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BlueLucario
03-02-2008, 11:44 PM
Okay, I know what Dues ex Machina is, "God of the Machine" if I'm not mistaken. Like for example, Tom lives in an apartment with his wife and two kids, their rent is due. The family is low class. Tom got fired from his last job, which was low pay anyway. Tom spent several weeks looking for a job to save up money for rent, food, and clothing for the kids. But then an old man comes along and offers to help Tom. He tells him to go to a super market and get a lottery ticket, and gives him the lottery ticket numbers, and suddenly Tom wins the lottery, problem solved. (That I'm sure is Deus ex Machina)

But a while back someone read my story, and told me that my Cat, who can cast spells is too convenient and always has a spell to solve the MC's problems.(According to him.) I don't use the cat that much. I use her occasionally.

Let say your MC is going to die if she didn't act fast. And the moment where this could be the end. An ally comes along to save her. This usually happens in movies(and I know not to use movies as a reference.) Heh, even the Harry Potter books had someone else save the day, when Harry was going to die.

Is that considered Deus ex Machina? Or am I taking this literally?

underthecity
03-03-2008, 01:14 AM
Deus ex Machina is when something unexpected and out of nowhere saves the day. In the case of Harry Potter, someone else might "save the day," but we already saw this character earlier on, probably on numerous occasions, performing that spell, or at least practicing it, until at the very end when that character cast the spell and did it right.

That's not Deus ex Machina.

If Dumbledore were to stroll in at the last minute and wave his magic wand, then not only would that be a disappointing ending, Dumbledore would be the D e M.

In a different story, to use your example, if an MC was about to die, and at the last minute a guy walks in and says "I can save him with an operation that only I can do," and he does and the MC lives, that would be Deus ex Machina. But let's say that at the beginning of this story the MC met that guy, or at least heard about him, then later when he's dieing and someone says "Hey, how about that one guy who might be able to save him, let's call him." Then through a series of hurdles and unexpected delays, they get that guy who comes and does the operation, well, then that's NOT Deus ex Machina.

allen

Aggy B.
03-03-2008, 01:23 AM
Wikipedia says:

The phrase deus ex machina (Latin IPA (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Help:IPA): [ˈdeːus eks ˈmaːkʰina] (literally "god out of a machine") describes an artificial, or improbable, character, device, or event introduced suddenly in a work of fiction or drama to resolve a situation or untangle a plot (such as an angel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angel) suddenly appearing to solve problems).

I think what you are referring to in Harry Potter would not be considered deus ex machina because Harry is not saved by a random or previously unheard of character.

The "god outside of the machine" issue usually arises at the end of stories when the situation CANNOT be resolved as written without the introduction of a previously unintroduced/unfamiliar character. It means, literally, that the story (or machine) cannot be fixed (or ended in the way the author wants) without tampering with it from the outside (or adding an element from the outside).

For example, if in Lord of the Rings (either the books or the movies) the character of Gollum had only shown up at the very end (even if he had been mentioned in the history of the ring) to bite the ring off Frodo's finger and then fall into the lava, he would have been a "deus ex machina." But as written, Gollum is a central character in the story. He doesn't have to be brought in from "outside" in order to "save the day." It is believable because we know that he has been plotting to steal the Ring, we know that he has done everything he can to get it back and that the idea that Frodo will try to destroy it (or keep it for himself) will prompt him to further violence. Gollum's actions may be a twist but they are not a surprise.

The situation that you are describing from your story (cat with super spells) could also be considered to fall into this category (no pun intended) if it's only purpose in the story is to show up and rescue your MC. It doesn't matter how little or much you use the cat.

Think about Terminator 2. Arnold's character may be there only to save the life of whathisface Conner, but he functions in a bigger capacity and he is a constant presence. He doesn't just pop in and out when it seems that everything is lost.

Hope that's helpful.

ResearchGuy
03-03-2008, 01:25 AM
Okay, I know what Dues ex Machina is, "God of the Machine" if I'm not mistaken. . . .
The origin of the term is that in ancient Greek drama, sometimes, when the characters got into an intractable situation, the resolution was to bring in a god, literally via a crane (the machine in question) to fix things. Hence, god from the machine. (Note: from, not of.) It was considered an inelegant solution -- in today's terms, a kludge -- and did not have a good reputation as literary technique.

(FWIW, I used a play on that phrase as the main title of my dissertation, long, long ago.)

The distinguished old A Handbook to Literature (Thrall, Hibbard, and Holman), begins its entry on Deus ex machina this way: "The employment of some unexpected and improbable incident in a story or play in order to make things come out right." It also notes, "The employment of the deus ex machina is commonly recognized as evidence of deficient skill in plot-making or an uncritical willingness to disregard the probabilities. Though it is sometimes employed by good authors, it is found most frequently in melodrama." (Pp. 136-7.)

FWIW.

Ken

Mr Flibble
03-03-2008, 01:32 AM
Ahh, I think you've settled a worry for one of my MS's I thought is Deus Ex Machina ( quite literally a god). But as he alluded to in much of the story, and when he does turn up things get worse,until the MC does her stuff, I think I might be alright.

Phew. Thanks.

Devil Ledbetter
03-03-2008, 01:33 AM
Disney's Emperor's New Groove offers an amusing example of Deus ex Machina when a character falls from a high parapet of the castle, then out of nowhere come two men hauling a trampoline and arguing over where it's supposed to go. Of course the character hits the trampoline and is saved.

Now, if Disney had somehow foreshadowed that trampoline earlier in the story, it would not be Deus ex Machina. But in this case, the Deus ex Machina was done tongue-in-cheek to rather amusing affect.

underthecity
03-03-2008, 01:37 AM
But as he alluded to in much of the story, and when he does turn up things get worse,until the MC does her stuff, I think I might be alright.

I can't remember who it was, but someone said that if a gun is going to be used in the final act, it has to be seen on the mantle in the first act (or something like that).

allen

Devil Ledbetter
03-03-2008, 01:39 AM
I can't remember who it was, but someone said that if a gun is going to be used in the final act, it has to be seen on the mantle in the first act (or something like that).

allenI think it's more to the effect of, if you show a gun on the mantle in the first act, it'd better go off by the third act.

Linda Adams
03-03-2008, 01:52 AM
But a while back someone read my story, and told me that my Cat, who can cast spells is too convenient and always has a spell to solve the MC's problems.(According to him.) I don't use the cat that much. I use her occasionally.


I think what they're pointing out here is that your heroine isn't solving the problem like she should; someone else is doing it for her. She doesn't know how to do something, so the cat conveniently provides the solution. You've said one of the things that should be done in a story is to throw obstacles in a character's path. The character failing is an obstacle; a cat doing it for her is not an obstacle.

Mr Flibble
03-03-2008, 02:01 AM
I can't remember who it was, but someone said that if a gun is going to be used in the final act, it has to be seen on the mantle in the first act (or something like that).

allen

Chekhov wasn't it?

Anyway he's there right from the off, although the reader won't neccessarily know who he is. He's a mystery figure, kind of thing - though it's obvious someone has the power of life and death over one of the characters, it's only revealed who/what he is at the end. And then he makes everything worse for the MC.

edit: yeah Chekhov : "If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don't put it there."

veinglory
03-03-2008, 02:06 AM
Quite. The spell a person can do should be constarined by rules the reader knows. If a lottery solves the problem, the effects of winning the lottery should be a major theme of the book.

DeM originall referred to greek plays where the problems would build up and up and eventually a character playing a god would come down on a wire to save everyone one explain their mistakes. Fine for a morality play, in modern fiction however a degree of plausibility is normally required and so authors should not paint themsleves into a corner.

Mr Flibble
03-03-2008, 02:14 AM
Having read a few bits about this just now Blue, the thought occurs to me:

With your cat, have you established the magic rules? what it costs? the limits?

If the cat can, say, only cast spells at midnight, or only certaan types of spells, or only once a day, or can cast what she likes but risks one of her legs falling off every time, that's not so bad. If it can do anything - well where's the danger to the MC?Maybe that's what he meant.

Uncarved
03-03-2008, 02:24 AM
I can't remember who it was, but someone said that if a gun is going to be used in the final act, it has to be seen on the mantle in the first act (or something like that).

allen


Well THANK YOU ALLEN, sheesh now that is going to just irritate the immortal ARGH out of me until I figure out who that was, cos I remember that too;)
Sigh, haha.



ETA: Thanks IdiotsRus, that would have irked me. I should remember to read the whole thread before responding.

HeronW
03-03-2008, 02:28 AM
Take a look at the situations in which the cat helps the MC, is there a quid pro quo, does the cat do it for altruistic reasons or for gain? Is the MC getting into stupid situations and the cat, being smarter, gets him out? Maybe that's what your reader feels.

Just tossing stones in the pool of thought here. :}

Marian Perera
03-03-2008, 02:35 AM
I don't use the cat that much. I use her occasionally.

It's not what you do, Blue, it's what your character does.

So if she has a magical cat which casts spells, why not use that cat all the time? Why does she only use the cat occasionally?

BlueLucario
03-03-2008, 02:36 AM
Having read a few bits about this just now Blue, the thought occurs to me:

With your cat, have you established the magic rules? what it costs? the limits?

If the cat can, say, only cast spells at midnight, or only certaan types of spells, or only once a day, or can cast what she likes but risks one of her legs falling off every time, that's not so bad. If it can do anything - well where's the danger to the MC?Maybe that's what he meant.

Um... Well, I'm not sure if this counts but, the cat has short-term memory. When she is most depended on she forgets a spell. She won't be able to remember all the important information the MC needs. With the fight scene coming up, she will try to help Lily, but she ends up messing up and may cause her to lose the battle. Lily, always pushes her away because she doesn't need help, that her cat is considered useless.

Bufty
03-03-2008, 02:38 AM
I don't see Blue's first example as deus ex machina - it's just a poorly rounded off plot.

As I understood it, Deus ex Machina solutions are where the current desperate predicament is solved by something totally out of left field with no rhyme, reason or justification whatsoever.

BlueLucario
03-03-2008, 02:39 AM
Take a look at the situations in which the cat helps the MC, is there a quid pro quo, does the cat do it for altruistic reasons or for gain? Is the MC getting into stupid situations and the cat, being smarter, gets him out? Maybe that's what your reader feels.

Just tossing stones in the pool of thought here. :}

Well, she doesn't step in to save the day, and she doesn't solve everyone's problems, she will usually make a situation worse.

But she does give good advice though, I'm not sure if that's DeM as well.

And she's also the MC's familiar.

Linda Adams
03-03-2008, 02:46 AM
I don't see Blue's first example as deus ex machina - it's just a poorly rounded off plot.

As I understood it, Deus ex Machina solutions are where the current desperate predicament is solved by something totally out of left field with no rhyme, reason or justification whatsoever.

Lightning hitting the bad guy just as the hero was going to lose? That was actually in a mystery novel I read several years ago.

BlueLucario
03-03-2008, 02:50 AM
I don't see Blue's first example as deus ex machina - it's just a poorly rounded off plot.



Not so great with this stuff anyway. So are miracles considered DeM. Like if an old man is dying of a heart attack and doctors can't save him. His heartbeat stops, and suddenly it starts beating again and he's already alive. There's no justification to miracles, even if they happen in real life all the time.


