Narrative Techniques Series #4: Deus ex machina

Narrative Techniques Series #4: Deus ex machina

Many times we read this particular term but do you know its real meaning? We also already found the narrative technique Deus ex machina in many stories. It is an ancient Latin expression. It indicates an act of god and which literally means “god out of the machine”.

This term derives from the Greek tragedy. It concerned when a character, at the end of the narration, came on the scene to solve a situation that initially seemed very difficult to overcome, or even without a solution.

This unexpected character seemed a God able to suddenly solved the problem, who came onto the stage by a crane (called in Greek “mechané“). From here, the expression Deus ex machina.

In our articles about the narrative techniques series we also find the Deus ex machina. Nowadays, the narrative techniques Deus ex machina is used in the cinema and in many novels.

How to use the narrative techniques of Deus ex machina?

The narrative technique Deus ex machina does not only concerns a character but also any solution and event that solve a problem and happen without an effective explanation.

To use this kind of narrative technique we must not anticipate the entry of a particular character or the occurrence of a situation.

We can speak about the narrative technique Deus ex machina when something happens unexpectedly.

Is it better to use or to avoid the Deus ex machina narrative technique?

The audience does not love so much this technique. Frequently people find frustrating to not really understand why a particular solution is adopted to a situation.

Actually, it seems to be a real scam against the reader. Solving a situation with a Deus ex machina means breaking the credibility of the story. It is like to declare that the fears about the fate of the protagonist do not matter. In fact, an external intervention can solve everything.

At this point, the reader may ask himself some questions. If the writer uses the Deus ex machina narrative technique at the end of the story, why he doesn’t use it at the beginning?

What is the real point of telling this story?

Besides this, the Deus ex machina narrative technique diminishes the role of the protagonist and, often, of his allies. He is not the one who actively intervenes and saves the day but passively witnesses an external resolution. His journey, struggle, and experience are useless because he is not the one who will define events. Instead, it is in the moments of greatest difficulty that the protagonist should shine.

In conclusion, therefore, one must avoid running into the Deus ex machina. Instead, we must seek a resolution consistent with the plot and consequential to the narration; even better if the protagonist himself intervenes.

Use bibisco’s novel writing software to create your narration

The use of the narrative technique Deus ex machina depends on the writer’s taste and the aspect we want to give to the narrative.
With bibisco and its innovative writing and planning software, you can decide on the best option for your story.

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The narrative technique of Deus ex machina: some examples

One of the greatest directors to love and use this technique is Woody Allen. He did it in Match Point, as well as in his older film Mighty Aphrodite. In fact, without making spoilers, a character arrives by helicopter to resolve the situation.

In the third movie of The Return of the King of the Lord of the Rings series, the director uses this narrative technique. For example, in one scene in Minas Tirith, the ghosts recovered from the mountain suddenly appear and make a killing.

Sometimes this narrative technique is less visible, being less annoying. In other cases, it is more evident.

Moreover, in a second scene in Mordor, a convenient landslide opens up a chasm beneath the orcs and resolved the conflict.

Conclusions

The narrative technique Deus ex machina does not necessarily have to be a real go. It could be a man, an object. It could also be a strange case that happens to fix a narrative knot that cannot be unraveled in any other way.

The Deus ex machina remains an improbable expedient. Despite this, literature and theater continually use events that in real life would be practically impossible.

The Deus ex machina narrative technique certainly gives a value of unpredictability and mystery. In some cases might intrigue the reader, or the spectator, to the point that they remember the story they witnessed for a long time.

With the next post, we’ll move on into this wonderful journey of the narrative techniques series!

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