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When to introduce the main conflict/goal?


Here are some quotes from TV tropes that seem to have some bearing on this subject:

Does it do anything, and if it does, is it ever actually used in story? If the answer to both is yes, it's a Plot Device, not a MacGuffin. For Plot Devices that get the same attention as a MacGuffin, compare Magnetic Plot Device.

Do not confuse with Plot Device. Please, don't.

MacGuffin: A plot device which nobody actually uses, and whose nature and identity are basically irrelevant.

I sort of take all this (sometimes contradictory stuff) to mean that all Macguffins are plot devices, but not all plot devices are Macguffins. Something like that anyway.

In the end, your response is the most appropriate, and I'll do it to: **shrug**


Article Team
Lets get away from TvTropes and its contradictions and look at some other sources.

According to wikipedia MacGuffin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In fiction, a MacGuffin (sometimes McGuffin or maguffin) is a plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist pursues, often with little or no narrative explanation. The specific nature of a MacGuffin is typically unimportant to the overall plot. The most common type of MacGuffin is an object, place, or person; other, more abstract types include money, victory, glory, survival, power, love, or some unexplained driving force.

The Ark and The One Ring are listed as MacGuffins

And a definition for plot device Plot device - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A plot device (plot mechanism) can be anything which moves the plot forward.


Ah, very good. Thanks.

My updated conclusion: inconclusive.

Even in the wiki definition there seem to be discrepancies when applying it to the One Ring.

With the varying definitions and examples that don't all fit or agree, the term ends up being too loose and ambiguous to be all that useful. I think I'll just drop it, back slowly away, and think of these kinds of things in terms of 'plot device'.
It seems that the MacGuffin is not only a plot device, but it is the plot device.

If the One Ring had instead been a person who could bestow invisibility or some other great power...how much of the rest of the story would have changed? Yes, I can see Sauron wanting to get ahold of that person; but would Frodo et al. so furiously have tried to get to Mt. Doom in order to shove this person into the molten flames? Would Gollum have been a part of the story; or, perhaps Gollum would have had an unhealthy romantic obsession with that One Person? For that matter, would a "one ring" with legs (the One Person) have run from Frodo and Company on multiple occasions, forcing them to haul him around in chains; and would this have cast a much worse light on the good guys? But then, if the One Person had been wicked, would He have ever used his powers to help Frodo escape danger?

There are many plot devices in LOTR, but the One Ring is a particularly important device.

Edit: A late edit. Just wanted to include this, while wondering what the story would have been like without the orb:

Peter Quill: So, this orb has a real shiny blue suitcase, Ark of the Covenant, Maltese Falcon sort of vibe. What is it?

I am Groot.​
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Yeah. I will also lay down arms and back away :)

Not that there was fighting or anything--I like to think we were all of us 'discussing' rather than 'arguing'.

Issues are most fully explored when points are made from all angles. No matter how I may come off at a given moment, I'm here to be exposed to new ideas and points of view. Even when I don't agree with some points, I feel that much wiser having simply come across them.

So, thanks to everyone--and apologies to Chasingsuns for the whole Macguffin tangent! (100% my doing).


I'd say you definitely want the main conflict at least hinted to in the first chapter. It all depends on the length and pacing of your work. But by the second chapter, you might want to bring that puppy in. Readers need to know that you're headed somewhere and it's been my experience that they will be patient and trust you so long as you keep your promises and deliver a good story.

If you're writing an epic fantasy of 120,000 words, odds are readers are not expecting action that soon. This gives you time to lay down the foundation of your story: character, setting, escalating narrative towards the conflict. But if you're writing a novella or short story, then starting out with conflict sooner rather than later is highly important because the work is condensed. So it depends, is my answer, on a lot of variables as well as your stylistic voice. :)


Myth Weaver
Dang drat it. Now I am trying to figure out if the plot devices in my long running WIP's are MacGuffin's or not:

Labyrinth, Chapter 2: For political reasons, the MC is temporarily exiled to the far side of the world, and given instructions to recover a long lost 'family heirloom' while over there. Later, said 'heirloom' is revealed to be very remarkable, and saves the MC's life at least once. However, while the heirloom prompts the MC's journey, it is 'one key item among several' plot wise.

Empire: Country, Chapter 1/2: The MC's come across the scene of a minutes old massacre, and conclude (wrongly) it to be the work of a rare-but-known beast (animal). Attempting to hunt and kill said 'beast' keeps one of the MC's occupied for a fair portion of the story. The 'beasts' true nature is almost central to the plot.


Article Team
Mcguffins are not bad!!! They are very useful plot devices.

Lucus: I have this idea about an archeologist who has to go to Egypt and play around in some old tombs in order to stop some nazis.

Me: oh cool, what will you use as the mcguffin?

Lucus: I don't know? I was thinking maybe king Tut's lost rattle?

Me: the Nazis were really into religious artifacts. You know what would be cool? If the mcguffin was the ark!

Lucus: yeah, that would be sweet. I'm going to use that.

In my WIP the mcguffin is the Noche Triste Treasure. Yes I heavily researched it, yes it has a huge influence on the story, yes it will be important to every scene... But the story is really about the girls relationship with her father... the treasure needs to be important to drive the story forward, but it is not really what the story is about.
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