Avoid a deus ex machina ending to your story.
What is deus ex machina? According to Wikipedia:
A deus ex machina (Latin for “god out of the machine”) is a plot device whereby a seemingly inextricable problem is suddenly and abruptly solved with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new character, ability, or object.
I feel the need to bring up this writing tip after reading Dean Koontz’ recent novel, Relentless. The ending was so contrived, so preposterous, I had to check the spelling of the author’s name twice to make sure it was indeed that Dean Koontz.
The novel was a good reminder of why it’s important to properly establish the rules of your world in the beginning of the story.
For example: If your story’s a western, with no sci-fi components, then it shouldn’t end with the hero saving the day after discovering an alien laser gun hidden inside a spittoon.
Can you think of any movies that use deus ex machina successfully?
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Time Bandits? God does literally turn up at the end to save the day and sort everything out.
Good call! Although establishing the fantastical rules and dark humor of the film early on certainly helped to sell the ending.
Raiders. Boo-yah! 😉
Well I wouldn’t consider it done successfully, but the end of Stephen King’s “The Stand” tries to get away with it by using the hand of God to save the day.
Scott – Raiders! LOL. Fortunately Raiders had the Ark throughout the movie presaging its otherworldly powers.
John – Good one! I haven’t read The Stand. Did it come out of nowhere, or were there religious themes woven into the story?