Joined: Jan. 2005
Oh, bother! I'm so sorry. My bad.
OK, now that we've gotten THAT out of the way:
|A MacGuffin (sometimes McGuffin or Maguffin) is a plot device that motivates the characters and advances the story, but has little other relevance to the story itself.|
|The element that distinguishes a MacGuffin from other types of plot devices is that it is not important what object the MacGuffin specifically is. Anything that serves as a motivation will do. A true MacGuffin is essentially interchangeable. Its importance will generally be accepted completely by the story's characters, with minimal explanation. From the audience's perspective, the MacGuffin is not the point of the story.|
The technique is common in films, especially thrillers. Commonly, though not always, the MacGuffin is the central focus of the film in the first act, and then declines in significance as the struggles and motivations of the characters take center stage. Sometimes the MacGuffin is all but forgotten by the end of the film.
Because a MacGuffin is, by definition, ultimately unimportant to the story, its use can test the suspension of disbelief of audiences. Well-done works will compensate for this, with a good story, interesting characters, talented acting/writing, and so on. Poorer works, which fail in those areas, often only highlight a MacGuffin, sometimes to the point of ridiculousness. MacGuffins may be acceptable to the general audience, but fail to be believable for experts in the subject matter (such as a particular technology, or historical detail). (emphasis added)
Does that make it any clearer? Sue me: I can't spell worth a darn.