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The question of whether Vance was dead or not became more than academic when he found himself in a bathtub up to his chin in ice water like some forgotten cocktail garnish, a demonic woman standing over him, and no memory of how he got there.
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List of plot devices from Wikipedia Narratology

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black spot (Treasure Island) 
Template:Black spot (Treasure Island) -- See black_spot_(Treasure_Island) at Wikipedia
boss (video games) 
Template:Boss (video games) -- See boss_(video_games) at Wikipedia
broadcast signal intrusion 
Template:Broadcast signal intrusion -- See broadcast_signal_intrusion at Wikipedia

character shield

Character shields (also known as plot armor or plot shield) are plot devices in films and television shows that prevent important characters from dying or being seriously injured at dramatically inconvenient moments. It often denotes a situation in which it strains credibility to believe that the character would survive. (Source: character shield at Wikipedia ) (e)

Chekhov's gun

Chekhov's gun is the literary technique, similar to foreshadowing, whereby an element is introduced early in the story forming an expectation or contract with the reader that will be resolved at a later point in the story.(Source: Fritz Freiheit) (Also see Wikipedia Chekhov's gun at Wikipedia)
An example can be found in the twin pistols of the title character in Henrik Ibsen's play Hedda Gabler, which make an appearance in the first act, but are not used to important effect until the last act. (Source: Chekhov's_gun at Wikipedia ) (e)


The cliffhanger is the ending of an act, chapter, serial, novel, or some other discrete episode of story telling in such a way as to leave the action dramatically unfinished. For example, at the end of A Princess of Mars John Carter's love Deja Thoris is trapped in a room that is slowly rotating, so slowly that the opening will be closed for a year. --(Source: Fritz Freiheit) (e)
comic book death 
In genres that use comic book death, the primary function of a character's death becomes punctuation to the narrative. Death isn't permanent, merely a way to create temporary drama. -- See comic_book_death at Wikipedia
deal with the Devil 
Template:Deal with the Devil -- See deal_with_the_Devil at Wikipedia


A deathtrap is a literary and dramatic plot device in which a villain, who has captured the hero or another sympathetic character, attempts to use an elaborate and usually sadistic method of murdering him/her.
It is often used as a means to create dramatic tension in the story and to have the villain reveal important information to the hero, confident that the hero will shortly not be able to use it. It may also be a means to show the hero's resourcefulness in escaping, or the writer's ingenuity at devising a last-minute rescue or deus ex machina. -- (Source: deathtrap (plot device) at Wikipedia ) (e)

Deus ex machina

Or "God from the Box"
A story featuring a miraculous solution to the story's conflict, which comes out of nowhere and renders the plot struggles irelevant. H G Wells warned against SF's love for the deus ex machina when he coined the famous dictum that "If anything is possible, then nothing is interesting." Science fiction, which specializes in making the impossible seem plausible, is always deeply intrigued by godlike powers in the handy pocket size. Artificial Intelligence, virtual realities and nanotechnology are three contemporary SF MacGuffins that are cheap portable sources of limitless miracle. (Source: Turkey City Lexicon )
Deus ex machina -- Miraculous (often offstage) solution to an otherwise insoluble problem. "Look, the Martians all caught cold and died!" (Lewis Shiner) (Original source: http://www.sfwa.org/2009/06/being-a-glossary-of-terms-useful-in-critiquing-science-fiction/ )
Contrast with Diabolus ex machina (e)
dream world (plot device) 
Template:Dream world (plot device) -- See dream_world_(plot_device) at Wikipedia
eavesdropping (plot device) 
The act of overhearing (an inevitably significant) conversation. -- See eavesdropping_(plot_device) at Wikipedia
false ending 
Template:False ending -- See false_ending at Wikipedia
In history, film, television and other media, a flashback (also called analepsis) is an interjected scene that takes the narrative back in time from the current point the story has reached. Flashbacks are often used to recount events that happened prior to the story’s primary sequence of events or to fill in crucial backstory. Character origin flashbacks specifically refers to flashbacks dealing with key events early in a character's development (Clark Kent discovering he could fly, for example, or the Elric brothers' attempt to bring back their mother). The television show Lost is particularly well known for extensive use of flashbacks in almost every episode. In the opposite direction, a flashforward (or prolepsis) reveals events that will occur in the future. The technique is used to create suspense in a story, or develop a character. In literature, internal analepsis is a flashback to an earlier point in the narrative; external analepsis is a flashback to before the narrative started.
A scene in a narrative is called a flashback if it depicts a set of events that occurred before the scenes immediately preceding it. The closely related term flashforward is used to indicate scenes that depict events taking place after the scenes immediately flowing it. Flashbacks and flash forwards are used frequently in literature, television, and movies for foreshadowing and stronger dramatic effect. -- (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flashback_%28narrative%29 )
For an example of flashback, see Chapter 6 of Dispensing Justice. -- See flashback at Wikipedia
flashing arrow 
A flashing arrow is an audiovisual indicator, most commonly used in film or television to foreshadow or focus attention on some object or situation that will be significant later. For example, showing a closeup of an ordinary object, such as a pencil, that will be used to murder someone, or cutting to a postman several times before the actual delivery of a letter with news of a critical plot point. --(Source: Fritz Freiheit) -- See flashing_arrow at Wikipedia


