeus the name of his soul mate who has not been born yet. Zeus gives her a wish in return. She wishes to be with her husband forever. He turns them both into trees. The end.

Its based off a myth. I honestly don't see how I could make it non-Deus Ex Machina without removing the most important thing: Zeus coming to the rescue of a mortal and being the hero for once.

So is it ever acceptable? does it ever work?

KikiteNeko
12-14-2008, 06:39 AM
Keep in mind that this is coming from someone who only took one semester of Mythology in college, and wasn't crazy about it.

Zeus and all them mythological folk were written in a big world of Duex Ex Machina-dom. People were shooting babies out their genitals, fetuses were being incubated in thigh tissue when mothers died of godly massive sexual endeavors, people with wax wings drowned because they flew too close to the sun... thousands of years ago, people loved this stuff. And the people who love it today love it because it's classic. And, as much as I don't like mythology, I accept it for what it is--incredibly dated fantasy. And if Mythology never existed, and was thought up by someone now, in 2008, I don't think it would sell.

I'm sure you can write a successful story about Zeus, and use mythology canon, but you would have to follow today's literary guidelines. What you write will not be sung at festivals, but read in bookstore cafes and livingrooms.

This is a long, tireless rant. But my point is, Zeus or not, nix the Duex.


Is Deus Ex Machina ever considered acceptable in some stories? Because I have one story that was called that by an editor. The problem is I can't rewrite it because it would ruin the whole thing. I wrote a novel that had Zeus as the villian. The stort story I wrote Forever in Your Arms is a prelude to a novel I am going to write about Zeus later on. It basically sets up his story. I wanted Zeus to be the hero in Forever in Your Arms. Basically, the plot is simple, an old woman unknowingly invites Zeus into her house when he is dressed up as a mortal homeless man and gives him a meal and a place to sleep for the night even though both she and her husband are poor. Zeus disapears in the morning. The next next she invites another man back to her house for a meal and a place to sleep. He turns violent, kills her husband, and almost kills the old woman but is stopped when Zeus returns, this time not in disguse. He defeats the man and takes the woman out into the street. In her dying moments she uses her powers to look into the future to tell Zeus the name of his soul mate who has not been born yet. Zeus gives her a wish in return. She wishes to be with her husband forever. He turns them both into trees. The end.

Its based off a myth. I honestly don't see how I could make it non-Deus Ex Machina without removing the most important thing: Zeus coming to the rescue of a mortal and being the hero for once.

So is it ever acceptable? does it ever work?

JamieFord
12-14-2008, 06:53 AM
My guess is that they are "discovery" writers--authors with a freewheeling writing style, no outline, no ending in mind, etc. Some can pull it off, others are not so lucky.

MarionRivers
12-14-2008, 10:42 PM
I don't think there's anything wrong with a Deus Ex Machina ending, as long as it works, and there are many contexts where it can work.

For example:

Surrealism- Where there is no cohesive storyline to resolve anyway
Comedy- Where the ending is one big joke anyway like in Threepenny Opera or Shaun of the Dead
Horrors and Thrillers- Where the shock of the deus ex machina ending adds to the weight of the storyline
Drama- Where there is a level of poetry added to the story through the nature of the deus ex machina. Even though the ending wasn't foreshadowed, it makes sense and gives closure.

Pretty much any type of storyline where you want to have one of the themes be something along the lines of fate or coincidence, deus ex machina endings can be fantastic. Granted, if it's pulled off poorly, then it can be bad, but I don't see anything wrong with it in many types of writing.

jessicaorr
12-15-2008, 02:42 AM
LOTR always did seem a bit deus ex machina to me. The giant eagles fly Frodo and Sam out of Mordor at the end. Why couldn't the eagles just fly Frodo and the ring directly to Mount Doom from the Shire? What's with all the walking?

IIRC, the eagles came to the battle at the Black Gate and were sent to Mount Doom to rescue Frodo and Sam by Gandalf after the one ring was destroyed.

As for taking the ring to Mordor via the eagles, if you've read the book or seen the movies, you'll recall the Nazgul- flying ring wraiths. If the Eagles came into Mordor while the nine where there, they surely would have been destroyed. Thus, the ONLY way to destroy the ring, as laid out by Tolkein, would be to sneak it into Mordor and destory it within the fires of mount doom. Once the ring was destroyed, the eagles could enter Mordor and rescue Frodo and Sam because the Nine were destroyed with it. If you're looking for a Deus Ex Machina in LOTR, Tom Bombadil is a good place to start.

Jessi = Tolkein Nerd

As for C.S. Lewis. Not really a fan, but I always accepted the Aslan Dues Ex thing because the stories are biblical allegory, so of course the Hand of God is going to step in and clear everything up from time to time. I haven't read the stories since I was a kid though. Once I discovered they were allegory, I don't know. I just felt really insulted. Like I was being preached at without my knowing it. Ick.

scarletpeaches
12-15-2008, 03:51 AM
I don't think there's anything wrong with a Deus Ex Machina ending, as long as it works, and there are many contexts where it can work.

