Friday, August 04, 2006

Deus Ex Machine Gun

One thing I can't stand is when author take the easy way out. Don't get me wrong. I've done this, too, and I hate myself for it.

You know what I mean. When motivation is glossed over, or a character is faced with an impossible situation, but wait, suddenly he's the master of a little known Asian fighting art that is the only thing that will save.

For me, even an unbelievable story needs to seem believable. And that means not taking the easy road. Not copping out. It's something I learned from my late teacher/mentor/friend Bill Relling. He would never let any of his students get away with easy outs. He would question us and question us until we gave in.

"Why does he find the knife under the car?"

"Because it was there."

"Not a good answer. Why?"

A pause. "Because...he needs it?"

He nods. "Yeah. But?"

Another pause. "But just because...he needs it doesn't mean it should be there."

A smile now. "So...?"

"So I'll change it."

Admittedly, that's a pretty lame example, but essentially it illustrates what I mean. (I would have been a horrible critic back in the old Greek days...Deus Ex Machina? Pah-lease!)

If a character needs a ray-gun to solve the plot, make obtaining one believable within the world of the story. If a detective needs info about a suspect, don't have an ex-lover conveniently sitting at a bar ready to spill the beans. Make the detective work. Make the ex-lover lie. Make the lies tell the true.


Make it believable. Make it real for the world you are writing about. Make it gripping. Put up obstacles that are really obstacles. Make your characters work. Make 'em think. Make 'em make mistakes. And even the good guys get hurt now and then.

Just don't cop out.


Richard said...

Hi Brett,
I've added your blog to mine at if that's okay!

Sandra Ruttan said...

I LOVE the title of this post.

And it's a good point. You don't want to overly complicate things, you don't wan to over-simplify things. I read a book once where everything came to the protagonist in a snap, they had to work for nothing. It drove me mad.

M. G. Tarquini said...

Yep. Great title. Great advice.

angie said...

OMG, your actually blogging again? And yes, it is INCREDIBLY annoying when the perfect/essential item is oh-so-conveniently available. Great post title - could be an awesome short story title, too.

JT Ellison said...

Wonderful advice, Brett. Must be why your book works so well, not a random knife in sight.

Brett Battles said...

Thanks Richard! I'll get your's added to my list soon, too.

I'm right there with you Sandra. Those kind of things are like a bad driver on the freeway, you just want them to get out of the way.

Thanks Mindy.

Geez, Angie. I'm trying here. It's just sometimes I'm tabula rasa and have nothing to say. : ) Oh, and by the way...about skeleton man...thought we'd talked about that...

Thanks, JT. Just because there isn't one there now, doesn't mean I didn't try to put one in there in an eariler draft, though.

angie said...

Oh yeah, we talked about it. Skelo-writer would thumb her nose at you, but, er, the maggots ate it long ago...Ewww!

And how can you say you don't have anything to blog about?! I have it on good authority that there is much going on in the city of (fallen) angels this weekend! Hope you're having fun.

mai wen said...

I know what you mean, it is a fine balance. I seem to have the worse times with my endings, getting my stories to end in a satisfactory, yet not super sappy, sentimental manner that actually makes sense. Yikes, I struggle with that with nearly ever story!

Yes, perhaps your posts are sparse now, but they're always of great quality so it's worth the wait! :)