The literary technique whereby the writer introduces elements, frequently in the form of hints or clues, that will play a more important or even critical role at a later point in the story.(Source: Fritz Freiheit) Also see Wikipedia Foreshadowing at Wikipedia (e)
frame story 
A frame story (also frame tale, frame narrative, etc.) is a narrative technique whereby an introductory main story is composed, at least in part, for the purpose of setting the stage for a fictive narrative or organizing a set of shorter stories, each of which is a story within a story. The frame story leads readers from the first story into the smaller one within it. -- Source Frame story at Wikipedia -- See frame_story at Wikipedia
framing device 
The term framing device refers to the usage of the same single action, scene, event, setting, or any element of significance at both the beginning and end of an artistic, musical, or literary work. The repeated element thus creates a ‘frame’ within which the main body of work can develop. -- Source Framing device at Wikipedia -- See framing_device at Wikipedia
Garden of Eden creation kit 
Template:Garden of Eden creation kit -- See Garden_of_Eden_creation_kit at Wikipedia
government warehouse 
Template:Government warehouse -- See government_warehouse at Wikipedia
Heisenberg compensator 
Template:Heisenberg compensator -- See Heisenberg_compensator at Wikipedia
list of cliffhanger endings 
Template:List of cliffhanger endings -- See list_of_cliffhanger_endings at Wikipedia
list of fantasy plot devices 
Template:List of fantasy plot devices -- See list_of_fantasy_plot_devices at Wikipedia
list of horror plot devices 
Template:List of horror plot devices -- See list_of_horror_plot_devices at Wikipedia
list of mystery plot devices 
Template:List of mystery plot devices -- See list_of_mystery_plot_devices at Wikipedia
list of science fiction plot devices 
Template:List of science fiction plot devices -- See list_of_science_fiction_plot_devices at Wikipedia


A MacGuffin (sometimes McGuffin) is a plot device that motivates the characters or advances the story, but has little or no actual relevance to the story.
The director and producer Alfred Hitchcock popularized both the term "MacGuffin" and the technique. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Hitchcock explained the term in a 1939 lecture at Columbia University: "[We] have a name in the studio, and we call it the 'MacGuffin.' It is the mechanical element that usually crops up in any story. In crook stories it is most always the necklace and in spy stories it is most always the papers." (Source: MacGuffin at Wikipedia )
An external constraint (object, fact, person) whose sole dramatic purpose is to force a character or characters into actions which serve the writer's dramatic theme. Examples: The Maltese Falcon, The Grail in King Author's Knights, or Helen of Troy (but not the One Ring in Tolkien, as it actually does things). -- (Alfred Hitchcock) (e)
Mexican standoff 
Template:Mexican standoff -- See Mexican_standoff at Wikipedia
narrative hook 
A narrative hook (or hook) is a literary technique in the opening of a story that "hooks" the reader's attention so that he or she will keep on reading. The "opening" may consist of several paragraphs for a short story, or several pages for a novel, but ideally is the opening sentence. -- Source Narrative hook at Wikipedia -- See narrative_hook at Wikipedia


Peripeteia (Greek, Περιπέτεια) is a reversal of circumstances, or turning point. The term is primarily used with reference to works of literature. The English form of peripeteia is Peripety. Peripety is a sudden reversal dependent on intellect and logic. In modern Greek περιπέτεια means adventure. (Source: peripeteia at Wikipedia ) (e)

plot coupons

The basic building blocks of the quest-type fantasy plot. The "hero" collects sufficient plot coupons (magic sword, magic book, magic cat) to send off to the writer for the ending. Note that "the writer" can be substituted for "the gods" in such a work: "The gods decreed he would pursue this quest." Right, mate. The writer decreed he would pursue this quest until sufficient pages were filled to procure an advance. (Dave Langford) (Source: Turkey City Lexicon ) (e)