Now I get it. I took the concept too literally

dpaterso
03-03-2008, 02:56 AM
As I understood it, Deus ex Machina solutions are where the current desperate predicament is solved by something totally out of left field with no rhyme, reason or justification whatsoever.
Yep.

The protag and possibly other characters are cheated out of the glory and satisfaction that should have been theirs because some damn stranger or lucky event solved the big problem for them. Which leaves the reader feeling cheated too.

-Derek

Bufty
03-03-2008, 02:58 AM
Blue, if the miracle occurs with no previous religious connotations in the story and absolutely nothing hints to the reader that miracles are in the story, and the miracle ends the story -yes.

Because the solution is totally out of left field - like a GOD suddenly appearing for no reason whatsoever and fixing everything.

Marian Perera
03-03-2008, 03:06 AM
Um... Well, I'm not sure if this counts but, the cat has short-term memory. When she is most depended on she forgets a spell. She won't be able to remember all the important information the MC needs. With the fight scene coming up, she will try to help Lily, but she ends up messing up and may cause her to lose the battle.

Seems to me that this doesn't mesh what you said earlier - "my Cat, who can cast spells is too convenient and always has a spell to solve the MC's problems".

Either the cat solves the main character's problems - which is not good, because the main character should solve her own problems - or the cat makes things worse for the main character. The latter has pitfalls of its own, but isn't as bad as the former to me.

BlueLucario
03-03-2008, 03:09 AM
Seems to me that this doesn't mesh what you said earlier - "my Cat, who can cast spells is too convenient and always has a spell to solve the MC's problems".

That was quoted. I don't think that what I meant. She's there to help like 50% of the time. I hope i'm not being argumentive



Either the cat solves the main character's problems - which is problematic, because the main character should solve her own problems - or the cat makes things worse for the main character. The latter has pitfalls of its own, but isn't as bad as the former to me.

Could it be both? The cat sometimes helps out and sometimes she makes things worse.

dpaterso
03-03-2008, 03:15 AM
What's the cat's motivation?

I don't trust 'em. They're always up to something.

-Derek

BlueLucario
03-03-2008, 03:20 AM
What's the cat's motivation?

I don't trust 'em. They're always up to something.

-Derek

This may sound stupid, but. My main character has goals, she lost her memories and wants to go find her Master(I wanted to make another posts about this but i don't want to bother anyone.) And the cat is the obstacle that gets in the way of her goal. She's lies to the MC, about the Master just so she can keep her away from him. He's dangerous, evil and he was never nice to Lily, when she was young.

That's her purpose. But her goal is to be a stronger Magickat, because she wants to be useful. not to mess everything up all the time.

Marian Perera
03-03-2008, 03:33 AM
The trouble with what you've said about the cat so far is that you need to have a good reason for why its magic helps the main character 50% of the time and fails her the other 50% of the time. And it needs to be a good reason, otherwise this looks like magic working when the author needs it to work and failing when the author needs it to fail.

Devil Ledbetter
03-03-2008, 03:53 AM
What's the cat's motivation?

I don't trust 'em. They're always up to something.

-DerekMine is usually up to a nap.

dpaterso
03-03-2008, 03:56 AM
DL, I think you mean "plotting"

-Derek

BlueLucario
03-03-2008, 04:14 AM
The trouble with what you've said about the cat so far is that you need to have a good reason for why its magic helps the main character 50% of the time and fails her the other 50% of the time. And it needs to be a good reason, otherwise this looks like magic working when the author needs it to work and failing when the author needs it to fail.
Does the cat's short-term memory count?

ResearchGuy
03-03-2008, 04:18 AM
. . . that is going to just irritate the immortal ARGH out of me until I figure out who that was, cos I remember that too;)
Sigh, haha. . . .

Chekhov.




The name, Chekhov's gun, comes from Anton Chekhov (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anton_Chekhov) himself, who stated that any object introduced in a story must be used later on, else it ought not to feature in the first place:

"One must not put a loaded rifle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rifle) on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it." Anton Chekhov, letter to Aleksandr Semenovich Lazarev (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Aleksandr_Semenovich_Lazarev&action=edit&redlink=1) (pseudonym of A. S. Gruzinsky (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=A._S._Gruzinsky&action=edit&redlink=1)), 1 November (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/November_1) 1889 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1889).
"If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don't put it there." From Gurlyand's Reminiscences of A. P. Chekhov, in Teatr i iskusstvo 1904, No. 28, 11 July, p. 521.[1] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chekhov%27s_gun#_note-0)
"If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there." From S. Shchukin (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=S._Shchukin&action=edit&redlink=1), Memoirs (1911) An example in which Chekhov himself makes use of this principle is in Uncle Vanya (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncle_Vanya), in which a pistol is introduced early on as a seemingly irrelevant prop and, towards the end of the play, becomes much more important as Uncle Vanya, in a rage, grabs it and tries to commit homicide.

That is from a Wikipedia entry, found by Googling gun play "first act". I am confident the info. is correct.



--Ken

Marian Perera
03-03-2008, 04:20 AM
Does the cat's short-term memory count?

Depends on whether this comes off as the cat's short-term memory working when the author wants it to work and failing when the author wants it to fail.

BlueLucario
03-03-2008, 04:48 AM
Wow. That means I'd be taking too much control of the story if the cat's fails or succeeds just because the story needs her to be.

Marian Perera
03-03-2008, 04:57 AM
Wow. That means I'd be taking too much control of the story if the cat's fails or succeeds just because the story needs her to be.

Right. I want to see people act a certain way or say a certain thing because it's in their character to act that way or say that thing, not because the author's pulling their strings.

BlueLucario
03-03-2008, 05:18 AM
Wow, I don't wanna do that.

IceCreamEmpress
03-03-2008, 06:11 AM
The key thing about whether something is a deus ex machina is really whether it's been part of the story all along, or if it conveniently appears out of nowhere.

A magical cat who's been part of the story all along isn't a deus ex machina. Now, the question of whether you're taking the easy (and boring) way out by having the cat solve problems instead of the heroine is a different question, and it sounds like you're aware that that's not a good way to build characterization or suspense.

If the cat creates as many problems as it solves, or if its solutions have unexpected consequences, then I think it's probably an interesting plot element. If the cat is just a bag of tricks, not so much.

maestrowork
03-03-2008, 09:56 AM
Very simple:

Cat comes out of nowhere, casts a spell and saves the day -- DeM.

Cat has been around all along, casting spells, and only this time it actually saves the day -- just convenient plot twist. Rather lazy and boring.

dpaterso
03-03-2008, 11:07 AM
Loyal cat helps (and saves) protagonist on several occasions, earning her total trust. Then it leads her into a deadly trap where she must face a powerful opponent -- and runs away laughing! Unexpected plot twist! Will the protagonist survive?? And if she does, will she track down that cunning cat and give it the ass-kicking it so richly deserves?

-Derek

maestrowork
03-03-2008, 11:32 AM
That's Garfield, the movie.

dpaterso
03-03-2008, 11:45 AM
:e2smack:

I knew it seemed familiar!

-Derek

steveg144
03-03-2008, 02:14 PM
The appearance of the "God from the Machine" must be both unexpected and unlikely in order to qualify as a true "deux ex machina." It must not have made an appearance earlier in the tale, and its arrival must evoke a sort of "Oh c'mon, you gotta be kidding me!" reaction in the reader/audience. It's not a good thing to do. Among the great Greek tragedians, Euripides was notorious for using the "deux ex machina" to sort out his convoluted plot points. This is why (among other reasons) Euripides is considered the lesser of the three greats (Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides).

BlueLucario
03-03-2008, 02:48 PM
Loyal cat helps (and saves) protagonist on several occasions, earning her total trust. Then it leads her into a deadly trap where she must face a powerful opponent -- and runs away laughing! Unexpected plot twist! Will the protagonist survive?? And if she does, will she track down that cunning cat and give it the ass-kicking it so richly deserves?

-Derek
Is everyone making fun of me? I'm very sensitive. As for the cat, she doesn't step in everytime the MC is in a jam. She does give good advice though, but that's it. As for the deus ex machina, I am certainly not this pathetic to try that!

dpaterso
03-03-2008, 04:17 PM
Is everyone making fun of me? I'm very sensitive.
NO!

Ray (and others) gave Deus ex Machina examples to avoid.

Ray added a convenient plot twist, with recommendations to avoid this too.

I threw in a possible dramatic reveal (unexpected twist to entertain your reader) suggestion.

It's up to you to decide whether any of that's useful.

-Derek

BlueLucario
03-03-2008, 04:28 PM
Blue, if the miracle occurs with no previous religious connotations in the story and absolutely nothing hints to the reader that miracles are in the story, and the miracle ends the story -yes.

Because the solution is totally out of left field - like a GOD suddenly appearing for no reason whatsoever and fixing everything.

Why does the author need to be hinted? Miracles happen in real life, doesn't it?

Marian Perera
03-03-2008, 04:36 PM
Why does the author need to be hinted? Miracles happen in real life, doesn't it?

I believe people have already mentioned to you that although real-life conversations may involve lots of "um", "uh-huh" or "yeah", it's usually not a good idea to write dialogue full of this.

The same goes for miracles, especially since everyone may not agree that they occur in real life.

Mr Flibble
03-03-2008, 04:51 PM
Miracles happen in real life, doesn't it?



The thing about miracles is that they are generally only seen as miracles if they are impossible in the first place.

And for every one person who says 'Wow, that was a miracle' there's probably twenty saying ' actually it was a weather balloon / static electricity / some other explanation'. Fiction has to make sense. Miracles, by their very nature, don't make sense.


Basically if you put it in your book, your readers are going to feel cheated 'Hey I read all that, got myself emotionally invested in the MC's danger, and then 'poof' God made it OK. Why did I bother?'

And that's not even going into whether they are the same religion as the god you have performing said miracle...or even have a religion at all. If they don't beleive in miracles, or your writing hasn't made them believe that miracles occur often in your world, they'll be even more cheated.

Marian Perera
03-03-2008, 04:55 PM
Basically if you put it in your book, you're readers are going to feel cheated 'Hey I read all that, got myself emotionally invested in the MC's danger, and then 'poof' God made it OK. Why did I bother?'

I'm also going to think, "If God/magic cat/plot device could work a miracle on page 300, why didn't he/she/it just work a miracle and solve the problem on page 1?"

Rolling Thunder
03-03-2008, 05:23 PM
I'm also going to think, "If God/magic cat/plot device could work a miracle on page 300, why didn't he/she/it just work a miracle and solve the problem on page 1?"

That's an interesting perspective because I fell into that trap at first. I have a story about a family of magical cats that are facing an adversary: a sinister black dog. The obvious problem was 'why don't they use magic to just rid themselves of this dog'? Luckily, since the story revolves around one main character, I finally came up with a logical fix: for every magical action there is an opposite, and consequential, reaction.