For example:

Surrealism- Where there is no cohesive storyline to resolve anyway
Comedy- Where the ending is one big joke anyway like in Threepenny Opera or Shaun of the Dead
Horrors and Thrillers- Where the shock of the deus ex machina ending adds to the weight of the storyline
Drama- Where there is a level of poetry added to the story through the nature of the deus ex machina. Even though the ending wasn't foreshadowed, it makes sense and gives closure.

Pretty much any type of storyline where you want to have one of the themes be something along the lines of fate or coincidence, deus ex machina endings can be fantastic. Granted, if it's pulled off poorly, then it can be bad, but I don't see anything wrong with it in many types of writing.

It never works.

It takes the characters' fate out of their own hands and negates the whole point of the preceding narrative.

MarionRivers
12-15-2008, 04:27 AM
It never works.

It takes the characters' fate out of their own hands and negates the whole point of the preceding narrative.

It depends on the point of the preceding narrative. It may negate some points and drive home others. You can't make generalizations in story-telling. There are so many Deus Ex Machina endings I just love.

scarletpeaches
12-15-2008, 04:30 AM
If the point of the preceding narrative is to say "I'm going to take the characters' personal autonomy away from them and wrap this novel up in a way that has nothing to do with their own actions and is therefore an insult to their free will," then yes, DEM could work.

Not that I've ever seen it happen, in any of the thousands of books I've read.

Cyia
12-15-2008, 04:32 AM
It depends on the point of the preceding narrative.

No it doesn't; it's part of the actual definition regardless of preceding narrative.

TheAntar
12-15-2008, 01:08 PM
I don't think the Stand is Deus ex Machina - in that you don't usually get chapters from a deus's POV, because the Dues ex machina is illogical / contrived and normally a complete surprise to get the characters out of their predicament without them doing anything.

And we knew what Trashy was doing. It was foreshadowed throughout the book. Besides it didn't exactly get those three out of a predicament in one piece now did it?:D

Didn't the hand of God detonate the bomb in the end and blow up all the bad people?

That's my memory of that story. Am I incorrect?

Mr Flibble
12-15-2008, 04:24 PM
Didn't the hand of God detonate the bomb in the end and blow up all the bad people?

That's my memory of that story. Am I incorrect?

No - it blew up. Whether that was God's plan and he did it directly ( probably) or it just blew up at the right time doesn't really matter because a) it's a story about God v Evil. So God doing something isn't either unexpected or illogical in that world. b) Because we knew Trashy was bringing a nuke, and it was pretty shagged too, then it blowing up right there isn't either illogical or unexpected. It's a logical conclusion.

It's not whether God appears in the story. It's whether the ending makes sense for that story or just turns up out of the blue with no foreshadowing etc.

If the Stand had no Godly elements to it and/ or a nuke just turned up outta nowhere, that would be Deus ex Machina

Teleute
12-15-2008, 06:20 PM
I do not remember why they arrived when they did. If there was a strong reason given, then it wouldn't fall into deus ex- but I agree that it was rather convenient.
Your point is valid too- a large group of Eagles could have infiltrated Mordor- especially before the Nazgul got winged beasts.

LOL, that's been memorialized in the YouTube "How It Should Have Ended" series:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yqVD0swvWU

The only reason that I can think of is that before Mordor pretty much collapsed, the eagles may have been shot from the sky. There were a lot of Orcs and stuff there.

Anyway, about the deus ex machina thing. I think it's option #3. A lot of writers get to the end of their manuscript, write the ending, and don't go back and make sure to include details that make the ending NOT come out of left field and like the inevitable conclusion that it should be. Also, authors are so close to their manuscripts that they may not see that the ending is coming out of left field (or that there aren't enough details to foreshadow it, or that there's a missing link in the chain of logical events and consequences).

If you really want a more thorough understanding of how writers can fix deus ex machina endings, I recommend BOTH reading the book and watching the first season of Dexter; in conjunction, they taught me a lot about setup. The book's ending is rather deus-ex-machina, but the tv show has the same ending and it's not at all deus-ex-machina, and there's a reason for that; the tv series simply foreshadowed the ending better. It added a lot of little details that hinted at the reveal in the ending and made it make sense. It provided buildup.

Darzian
12-15-2008, 08:15 PM
IIRC, the eagles came to the battle at the Black Gate and were sent to Mount Doom to rescue Frodo and Sam by Gandalf after the one ring was destroyed.

As for taking the ring to Mordor via the eagles, if you've read the book or seen the movies, you'll recall the Nazgul- flying ring wraiths. If the Eagles came into Mordor while the nine where there, they surely would have been destroyed. Thus, the ONLY way to destroy the ring, as laid out by Tolkein, would be to sneak it into Mordor and destory it within the fires of mount doom. Once the ring was destroyed, the eagles could enter Mordor and rescue Frodo and Sam because the Nine were destroyed with it. If you're looking for a Deus Ex Machina in LOTR, Tom Bombadil is a good place to start.

