Mar. 16 Writing Prompt

What a long and crazy week this has been. I am glad it’s ove… what? It’s only Tuesday?

That doesn’t bode well.

Well, we take what we are given and we make the best of it, right? So, here we are, the beginning of the week and another daily writing prompt to get those creative juices flowing.

How about we deal with the elephant in the room, and by that I mean the long, grueling days this week has seemed to bless upon me.

There are things I hate (and yes, hate is a strong word, thanks for making my point). One of those things is a cliche. Little sayings that really have no point in even being said. “If life gives you lemons…”

The problem with cliche sayings is that they really are pointless. There is a seed of deeper meaning, but it often misses the mark.

For example, the life and lemons thing above. You don’t make lemonade from just lemons. You can make lemon juice, but unless you are cooking some Mexican food, it won’t do much good. If life gives you lemons, you also need life to give you sugar and water. You probably need a knife, a carafe and a stirring spoon, too.

My point is that the saying assumes you already have everything else to make lemonade. All you are missing is the lemons. And if we have all this other great stuff (like sugar!) why do we need lemons?

Even Worse, Though…

Another cliche thing I hate is what is known as Deus Ex Machina. The Latin phrase for “God of the Machine” or “God in a Machine.”

Dues ex Machina
Deus ex Machina is a tired example of lazy writing

This is a situation in writing, films, movies, TV, books, even radio stories where everything is bleak and about to go horribly wrong and then all of a sudden, an unexpected force or being or thing swoops in to save the day.

There are many examples of this sad excuse for lazy writing. It happens more often than you think. In the Avengers, Batman, War of the Worlds, and almost every M. Knight Shyamalan movie ever (shudder).

The thing is, almost everyone uses this method at some point in their writing. Even Tolkien is known for using the God Machine to make the protagonists survive (or did you forget about the timing of the eagles flying in for a rescue?)

Sometimes, it works. You can at least get away with it. For example, in Batman, the caped crusader always has his utility belt, but it never has the same items on it, and it always has what is needed for the exact scenario. This “works” because it is a multi-functioning belt with a lot of tools on it, so it is at least believable he has what he needs for “any” situation.

Having all the Avengers getting their ass kicked by Thanos and his team is great. But when Captain Marvel swoops in at the very end and basically throws two punches to end the fight, it becomes absurd.

Thus, we look at today’s writing prompt. Then I will continue my rant.

March 16

Pick a book, movie or play that uses a Deus Ex Machina cliche and rewrite it, removing the God Machine from the story.

This use of sudden resolution is a lesson you need to take to heart. Not only will following this prompt help you to identify DeM, but it will also teach you how to avoid it.

DeM isn’t always a bad thing. Okay, that’s a lie. It is horrible and anyone that plots to use it should give up their pens and learn to salt fries for a drive-through.

If you use this cliche and tired aspect, you need to learn to get out of the habit. Not everything can be resolved in a single instance. If it can be, you don’t need a full novel to express it. There is something worse than using the God Machine, though. Explaining it’s requirement.

I return to the Marvel Avengers use of Captain Marvel at the end to rectify the losing battle. Instead of having her in the fight from the start and letting the battle progress, she flies in at the last minute. This is then explained when she tells Stark that there are more planets at war and she can’t be on Earth at all times.

You can avoid DeM easily

All you have to do is sit and think for a moment.

Take the Batman example. Instead of randomly having his utility belt appear with whatever he needs for the current situation, you can rewrite the situations. If you place the same 6 items on Batman’s belt, you only ever need to use those six items.

If the grappling hook isn’t a normal part of the belt, don’t put Batman in a situation where he needs it. Simple.

So for today, pick your favorite worst DeM usage and rewrite the scene or chapter or ending so that the DeM is removed. Identify what causes the need for it, and then think about how to write the same story, with the same outcome without having to use the God Machine.

When you have finished, post your results in the comment section so we can all see the much better ending.

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