Bufty
03-03-2008, 05:58 PM
Or, Rollin', maybe the dog could have a special kind of protective magic whereby if magic were used to try and destroy it, it cloned a duplicate of itself - sort of like the multiplying water-bucket-carrying brushes in Fantasia's Sorcerer's Apprentice -if I recall correctly - which I probably haven't. :Shrug:

Rolling Thunder
03-03-2008, 06:15 PM
Or, Rollin', maybe the dog could have a special kind of protective magic whereby if magic were used to try and destroy it, it cloned a duplicate of itself - sort of like the multiplying water-bucket-carrying brushes in Fantasia's Sorcerer's Apprentice -if I recall correctly - which I probably haven't. :Shrug:

That's an excellent perception. I did, in fact, somewhat apply that logic: whereas the dog and the MC are intertwined in a manner that 'cancels out' the MC using magic to destroy it. I blended Science Fiction and Fantasy to create these two characters, giving the MC some attributes from a parent created by science and a parent with magical capabilities. The antagonist (dog) is cut from the same cloth as the parent created by science (his being that he was created specifically to destroy that parent when its task is complete), and this link prevents the MC from using magic to harm him.

I actually have to rewrite this story because I was attempting to keep it low key, and it is now obvious I have to present the story as high concept.

But the point is, there are plenty of ways to avoid the 'god-in-the-machine' if a writer takes the time to craft the story by taking the time needed to make it work.

BlueLucario
03-03-2008, 08:05 PM
I'm also going to think, "If God/magic cat/plot device could work a miracle on page 300, why didn't he/she/it just work a miracle and solve the problem on page 1?"


I don't mean like a person performing miracles, it's just some sort of event that just...well, happens. These miracles may be something none of the characters could control. Like a hurricane.

Come to think of it, I think you're right. The character has to do something to solve his or her problems.

IMO, a writer who tries dues ex machina must be pretty pathetic. It's really funny to see readers react when they realize they've been ripped off. (In someone else's book. It was all just a dream, ending.)

Marian Perera
03-03-2008, 08:11 PM
I don't mean like a person performing miracles, it's just some sort of event that just...well, happens. These miracles may be something none of the characters could control. Like a hurricane.

That's when I say, "How convenient!" Maybe the hurricane could drop a big bag of money down to the characters as well?


Come to think of it, I think you're right. The character has to do something to solve his or her problems.

That's pretty much what we've been saying, yes. It's difficult to like or admire characters who can't or won't solve their own problems. Besides, I find people who solve problems more interesting than God, hurricanes or (most) magic animals.


IMO, a writer who tries dues ex machina must be pretty pathetic.

Or maybe that writer is inexperienced and hasn't read many books and really doesn't realize that what they're doing isn't the best way to tell a story.

Glass houses, etc.

BlueLucario
03-03-2008, 08:15 PM
That's when I say, "How convenient!" Maybe the hurricane could drop a big bag of money down to the characters as well?.

LOL.




Or maybe that writer is inexperienced and hasn't read many books and really doesn't realize that what they're doing isn't the best way to tell a story.

Glass houses, etc.

I thought avoiding DeM is just common sense. I didn't think it could be common among young writers.

Marian Perera
03-03-2008, 08:18 PM
I thought avoiding DeM is just common sense. I didn't think it could be common among young writers.

There are several mistakes you've made in your own writing. No one tells you that avoiding these mistakes is "just common sense". We realize that you're not aware of certain things and that you need to learn. Likewise, a writer who uses the deus ex machina ending is not necessarily "pathetic". Such a writer, like yourself, may be inexperienced and in need of help.

Menyanthana
03-03-2008, 10:52 PM
Actually, I use a "deus ex machina" in my WIP...the MCs hide at a place which is guarded by a goddess...so they are safe there. I cannot cut that scene out, as it is important for character development.

Are there possibilities, to make this scene less "Deus ex Machina" - like ?

Bufty
03-03-2008, 10:56 PM
I'm not certain what your problem is, but are you sure you know what Deus ex Machina is?

It's normally applicable to an out-of-the-blue conclusion of a story - not to a mid-book scene as such.


Actually, I use a "deus ex machina" in my WIP...the MCs hide at a place which is guarded by a goddess...so they are safe there. I cannot cut that scene out, as it is important for character development.

Are there possibilities, to make this scene less "Deus ex Machina" - like ?

sassandgroove
03-03-2008, 10:57 PM
http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=36581&highlight=Dues%2C+Machina

Menyanthana
03-03-2008, 11:03 PM
I'm not certain what your problem is, but are you sure you know what Deus ex Machina is?


Quite sure, although I may have a bit of a language problem here. ;) The problem is that, in the scene I described, the MCs have a problem which seems to be impossible to solve: they are chased by an army.

That's not the end of the story, but the worst problem is solved.

Bufty
03-03-2008, 11:22 PM
It is not Deus ex Machina in the middle of a story.

If something happens out of the blue in the middle of the story somewhere to save a situation then whatever happens is simply luck, or fate, or fluke or good fortune - call it what you will.


Quite sure, although I may have a bit of a language problem here. ;) The problem is that, in the scene I described, the MCs have a problem which seems to be impossible to solve: they are chased by an army.

That's not the end of the story, but the worst problem is solved.

MelodyO
03-03-2008, 11:22 PM
This reminds me of the last season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where she faced a big bad she couldn't seem to beat. Even though her own strength and courage had always been enough to win before, this time a mysterious figure told her where to find a big red ax that allowed her to defeat the bad guy.

And all the fans called it a deus ax machina. Hee.

Menyanthana
03-03-2008, 11:43 PM
It is not Deus ex Machina in the middle of a story.

If something happens out of the blue in the middle of the story somewhere to save a situation then whatever happens is simply luck, or fate, or fluke or good fortune - call it what you will.

Isn't it bad style nevertheless?

Stew21
03-04-2008, 12:07 AM
I was listening to Roald Dahl's Audio Collection this past weekend and just now thought of one of the stories while reading this thread.
James and The Giant Peach -it's one of my all-time favorites.


