I’m nearly done reading Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami and I came across the mention of deus ex machina. I never knew what it meant.
“Deus ex machina is a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem in a story is suddenly and abruptly resolved by an unexpected and unlikely occurrence (Wikipedia).
I thought that was interesting.
From the book:
““What marks his plays is the way things get so mixed up the characters are trapped. Do you see what I mean? Lots of different people appear, and they all have their own situations and reasons and excuses, and each one is pursuing his or her own idea of justice or happiness. As a result, nobody can do anything. Obviously. I mean, it’s basically impossible for everybody’s justice to prevail or everybody’s happiness to triumph, so chaos takes over. And then what do you think happens? Simple – a god appears at the end and starts directing the traffic. ‘You go over there, and you come here, and you get together with her, and you just sit still for while.’ Like that. He’s a kind of fixer, and in the end everything works out perfectly. They call this ‘deus ex machina’. There’s almost always a deus ex machina in Euripides, and that’s where critical opinion divides over him.”
“what if there were a deus ex machina in real life? Everything would be so easy! If you felt stuck or trapped, some god would swing down from up there and solve all your problems. What could be easier than that?”
Sometimes when I think things will “just work out on their own” I’m really hoping for a dues ex machina, but there isn’t one.
In fact, if you read that Wikipedia entry, it’s generally considered a cop out and bad form to use one.
There are no shortcuts, even in storytelling.