plot device

A plot device is an element introduced into a story to solely to advance or resolve the plot of the story. In the hands of a skilled writer, the reader or viewer will not notice that the device is a construction of the author; it will seem to follow naturally from the setting or characters in the story. A poorly-written story, on the other hand, may have such awkward or contrived plot devices that the reader has serious trouble maintaining suspension of disbelief.
Calling an element of a work a 'plot device' is generally derogatory, implying a lack of complexity in the work. Judging something as a plot device is always subjective, and depends on the degree to which the 'item' serves other purposes or is well-integrated into the tale. For example the 'magic item' which the protagonists of a fantasy novel have to find or destroy is often a plot device; however one might hesitate to apply the term to the Ring of The Lord of the Rings, since it also serves many other purposes in the book. (Source: plot device at Wikipedia ) (e)
plot generator 
A plot generator' is either:
1 a fictional plot device which permits the generation of plots for an extended serial without requiring a great deal of logical connection between the episodes, or
2 a literal device (such as a computer program) used by writers to generate plot ideas.
A plot generator (sense 1) is found in any set-up which will produce an ongoing series of new cases, issues, etc., as in detective or police serials (incoming criminal cases); medical drama (incoming medical cases); and so on. Even more broadly, "what if" stories can permit writers to introduce any idea they want, as in The Twilight Zone; for obvious reasons, this type of plot generator is found generally in the science fiction and fantasy genres, especially in episodic series which have a villain of the week format. -- Source Plot generator at Wikipedia
Also try: Stupid plot tricks (generator) -- See plot_generator at Wikipedia
plot point 
In television and film, a plot point is a significant event within a plot that drives the action and spins it into a new direction. It can also be an object of significant importance (see plot device, particularly a MacGuffin), around which the plot revolves. -- See plot_point at Wikipedia
plot twist 
A plot twist is a change ("twist") in the direction or expected outcome of the plot of a film, television series, video game, novel, comic or other fictional work. It is a common practice in narration used to keep the interest of an audience, usually surprising them with a revelation. Some "twists" are foreshadowed and can thus be predicted by many viewers/readers, whereas others are a complete shock.
When a plot twist happens near the end of a story, especially if it changes one's view of the preceding events, it is known as a twist ending.
Revealing the existence of a plot twist often spoils a movie, since the majority of the movie generally builds up to the plot twist.
A device used to undermine the expectations of the audience is the false protagonist. It involves presenting a character at the start of the film as the main character, but then disposing of this character, usually killing them. It is a red herring. -- Source Plot twist at Wikipedia -- See plot_twist at Wikipedia
principle of evil marksmanship 
Template:Principle of evil marksmanship -- See principle_of_evil_marksmanship at Wikipedia
A quest is a journey towards a goal used in mythology and literature as a plot. Quests can be found in the folklore of every nation.[1] In literature, the objects of quests require great exertion on the part of the hero, and the overcoming of many obstacles, typically including much travel. -- (Source: quest at Wikipedia ) -- See quest at Wikipedia
quibble (plot device) 
In literature, a quibble is a common plot device, used to fulfill the exact verbal conditions of an agreement in order to avoid the intended meaning. Its most common uses are in legal bargains and, in fantasy, magically enforced ones.[2]
In one of the best known examples, William Shakespeare used a quibble in The Merchant of Venice. Portia saves Antonio in a court of law by pointing out that the agreement called for a pound of flesh, but no blood, and therefore Shylock can collect only if he sheds no blood. -- Source Quibble (plot device) at Wikipedia -- See quibble_(plot_device) at Wikipedia
red herring (plot device) 
In literature, a red herring is a plot device intended to distract the reader from a more important event in the plot, usually a twist ending.
The term "red herring" originates from the tradition whereby young hunting dogs in Britain were trained to follow a scent with the use of a "red" (salted and smoked) herring (see kipper). This pungent fish would be dragged across a trail until the puppy learned to follow the scent. Later, when the dog was being trained to follow the faint odor of a fox or a badger, the trainer would drag a red herring (which has a much stronger odor) across the animal's trail at right angles. The dog would eventually learn to follow the original scent rather than the stronger scent.
In literature, the most commonplace use of a "red herring" is in mystery fiction. One particular character is described or emphasized in a way that seems to throw suspicion upon that character as the person who committed the crime: later, it develops that someone else is the guilty party. (Source: Red herring (plot device) at Wikipedia ) -- See red_herring_(plot_device) at Wikipedia

red shirt

A character who exists to be killed off. The term 'red shirt' comes from the high casualty rate of experienced by the security personnel on the original Star Trek and who wore red shirts.(Source: Fritz Freiheit) (e)
Science Fiction plot device 
Template:Science Fiction plot device -- See Science_Fiction_plot_device at Wikipedia
twist ending 
A twist ending or surprise ending is an unexpected conclusion or climax to a work of fiction, and which often contains irony or causes the audience to reevaluate the narrative or characters. A twist ending is the conclusive form of plot twists. -- (Source: Twist ending at Wikipedia ) -- See twist_ending at Wikipedia
A villain is an "evil" character in a story, whether an historical narrative or, especially, a work of fiction. The villain usually is the bad guy, the character who fights against the hero. A female villain is sometimes called a villainess. Random House Unabridged Dictionary defines villain as "a cruelly malicious person who is involved in or devoted to wickedness or crime; scoundrel; or a character in a play, novel, or the like, who constitutes an important evil agency in the plot." (see Random House Unabridged Dictionary Web Result) (Source: Villain at Wikipedia ) -- See villain at Wikipedia
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