The old man with no name that approaches James in the garden (where "the first rather peculiar thing happened") just appears and gives James the magic seeds that will make him happy for the rest of his life. If this happened at the end of a story it would be D.E.M., but it happened at the beginning, which, first of all, sets the fantastical tone of the story and provides the catalyst for a really peculiar thing, and then a fantastically peculiar thing to happen. That the peach could be flown over the ocean by seagulls that got roped was set up by the presence of a silk worm and a spider, and Dahl went so far as to having the old man explain that if the seeds were lost, the first thing they come into contact with will get their marvelous effects - and goes on to list a tree, bug, insect, centipede, etc. - so he foreshadowed the most peculiar events before the first ever took place.
Every character that played a part in the success of James and his friends on their journey were present from the early stages of the story.
If the story was all about James' evil aunts, then a random, unexplained giant peach killing them would be D.E.M. but it wasn't because that wasn't the conclusion of the story, and we see how the peach came to be - while it was a convenient end to some baddies, there was still a great deal of conflict to overcome and much story yet to be told. It wasn't THE conclusion. there is still time for a satisfactory ending created from the acts of those aboard the giant peach.

And while landing the giant peach on top of the point of the Empire State Building is a fantastically peculiar thing, it is the nature of the story, and we were warned about the peculiar things in the beginning.

Dahl did an amazing job of setting up every device he used even while telling such an unbelievable story, he made it believable and satisfactory with carefully placing each thing early so they could be used later.

BlueLucario
03-04-2008, 12:24 AM
Isn't it bad style nevertheless?

Hehe, I think all of your Deus ex Machina questions will be answered if you just read the posts on page two. I've asked the same questions already.

As for your goddess, it's not deus ex machina unless the Goddess saves the day at the end of the story. But try adding a little backround information on your Goddess, just so she doesn't come out of the blue.

Does your reader KNOW the goddess? Do your characters have knowledge? Does the Goddess have a reason WHY she's saving them? I think this was discussed before. Anyway, you should be fine as long as the goddess doesn't save the day just to move the story along.

IceCreamEmpress
03-04-2008, 02:01 AM
Quite sure, although I may have a bit of a language problem here. ;) The problem is that, in the scene I described, the MCs have a problem which seems to be impossible to solve: they are chased by an army.

That's not the end of the story, but the worst problem is solved.

Do the characters know that this place is a sanctuary? If so, it's hardly a deus ex machina.

If you've done something like: "Bob, what will we do? There's an army chasing us!" "If we can just get to the Grove of Athena, we'll be safe there under the protection of the goddess," then that seems perfectly fair.

Especially if the army knows that the sacred grove (or whatever) is a place of sanctuary, and therefore redoubles their efforts to catch your main characters before they get there.

Magic by itself is not a deus ex machina--it's when it appears out of nowhere that it's problematic.

BlueLucario
03-04-2008, 02:14 AM
That's not the end of the story, but the worst problem is solved.

If it's not the end then it's not deus ex machina. But Like I said,(Or quoted) try not to make the Goddess TOO convenient. Or make the Goddess save the day just to move the story along.

Menyanthana
03-04-2008, 01:51 PM
Do the characters know that this place is a sanctuary? If so, it's hardly a deus ex machina.

I planned it as a surprise...however...maybe I could just surprise the characters from whose point of view I am telling.
Thank you :)

BlueLucario
03-04-2008, 03:28 PM
If you use this as some sort of surprise, you'll annoy the reader. Just tell the story, don't add surprises, humor or magical leprachans just for the reader's(Unless it's a plot twist. But a goddess element most likely won't count as such.) characters or whoever's sake. Write the story as it is.

Menyanthana
03-04-2008, 05:25 PM
Write the story as it is.

If something questionable is not part of the story, I don't write it. My problem is that I haven't found an other way to solve certain problems whithout it so far.

Bufty
03-04-2008, 06:07 PM
There's nothing wrong or unusual with them stumbling upon a sanctuary, whether they realise it at the time or not, or whether it's a surprise to the reader or not.

Go ahead and write it and see where it takes you.:Hug2:


If something questionable is not part of the story, I don't write it. My problem is that I haven't found an other way to solve certain problems whithout it so far.

maestrowork
03-04-2008, 07:20 PM
Why does the author need to be hinted? Miracles happen in real life, doesn't it?


because in fiction, it's a cop-out. You can fix anything with a "miracle" and if you do that, why do the readers bother to read it? Oh, the hero backs himself into a corner and there's no way out. Don't worry, a miracle will happen and he'll be safe.

I'll put that book down and never buy that author's book again.

DWSTXS
03-04-2008, 07:56 PM
Having read a few bits about this just now Blue, the thought occurs to me:

With your cat, have you established the magic rules? what it costs? the limits?

If the cat can, say, only cast spells at midnight, or only certaan types of spells, or only once a day, or can cast what she likes but risks one of her legs falling off every time, that's not so bad. If it can do anything - well where's the danger to the MC?Maybe that's what he meant.

I think this is great advice for Blue and her cat.

BTW Blue. I liked the cat-character in your story (the little that I read)and was thinking that you should really punch up the personality, quirks and characteristics of that cat. Interesting character.

BlueLucario
03-04-2008, 07:56 PM
I'll put that book down and never buy that author's book again.

But you already bought the book right?

BlueLucario
03-04-2008, 07:58 PM
I think this is great advice for Blue and her cat.

BTW Blue. I liked the cat-character in your story (the little that I read)and was thinking that you should really punch up the personality, quirks and characteristics of that cat. Interesting character.

