Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Have you met Mr. MacGuffin?

(Image from

I learned something recently when my publisher beta-read my piece and said this:

"The MacGuffin side story about other Percy needs to be seen and not talked about."

Now that sentence didn't make a bit of sense and I had to look up MacGuffin. I thought it meant buffoon or prankster or some such, which still didn't make sense.

Here is what Wiki says about Mr. MacGuffin:


I always called Mr. MacGuffin my story question, the thing that propelled the reader from the beginning to the middle and on to the end.

As Wiki said, Mr. MacGuffin is that Maltese Falcon of your story, that thing everyone is focused around obtaining.

I've been intuitively adding MacGuffins to my stories, but now I have a name for him!

Or her. Or it.

In this case, my latest story, working title Out of the Great Black Nothing, I have the MacGuffin of the other Percy.

With that in mind, I beefed up my first scene and added scenes and inserted details here and there.

I put a name on my story question and it jumped to life! I feel like Shelley's Dr. Frank when he finally bottled lighting.

Until I put a NAME on it, the MacGuffin had no face, no identity, just an implied existence that I found hard to press under my thumb and make it BEG to be read.

I rotated my story around this point, the story question, that thing driving every character in the story to act the way they act. It is the central motivation, that ~thing~, the piece of Kryptonite, the Holy Grail, the Fountain of Youth, that mystery and tickle and itch that every character is killing to scratch! It is the propulsion that keeps the reader turning!

It is the MacGuffin.

Thanks to my publisher Mr. Debrin Case for educating me and introducing me to a term I had somehow all these years overlooked.

I now share that knowledge with you, in case you missed.

He extends his hand, Mr. MacGuffin. Take it. He's a good guy.

- Eric


Anonymous said...

I'd never heard of a MacGuffin so thank you for the lesson. I'll now be on alert for his appearance in things I read, write, and watch. :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I never knew either, Eric. Thanks!

Sarah Ahiers said...

MacGuffin is one of those things i always have to look up, but then when i do i'm like "dur, i already looked this up before!" For some reason, i can never remember it

Wine and Words said...

other Percy. other Percy. Who's the first Percy? See? See how it's working? MacGuffin. Yep, I wanna be a MacGuffin...the thing that keeps people engaged. I could use some new friends. I'm going to put it on a T-shirt. People will ask, "What the hell is MacGuffin?". "The other Percy" I will reply, with an utter look of DUH on my face. That oughta hook 'em, don't you think?

dolorah said...

Hmm, I'm not sure I totally understand; but it was a good lesson to think on.


Raquel Byrnes said...

Huh. This was actually quite helpful. Thanks for sharing, Eric. :)
Edge of Your Seat Romance