A plot device is a cliché right?
As a catalyst to move the story onwards or escalate the plot they are useful. In a story, a plot device can be a character, an object, a particular twist, or some kind of trope to drive the character in a specific direction.
In fantasy, common plot devices are magical or very important objects. Favourite plot devices involve magic that appears to save the day at a key moment in the form of a deus ex machina powerful force or a villain exposition scene involving a big reveal. Here the villain tells the hero exactly what his evil plans are, giving the hero time to escape or devise a way out.
For me whilst a plot device is sometimes frustrating and obvious if applied correctly it can add to the story. The voice of the writer must be different and the characters fresh and interesting, to make the writing compelling.
How do you incorporate plot devices whilst avoiding clichés?
1 Be Fresh
Make it interesting and twist things up. Take a different view from the tried and tested plot devices. The voice has to be unusual and different. But it’s hard to do.
2 Bag of tricks.
Depending on the back story and how long the books might be, it makes sense to plan out the entire plot and identify sticky spots.
If you create a master list, brainstorming as many possible plot devices that may apply and then group them as objects, powers and narrative. Then when you need one you can browse the lists for reference and apply a solution. This should also help with flow and context. A bit like a take away menu, number them. It may be that the situation needs a number 12, 27, 32 or even magic number 40.
3 Twist things up.
Wouldn’t it be great if the whole magical world is searching an object or spell and when it’s found, it doesn’t even work?
How about a rebellious protagonist who is just an idiot? They react to things and their actions are the complete opposite to what everyone wants them to do. They could even save the world and complete the quest much to others resentment.
4 Just for Laughs
A parody makes great use of clichés. If you are trying for laughs them use all the clichés you want. Maybe a character can moan and wince when a prophecy is fortold. At the right time and in the right place a plot device or cliché can be use even in a serious piece of work as a parody.
5 Character centric.
Plots that naturally evolve based on characters always draw the reader in. If the character is involving then you can introduce all sorts of plot devices with readers being forgiving.
Plot devices aren’t as bad as they are made out to be. Used correctly and innovatively they can draw the reader in. There use needs to be judicious, and over reliance should be avoided
. Above all keep it fresh interesting and natural.
Neil Sehmbhy is a budding young author from a little town that calls itself a city and changes everyday. Author of the forthcoming Corporation, Jinx and Sunder novels he loves reading, writing and cheese toasties. Follow him on twitter @NeilSehmbhy