Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Did You Know?

© Marta Stephens 2009 all rights reserved

Here’s something a friend shared with me today from the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Ever hear of the word, MacGuffin?

According the dictionary, it means: "An object, event, or character in a film or story that serves to set and keep the plot in motion despite usually lacking intrinsic importance."

Example Sentence
The missing document is the MacGuffin that sends the two spies off on an action-packed race around the world, but the real story centers on tension between the main characters.

Did you know?
The first person to use "MacGuffin" as a word for a plot device was Alfred Hitchcock. He borrowed it from an old shaggy-dog story in which some passengers on a train interrogate a fellow passenger carrying a large, strange-looking package. The fellow says the package contains a "MacGuffin," which, he explains, is used to catch tigers in the Scottish Highlands. When the group protests that there are no tigers in the Highlands, the passenger replies, "Well, then, this must not be a MacGuffin."

Hitchcock apparently appreciated the way the mysterious package holds the audience’s attention and builds suspense. He recognized that an audience anticipating a solution to a mystery will continue to follow the story even if the initial interest-grabber turns out to be irrelevant.

About the author:
Marta Stephens writes crime mystery/suspense. Her books are available online at familiar shops such as all the Amazons, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-a-Million, and Powells. Other locations include, but are not limited to those listed on her website.THE DEVIL CAN WAIT (2008)
Bronze Medal Finalist, 2009 IPPY AwardsTop Ten, 2008 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery)

SILENCED CRY (2007) Honorable Mention, 2008 New York Book FestivalTop Ten, 2007 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery)

Visit Sam Harper at


Joylene Nowell Butler said...

MacGuffin, eh? Okay, I'll keep that in mind. Whenever something isn't in the dictionary, it always causes me to take notice. Thanks, Marta.

Kim Smith said...

HEHEHE... cool!

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Now THAT's a new one! Neat. Thanks, Marta!

Sheila Deeth said...

I knew MacGuffins but I'd forgotten where they came from.

And it's true, there are no tigers.