Thank you :). A lot of people chose the cat as their favorites, dunno why.

maestrowork
03-04-2008, 08:00 PM
But you already bought the book right?

So? It's not always a good thing, especially when you consider word of mouth.

Have you ever heard of "one-hit wonders"?

BlueLucario
03-04-2008, 08:03 PM
So? It's not always a good thing, especially when you consider word of mouth.

Have you ever heard of "one-hit wonders"?

No. I'm just a bit naive.

Marian Perera
03-04-2008, 08:10 PM
But you already bought the book right?

I'd leave reviews on Amazon or Barnes & Noble warning other readers about the book.

DWSTXS
03-04-2008, 08:16 PM
I'd leave reviews on Amazon or Barnes & Noble warning other readers about the book.

I read those reviews too, before I buy a book. I bet they've saved me a lot of $ and time.

BlueLucario
03-04-2008, 08:21 PM
I read those reviews too, before I buy a book. I bet they've saved me a lot of $ and time.

I do too. ALWAYS. Same thing with movies, you can't get a refund for bad books.

Mr Flibble
03-04-2008, 08:36 PM
I do too. ALWAYS. Same thing with movies, you can't get a refund for bad books.

Oh yes you can. If you're careful reading them the first time ( and let's face it if it's bad you don't get far) you can get a refund.

maestrowork
03-04-2008, 08:48 PM
What now? I can't take my book to the throne anymore? Say it isn't so.

She_wulf
03-04-2008, 08:49 PM
...If something happens out of the blue in the middle of the story somewhere to save a situation then whatever happens is simply luck, or fate, or fluke or good fortune - call it what you will.
"The Hobbit"
Barrel City
Finding the ring in the tunnels
Eagles "rescuing" the dwarves from the Wargs
Beorn
The elves in the forest
The archer getting a bit of moonlight to see the soft spot in the dragon's hide
Gandalf getting the eagles to come to the battle in time.


Sorry. I've been picking on that book lately...

Amy

Bufty
03-04-2008, 09:05 PM
You can't take it back if you've ripped out a couple of pages, if that's what you mean. ;)


What now? I can't take my book to the throne anymore? Say it isn't so.

jessicaorr
03-04-2008, 11:25 PM
"The Hobbit"
Barrel City
Finding the ring in the tunnels
Eagles "rescuing" the dwarves from the Wargs
Beorn
The elves in the forest
The archer getting a bit of moonlight to see the soft spot in the dragon's hide
Gandalf getting the eagles to come to the battle in time.


Sorry. I've been picking on that book lately...

Amy

And while we're on Tolkien, don't forget Tom Bombadil- even the Wiki article about him labels the poor fellow a classic DeM. Still, he's my favorite character in the Tolkieverse.

Kurlumbenus
03-04-2008, 11:54 PM
And while we're on Tolkien, don't forget Tom Bombadil- even the Wiki article about him labels the poor fellow a classic DeM. Still, he's my favorite character in the Tolkieverse.

His total absence was just about my only complaint about the movies. That, and the lack of songs - the best part of the earlier rotoscoped animations.

maestrowork
03-05-2008, 01:10 AM
Have you seen LotR the musical, then?

;)

jessicaorr
03-05-2008, 06:43 PM
Have you seen LotR the musical, then?

;)

Now, THAT would be awesome!

Sorry to be so off topic here. To make amends, I'll actually add to the conversation (how novel for me). I haven't written or published nearly enough to give a qualified opinion on Deus ex Machina as a writer. However, I'm enough of a reader to know that I don't really mind an occasional DeM. To take Tom as an example... Yes, he came smack out of the blue to rescue the wayward hobbits and was not previously introduced within the context of the LOTR which makes him a fairly obvious Deus e Machina. But because the theme of the trilogy was a war between good and evil, it felt that each DeM was the divine will of the Valar intervening. Tolkien even suggests this later where Frodo asks Tom if he came along the river to help them or was there by chance. Tom explains in his adorable rambling way (much as I am doing now) that he had an errand at the river and saved them by chance, "if chance it was". Gandalf also suggests that a higher will was guiding Bilbo and Frodo's fate and that other powers beside Sauron are involved with the quest.

So, in the context of "divine quest" fiction I think the occasional DeM can work, but you'd have to be a better writer than I to pull it off. Also, you have to explain why the divine needs help from the MCs in the first place. In the LOTR Tolkien clearly states that the Valar can only add sporadic assistance in the fight against Sauron, mostly through the Istar. So, even though he uses DeM, he takes the time to explain why.

I am not suggesting you make use of Deus ex Machina though Blue, I think it wouldn't work in the context of your story. If you work out the rules for your cat, like others have suggested, I think it will all come together nicely.

Oh, and sorry for laying my Tolkien nuttery on you :D

Kurlumbenus
03-05-2008, 07:23 PM
What it comes down to, I guess, is intellectual honesty. If a DeM is employed because the author doesn't want to go back and rewrite some of his earlier work to provide the characters with a "legitimate" out, then yes, you're cheating yourself and your readers.

BlueLucario
03-05-2008, 08:00 PM
I am not suggesting you make use of Deus ex Machina though Blue, I think it wouldn't work in the context of your story. If you work out the rules for your cat, like others have suggested, I think it will all come together nicely.

Oh, and sorry for laying my Tolkien nuttery on you :D


*Did I miss something? I was taking a nap* LOL.

Well, the cat doesn't have "rules" there are times when she's needed. But the cats has short term memory and she is the conflict character of my MC. She would probably lie about it to get out of helping the MC. Her role is to stop her from reaching her goals, she's doing it for the MC's safety.

