Plot device

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A plot device is a low-energy means of fulfilling the requirements of dramatic necessity, without having to develop the plot or characters much.


buried alive by an Irda, the end.

Plot Devices As A Means of Propulsion[edit]

Perhaps the most important use of the plot device is as a means of taking a character from one location to another in time for the next scene. Imagine the embarrassed silences that would occur if the Starship Enterprise travelled at warp 8 instead of warp 4 and arrived three hours early for an important piece of plot exposition. Similarly, 24 would not be the taut action thriller it is if three consecutive episodes consisted entirely of Jack Bauer riding a Segway between CTU and one of the many significant locations that are about 10 minutes helicopter ride away. The Starship Voyager was entirely propelled by plot devices.

The "Some Kind Of" Plot Device[edit]

To instantly turn any noun into a Plot Device, simply use the construction "some kind of..." as a prefix, or for advanced users the "...of some kind" suffix.

  • "we have been caught in some kind of tractor beam"
  • "this appears to be a weapon of some kind"

Spinning-Around-Like-a-Tornado Plot Device[edit]

The spinning-around-like-a-tornado plot device switches direction, rotating 360 degrees on its axis, to deposit the main character precisely where he or she was at the beginning of this circular story. An example occurs in The Wizard of Oz, in which Dorothy Gale's dissatisfaction with life on the farm leads her to run away from home, to visit Oz, and her visit to Oz makes her homesick for Kansas, prompting her to return to life on the farm. This plot device works well with the non-linear plots that are said to be typical of stories of, by, or relating to female characters or to the real-life lives of real-life women.

Roller Coaster Plot Device[edit]

Movies that have nothing else to offer--no characters, no theme, no drama, and no plot--use the roller coaster plot device to suggest that something suspenseful happens worth watching. The roller coaster plot device, despite its name, has nothing to do with a plot as such. Instead, it refers to the mere appearance of a roller coaster somewhere in the film (or even an allusion to a roller coaster in the film's title). Because the movie includes a brief or prolonged depiction of a roller coaster, its producers promote it as having a "roller coaster plot," implying runaway action and suspense, and hope that critics and fans will do likewise (generally, they do). Among others, movies that include roller coasters (and, therefore, have "roller coaster plots") are:

  • Roller Coaster Rabbit
  • Final Destination 3
  • Sudden Impact
  • Rollercoaster
  • Sweet Liberty.
  • "red eye"

Stone's-Throw Plot Device[edit]

A journey (or a story) of 1,000 miles, it has been said, begins with a single step. However, especially in fantasy novels, a story may also be cast like a stone, the behavior of this primitive missile determining the direction and the nature of the resulting story. In fantasy novels in which the main character undertakes a quest, the stone’s-throw approach to plot development permits several types of story structure:

  • Straight up: The hero pursues the quest in a frantic, non-stop, ever-ascending fashion, the action coming so fast and furiously that the story ends with him still in frenzied pursuit of his goal as the story concludes in a kind of reversal of the in media res beginning common to many stories (but not to quest fantasies). Example: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
  • Dropped: The quest plummets like a dropped stone, down, down, down, through layers of social criticism, psychological realism, and philosophical contemplation, to a rich bottom sediment of thematic significance. Example: The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.
  • Skipped: The action skips episodically, from one action or incident to another, in rapid succession. Examples: The 12 Labors of Hercules, Don Quixote, Gil Blas.
  • Spinner: The action spins round and round, and where it stops only the author knows. Similar to the Spinning-Around-Like-a-Tornado plot device, described above. Example: The Wizard of Oz.

See also[edit]

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