DEUS EX MACHINAComplications Ensue
Complications Ensue:
The Crafty Game, TV, and Screenwriting Blog


April 2004

May 2004

June 2004

July 2004

August 2004

September 2004

October 2004

November 2004

December 2004

January 2005

February 2005

March 2005

April 2005

May 2005

June 2005

July 2005

August 2005

September 2005

October 2005

November 2005

December 2005

January 2006

February 2006

March 2006

April 2006

May 2006

June 2006

July 2006

August 2006

September 2006

October 2006

November 2006

December 2006

January 2007

February 2007

March 2007

April 2007

May 2007

June 2007

July 2007

August 2007

September 2007

October 2007

November 2007

December 2007

January 2008

February 2008

March 2008

April 2008

May 2008

June 2008

July 2008

August 2008

September 2008

October 2008

November 2008

December 2008

January 2009

February 2009

March 2009

April 2009

May 2009

June 2009

July 2009

August 2009

September 2009

October 2009

November 2009

December 2009

January 2010

February 2010

March 2010

April 2010

May 2010

June 2010

July 2010

August 2010

September 2010

October 2010

November 2010

December 2010

January 2011

February 2011

March 2011

April 2011

May 2011

June 2011

July 2011

August 2011

September 2011

October 2011

November 2011

December 2011

January 2012

February 2012

March 2012

April 2012

May 2012

June 2012

July 2012

August 2012

September 2012

October 2012

November 2012

December 2012

January 2013

February 2013

March 2013

April 2013

May 2013

June 2013

July 2013

August 2013

September 2013

October 2013

November 2013

December 2013

January 2014

February 2014

March 2014

April 2014

May 2014

June 2014

July 2014

August 2014

September 2014

October 2014

November 2014

December 2014

January 2015

February 2015

March 2015

April 2015

May 2015

June 2015

August 2015

September 2015

October 2015

November 2015

December 2015

January 2016

February 2016

March 2016

April 2016

May 2016

June 2016

July 2016

August 2016

September 2016

October 2016

November 2016

December 2016

January 2017

February 2017

March 2017

May 2017

June 2017

July 2017

August 2017

September 2017

October 2017

November 2017

December 2017

January 2018

March 2018

April 2018

June 2018

July 2018

October 2018

November 2018

December 2018

January 2019

February 2019

November 2019

February 2020

March 2020

April 2020

May 2020

August 2020

September 2020

October 2020

December 2020

January 2021

February 2021

March 2021


Thursday, September 28, 2006

You're not supposed to resolve a story by pulling the resolution out of your hat. "Deus ex machina," or "god out of the machine," referred originally to the bad-Greek-playwright habit of making a mess of the plot, then resolving it by flying a god out of the wings to fix everything. (They didn't invent the arch, but they did figure out how to rig an actor onto a crane.)

In my new screenplay I am exactly ending a story line by sheer coincidence. A character longs for the perfect couch, which he has a picture of. At the end of the movie, he's going to realize that it's been there, all along, covered up in fabric, at the office where he works.

Here's how I plan to get away with it: by telling the audience in advance that I'm going to do it. Characters are going to remark how uncomfortable the couch in the office is. We're going to see the outline of the couch under the fabric. The audience is going to think: ohhhh, I see. That's the couch he longs for!

By drawing attention to the thing, the thing becomes an expectation. And an expectation won't feel like a coincidence.

This morning, there was an accident at the bottom of my street. It was an accident we'd been expecting for a long time -- trucks park too close to the intersection, making it a blind intersection, and there's no stop sign. We knew someone was going to get blindsided sooner or later down there.

Coincidence in a screenplay is not automatically a bad thing. Many premises are essentially coincidences that set the plot in motion -- Harry and Sally sharing a ride from Chicago to New York. Later on in the screenplay, a coincidence can still work, provided we get to see the coincidence building up. If we're rooting for it to happen or not happen, we won't feel that it comes out of nowhere.


I have a question for you: A screenwriter whose blog I read is apparently writing a screenplay about a guy and his couch that sounds alot like a public radio story I heard. Should I warn him of this? How do you think he will take it? Is there any advice I can give him about making his story different?

By Blogger johnc, at 4:14 PM  

This sounds like the 200th episode of Stargate SG-1.
There is a screenwriter writing a movie of the events, and meeting with the Stargate staff. He's throwing plots and ideas out there, and finally Richard Anderson says, "Isn't that an awfully big coincidence?"
Screenwriter replies, "No problem! I'll just hang a lantern on it. I'll have another character say, "That's quite a coincidence". Problem solved.
It was very, very funny.
Couldn't you have him steal the couch, then discover it is his perfect couch? Or maybe take a picture of it, because he lost the original picture of his perfect couch, and in the midst of Photoshopping it realize he's found it? Less coincidence involved...

By Blogger Milehimama @ Mama Says, at 9:13 AM  

I like your new couch idea. While the previous idea of finding it on the street had the beauty of being a quintessential Montreal moment (a friend used to have a royal blue plush couch that she found on the street; another friend has a dryer that still has "Tres bon etat - a donner" written across the top of it in magic marker), the message (sit on your ass long enough and what you want will fall into your lap) didn't fit the story nearly as well as the new one (what you've been looking for has been right under your nose all along). Which is the kind of coincidence I have no problem with in a movie. If I wanted realism I would stick with reality.

By Blogger Katya, at 11:37 PM  

Post a Comment

Back to Complications Ensue main blog page.

This page is powered by Blogger.