IceCreamEmpress
03-05-2008, 10:21 PM
Well, the cat doesn't have "rules" there are times when she's needed. But the cats has short term memory and she is the conflict character of my MC. She would probably lie about it to get out of helping the MC. Her role is to stop her from reaching her goals, she's doing it for the MC's safety.

You've got to frame the rules from the cat's perspective, too.

Remember that everyone in the world is the protagonist of their own narrative. When you're writing a book, it's useful to remember that each of your supporting characters is operating from the assumption that they're the protagonist of their own narratives, too.

So, for instance, in the Harry Potter books, Draco doesn't try to torment Harry Potter because Harry Potter needs to suffer; Draco's motivation is that he's offended by this nobody's becoming a star of the wizarding world and distracting attention from him.

You have to distinguish between YOUR goals for a character and your character's goals for themselves. So, from the cat's perspective, why does she want to help Lily? And why does she believe the best way to help her is to thwart her progress? Why doesn't she come right out and say to Lily, "As a magic cat, I need to tell you why it's a horrible idea for you to do (whatever it is she's blocking Lily from doing)?"

Similarly, if you say "Oh, I need the cat here" and just haul her in, it's going to look forced. You need to set the situation up so that the reader can believe that the cat HERSELF feels she needs to be there.

jessicaorr
03-06-2008, 12:32 AM
You've got to frame the rules from the cat's perspective, too.



Thanks for clarifying IceCreamEmpress! Blue, for your story to feel real to the reader, each character has to work within the realm of their own interests. What I meant by 'rules' was summed up very well by IceCreamEmpress. You need to define what your characters are allowed to do within the bounds of your fictional world as well as their motivations. This will help you create 'real' characters and avoid blatant Deus ex Machina.

BlueLucario
03-06-2008, 12:49 AM
Ehehehehe, When I said the cat was "needed" I mean that she is needed by the characters, not me. I guess the 'short term memory' isn't necessary. I think she wants to stop Lily, from seeing the Master is because she loves her and she doesn't want Lily to set herself up for grief and pain. It just makes me cry just thinking about it. The cat's afraid of her friend, and that's why she won't just walk up to her face and say 'I don't like what you're doing'
She just tell lies to get herself out of the situation.

Ehehe, sorry to ramble on...

BlueLucario
03-09-2008, 10:55 PM
Similarly, if you say "Oh, I need the cat here" and just haul her in, it's going to look forced. You need to set the situation up so that the reader can believe that the cat HERSELF feels she needs to be there.

How can you tell if something looks "forced"

IceCreamEmpress
03-10-2008, 02:56 AM
How can you tell if something looks "forced"

This is the bazillion-dollar question. If this one was easy, we'd all be great writers.

Here's how I check for "forced" plot twists and actions: If you try to imagine it from the character's perspective, and it doesn't make any sense, it will probably seem forced to the reader.

Do you know how actors sometimes ask "What's my motivation?" If your characters don't know the answer to it, their actions may well seem arbitrary to readers. It will look as though you shoved them around the stage like puppets, rather than recording what they do naturally.

MichaelDeVere
03-11-2008, 08:51 PM
One has to wonder how much the rules get bent when writing Christian-based fiction.

Depending upon the story, divine intervention sort of goes with the territory.

BlueLucario
03-12-2008, 01:44 AM
hey

I just had a thought.

If your character is in deep doody, and instead of a being saving the day, what if a being shows up to make things worse? And at the end your character dies? Is that still DeM

jamiehall
03-12-2008, 02:15 AM
Yep.

The protag and possibly other characters are cheated out of the glory and satisfaction that should have been theirs because some damn stranger or lucky event solved the big problem for them. Which leaves the reader feeling cheated too.

-Derek

I don't know if there is a term for it, but I've actually been frustrated by the Deus ex Machina in reverse: novels where normal, understandable, well-written plot threads are coming together beautifully toward the end, and you can see they are leading to a good ending that the characters have earned. And then, a sudden, extremely improbable event happens and the main character gets (for example) kidnapped and kept in a rape-dungeon for the next decade or so, while all the other good characters suddenly die for improbable, stupid reasons. Very awful. Makes you want to throw the book across the room.

Marian Perera
03-12-2008, 02:59 AM
hey

I just had a thought.

If your character is in deep doody, and instead of a being saving the day, what if a being shows up to make things worse?

What is this being's motivation for making things worse? Is his or her or its existence mentioned or foreshadowed earlier, or does he or she or it just pop in?


And at the end your character dies? Is that still DeM

Yes.

Diabolus ex machina.

BlueLucario
03-12-2008, 03:21 AM
Diabolus ex machina.

Oh. I didn't know there was a term for that. :)

Marian Perera
03-12-2008, 03:53 AM
I coined it just now.

Sarpedon
03-12-2008, 11:29 PM
Queen of Swords is a regular fount of quotable quips.

BlueLucario
03-12-2008, 11:55 PM
She quoted it? *scratches head*

Sarpedon
03-12-2008, 11:58 PM
No.

:(

dpaterso
03-13-2008, 12:05 AM
Diabolus ex machina is a latin term (literally "devil out of a machine") describing an artificial, or improbable character, device, or event introduced suddenly to either cause catastrophic failure in a situation, or complicate a plot (e.g. a demon suddenly appearing to cause problems).
http://www.sciforums.com/encyclopedia/Diabolus_ex_machina

-Derek

Marian Perera
03-13-2008, 12:08 AM
Great minds think alike. :)

DoctorShade
03-13-2008, 04:00 AM
Something my story has featured is a greater force (think of it like Star War's Force except more thought out and well defined) and some things that seems Deus ex Machina will later be revealed as all part of the plan of this overseeing being and questions as to "Why would that happen" will be answered later and if the reader is observant enough they will already know. Is this acceptable.