Monday, July 16, 2012
A McGuffin is a plot device used in fiction. It is something, a motivator, usually an object that is desired and sought after by the story's characters. In itself, it usually has no intrinsic value, but it represents some goal related to the theme of the story. Characters go to great length to pursue the McGuffin, yet there is seldom much narrative explanation about what makes it so desirable. The McGuffin's specific nature is typically left open to interpretation.
The use of a McGuffin is common in film. Hitchcock popularized the term and often used the technique. George Lucas described it as the story's driving force. A McGuffin can also be used in literature. It tends to play a more important role early in the story and often, but not always, shows up again at the climax.
In L'Immortalite: Madame Lalaurie and the Voodoo Queen, the McGuffin is a blue velvet voodoo gris gris bag containing a small piece of bone from the jaw of a pig. In itself, it has no value, but it represents immortality - life after death - the driving force for each of my characters.
Next time you read a mystery or watch a film, look for the McGuffin.