Welcome to another post on World Building! Today I am going to talk about a MacGuffin, or is it just MacGuffin, or mcguffin, maybe maguffin? Either way! We are going to talk about it today!
Definition: A plot device that takes the form of an object, goal, or any motivator that drives the protagonist and that the story revolves around. The device has little to no narrative explanation.
Movie Examples: Indiana Jones Crystal Skull, to be specific; Avengers: Infinity war, the infinity stones; Pulp Fiction, the briefcase; Lord of the Rings, the ring; Lock stock and two smoking barrels, the weapon.
You will notice that most of these items have little to no explanation. We know Thanos is collecting the stones and that’s all we know. (not using previous comic book knowledge). In Lord of the rings, we know the ring is bad and it drives the story forward, yet what happens in the movie to the character’s makes the ring irrelevant.
“So you’re telling me that MacGuffin is just some item that people fight and kill each other over, usually while it just sits there and changes hands?” Yes that’s exactly what I am saying. In easy terms, the macguffin is what everyone is chasing or desiring. While the reader or viewer is focused on this thing, the story progresses.
How do we create a plausible MacGuffin?
That should be an easy question to answer, right? I mean literally everyone uses this plot device at some point in their writings! Sadly, it is not easy to create a convincing story using Macgaffin. The key thing that makes a successful macguffin, is that multiple people or parties will lose. For example, let’s take The Maltese Falcon: Everyone was killing and conniving for one singular item. One person wins, and many lose. That gives us a thrill, and gives us people to cheer for. Now what if it was a pot of gold that everyone was killing for. Everyone could just split the gold, causing everyone to be winners. Granted no one would split the gold, but the idea that it could be split takes away from the thrill.
In my opinion, to create a plausible MacGuffin, you must have serious consequenses/events that overshadow the macguffin, so much so, that you forget your watching a macguffin! Here is an example of what I believe was a great use of macguffin, that many people overlook because of the massive events happening. Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens and Star Wars Episode IV A new Hope. How are those two star wars movies macguffins???? They are both about a droid! A singular object with almost no narrative discussing them. Episode IV stars R2-D2, the droid contains plans to bring the empire to the ground, but with all the other events it is over shadowed and forgotten as the driver of the plot. Force awakens, it’s about a droid with the map to find luke and bring the first order to the ground. Yet when you add the republic getting destroyed, or a massive planet weapon getting destroyed or (SPOILER) Han getting killed, you forget that the movie is about a droid. A barely explained droid with the map to end the universe.
FUN FACT! I use macguffin in my comic book The Last #1, did you catch it?
I would like to thank Ryan Kitchel for this question!!!!
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