"God did it": the Problem with Deus Ex Machina

Originally published at: https://shanniiwrites.com/2018/05/10/god-did-it-the-problem-with-deus-ex-machina/

Deus Ex Machina is probably one of the most frustrating things to deal with when reading a story. It is also one of the easiest traps to fall into as a writer. Learn how to tackle those plot details here!

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I must admit that this term was new to me when I first read the blog post. I knew of this plot device and how annoying it can be. I even admit that I used it when I was a kid, unfortunately, it was a quick bandaid-fix to “improve” the story and solve the problem. But I just didn’t know the term.

So now as I read this again, I realise I should mention how helpful and informative this blog post was.

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I actually thought the example provided in the post was super interesting to see; since it showed how developing your world can lead to clear answers to problems that are still in line with how you intend your story to be.

I’ve never been particularly good with structuring things, so it was cool seeing a way to deal with that.

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As Caliope said I personally had never heard this term before or knew this occurrence of events in writing actually had a name other than the ‘mysterious saviour’. I myself often do not write stories and share them due to the fact that I often fall victim as a writer to the dangerous pull of Deus Ex Machina to finish a story, epesically when creativity and motivation seem to run dry.

However, at the mention of it I can think of a few stories where this almost happens. The first to come to mind is actually The Infernal Devices Series by Cassandra Clare. I won’t share the ending due to spoilers, however, I will say something similar occurs in the resolving of the book, with only a few hints of it a few chapters before. And this also happens once again in the series, not with the ending but rather the major revolution found in books. This being random characters appearing as villains or suddenly new characters that help the protagonist to win in the end.

I think this subject is actually a very helpful and needed for writers and readers to understand the difficulties of this and how to hopefully improve these setbacks and problems that arise.

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Like any method of this variety, this is an extremely easy way to completely mess up a story and leave plot holes, however it can still be a good thing if done really well. There is a very small window of where it can be pulled off, so it has to be a calculated risk and it would require plenty of planning. If you set everything up with the plan of a everything magically being solved, you can give actual reasons as to why. If it is actually reasonable with how your story works and makes sense it can actually work. The best way to make it actually seem right would be to hint at how it could happen throughout the story. (More than just a basic hint at the existence, but hinting at how the outside assistance to the characters could become involved to fix things.) For example you could have a character that often sends a message to someone of great power, begging for help, only to fail to receive a message back every time. By the end the struggle was great enough where the characters had a small chance of success until that powerful individual came to give the characters the boost they needed. Something like that, where you have planned and set up a near failure from the beginning and set up reasons why the help came, makes it to where it can work.

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I never really noticed this in stories I read, but I understand that it can be really frustrating for the readers. From a writer’s point of view, it’s an easy way to end the story and solve everything but I didn’t think anyone would really do this now. I’m glad I finally know what that phrase means and that I shouldn’t do that in my stories. I also didn’t plan on doing that because where’s the fun in starting a lot of problems in your story and then just magically letting them be solved? :smile_cat: If you create many problems for the characters in your story and can’t find better way to solve them in the end, maybe there were too many problems? Or just don’t give them a happy ending and let the problems take over :joy: