Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The McGuffin

I was going to write about something completely different today but Rick's post yesterday re: getting the creative juices flowing again seemed much more apt - for me, anyway. The problem is - I am stuck. I haven't got writers block, I just don't know which way to jump and which choices to make. I'm even hung up on my heroine's eye color. Blue? Green? Brown?

So last night I delved into my giant box file called "Favorite Author Tips." I closed my eyes and picked  this from Carolyn Hart.

A couple of years ago I'd emailed her in desperation because I was stuck one hundred pages into the middle of EXPOSE! my third Vicky Hill adventure. "Have Vicky receive a package," said Carolyn calmly. I protested that I hadn't a clue about what would be in it and besides, there was no room in my plot for a package. Carolyn insisted, "Vicky doesn't need to know what's in it - and nor do you. The answer will present itself as the story unfolds, just you see."

As many of us know a classic McGuffin is a plot enabling device. It should be valuable, portable and usable/salable by anyone who has possession. Remember the movie Ronin? The McGuffin was a metal briefcase at the center of some very hair-raising car chases in Europe. No one ever knew what was "in the case." Take a look.  I don't know about anyone else, but I found this really vexing.

But I trusted Carolyn. I did what she suggested. After all, what else is the delete button for?

So in due course, an anonymous package - a shoebox - was delivered to investigative reporter, Vicky Hill. For fifty pages neither she nor I knew what was in it. But Carolyn was right. The device worked. My shoebox turned the story around and added layers and a plot line that I would never have thought of.
Of course I can't tell you what was inside the shoebox here - you'd have to read the book.

John Burroughs said "Leap and the Net Will Appear." Sometimes we've just got to have faith.

By the way, for all you Carolyn Hart fans, the original uncut version of her WWII novel ESCAPE FROM PARIS (Vintage Hart!) is now available at your favorite bookstore.

7 comments:

John R Corrigan said...

Great Post. Fly by the seat of your pants!

Rick Blechta said...

Yup. I agree.

hannah Dennison said...

Well ... Rick should get the credit. He inspired me.

buy dissertation said...
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Rick Blechta said...

I've never been an inspiration before...

Trey Smith Blog said...

Trey Smith Blog

Hi Hannah,
You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to be really something that I think I would never understand. It seems too complicated and extremely broad for me. I’m looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

Donis Casey said...

McGuffins must be in the ether. Just last week I was having dinner with friends and when one asked me how the new book is coming, I said, "I need a McGuffin." Thus ensued a fifteen minute conversation on the definition of mcguffin. I think of it as The Thing that drives the action. Whatever you need. The Maltese Falcon.