Meet Mr. Magoo…I Mean MacGuffin

I had a really successful day yesterday, turning out 1169 words before dinner.  Which is more than I managed in total last week.  I finished the scene I was working on with my villain, started the next scene with my hero, and left off in the middle of a scene where I can easily pick up today.  This is all yay.

I am 2.5 scenes away from the trials.  Not so yay.

This is the one gaping plot point in my entire book.  I have been trying to figure out what the hell they are since November of 2008 when I first envisioned this story.  I’ve fumbled along, blind as Mr. Magoo, and did manage to figure out how Marley fits in with this, and the significance of the trials, even though I have no idea what they actually are.  The Council of Eldyrs has her, and if Conall doesn’t complete the trials successfully by a certain time (hello ticking clock), thus proving that he will put the pack above the wellfare of his mate, she’s going to die.  So we’ve got the stakes.  And I know that Knox isn’t fighting fair and will do everything in his power to slow Conall down because his own mate is not truly in danger.  I know how everything shakes out after the trials.  But as for the actual trials…no clue.

I keep hoping that something brilliant will occur to me, but as I told Pot in the meantime, I think I’m simply going to have to treat whatever it is he’s going after as a MacGuffin.

What’s a MacGuffin? you ask.

Interviewed in 1966 by François Truffaut, Alfred Hitchcock illustrated the term “MacGuffin” with this story[2]:

“It might be a Scottish name, taken from a story about two men in a train. One man says, ‘What’s that package up there in the baggage rack?’ And the other answers, ‘Oh that’s a McGuffin.’ The first one asks, ‘What’s a McGuffin?’ ‘Well,’ the other man says, ‘It’s an apparatus for trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands.’ The first man says, ‘But there are no lions in the Scottish Highlands,’ and the other one answers ‘Well, then that’s no McGuffin!’ So you see, a McGuffin is nothing at all.”

More simply put, according to Wikipedia,

A MacGuffin (sometimes McGuffin) is “a plot element that catches the viewers’ attention or drives the plot of a work of fiction.”[1]

Sometimes, the specific nature of the MacGuffin is not important to the plot such that anything that serves as a motivation serves its purpose. The MacGuffin can sometimes be ambiguous, completely undefined, generic or left open to interpretation.

So really, it occurs to me that it’s not so much the thing that they’re going AFTER in the trials that is important.  It’s the stuff that they do on the journey going after it.  The thing they’re going after, whatever it is, is a MacGuffin.  The point of this particular trial is that the candidates participating in it will put the pack wellfare over that of their mates.  So maybe I can stop obsessing and figure out what they do on the way to the trial.

Recipe of the day: Tomato Corn Salad

2 thoughts on “Meet Mr. Magoo…I Mean MacGuffin

  1. Now that sounds like the best idea you’ve expressed. After all, you’ve been calling it the “trial”. It isn’t the “totem” or “grail”, it’s the process. Perhaps they are even stopped before they gain whatever item it is they are after, because the purpose of the trial has been satisfied, and you never have to reveal the item at all. Could even leave up in the air whether it really exists or is just some legend they are chasing. I think you’ll be ready by the time you reach it if you focus on the process. Maybe it’s the ultimate item that has blocked you, because there is none to begin with.

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