Jessi = Tolkein Nerd


I love LOTR too.

But, the winged beasts came later. They don't make their appearance until the extreme latter part of Book 1.

Aragorn takes Gondor's army to the Black Gate to provide a diversion for Frodo. Couldn't the same have been done- but with the Eagles sneaking in instead? With most of Mordor's forces at the Black Gate, and with the Nazgul on the ground, should it not have been possible for a large group of eagles to infiltrate Mordor?

I think the main counter point would be the eagles' unwillingness to get involved in the war. I can't remember much about them too clearly.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yqVD0swvWU

entertaining!

MarionRivers, Deus Ex endings insult the intelligence of the reader. As I said in my first post, we spend our time thinking about how the story would end, and using the knowledge we've gleaned from the book to anticipate the ending. By putting in a Deus Ex end, that makes all our efforts useless. Why bother if the writer puts in something from out of the blue? And as S Peaches said, the characters all becomes worthless puppets in an instant. Not nice. Deus Ex doesn't work. Perhaps the only place where it sort of worked is at the end of the second Harry Potter book. I don't think it can be defined precisely as Deus Ex since Harry was responsible for the arrival in the phoenix, even if it was unintentional.

Dale Emery
12-15-2008, 11:12 PM
I think it's a sign that the imbalance of power is too great. A writer reaching for Deus Ex Machina has likely gotten the MC into a situation that's too far beyond the MC's abilities and resources, and there's no plausible way for the MC to do what's necessary to come out victorious.

Dale

Dave.C.Robinson
12-16-2008, 12:33 AM
I always thought that a good example of Deus ex Machina was the C.S. Lewis books/movies.

Have you seen the movie version of Prince Caspian? (I have not yet read the book, so I don't know if the movie was true to the book.)

At the end, after all of these catatrophes and battles, and losses and all of that, the Good Guys are cornered right near the river and it looks like it's the end. There is no conceivable way out. And lo and behold...here come Aslan, who saves the damn day. With nothing in the plot that shows that he was even paying attention to them, much less ready to save them. In fact, the characters were actively looking for him...and didn't find him until they were in over their heads. Voila....day saved, plot solved...so why did we have to have the whole drama with the fricking prince if Aslan was gonna save the day anyways?

(My mom and I walked out of the theater and she was going on and on about how good the movie was...I was grumbling that something with that bad of an ending got published and sold movie rights.)

I just watched Prince Caspian yesterday afternoon, and the ending didn't bother me.

The reason I think it may have seemed unsatisfying to you was because you saw the main conflict in the book to be getting Caspian on his throne. In that context the ending could appear like Deus Ex Machina. However, having read the books a few times (though not in the last twenty years) I saw the main conflict as the internal one of can Peter and Susan submit to Lucy's faith in Aslan?

Both Prince Caspian and Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe are about the strength of a child's faith. It's Lucy's faith and the need of the others to join Lucy in that faith that is the key to both movies. And even Lucy has a crisis of faith, as is seen by her realization that had she gone on her own to Aslan earlier she might have prevented all the deaths in the movie.

Say what you want about the movie, but C.S. Lewis' ending was both foreshadowed and a natural outgrowth of the plot. Aslan's appearance at the bridge is a direct result of the choices the characters make inthe course of the film. Yes it may appear like Deus Ex Machina in the context of fighting the Telmarines, but as has been said it is a religious book anyway.

jessicaorr
12-18-2008, 05:47 AM
I love LOTR too.

But, the winged beasts came later. They don't make their appearance until the extreme latter part of Book 1.

Aragorn takes Gondor's army to the Black Gate to provide a diversion for Frodo. Couldn't the same have been done- but with the Eagles sneaking in instead? With most of Mordor's forces at the Black Gate, and with the Nazgul on the ground, should it not have been possible for a large group of eagles to infiltrate Mordor?

I think the main counter point would be the eagles' unwillingness to get involved in the war. I can't remember much about them too clearly.





Yes, I remember when the beasts were mentioned, however one would assume they existed within the story-world prior to their actually being mentioned. So, if Frodo and Sam would have ridden eagles over Modor, they would have been destroyed by the Nazgul. Even if the Nine were still abroad and therefore not in Modor to defend it, it is likely that Modor had other air defenses.

Really, I think it would be more difficult to sneak through the air (how would one even do that?) than sneak across scrubby terrain. I just read the books again last week. It seems perfectly logical to me. The eagles were willing to aid in the wars, and aided Galndalf and co. many times. In the hobbit, however, they were a bit more reluctant so that might be what you're thinking of. I think really, the eagles didn't sneak the hobbits in because they couldn't, pure and simple. Well, really they didn't because that's not the way Tolkein wrote the story. But you know what I mean LOL