I am neck deep in writerly things (two books in twenty days, why did I think this was a good idea?), so I'm treating you to writerly things as well! If you've ever tried to write a narrative, you know that putting a good story arc together takes some doing. The ancient Hellenic play writes often relied on a construct called the deus ex machine.

The deus ex machina; 'God from a machine' (pronounced as 'Day-oos eks MAH-kee-nah') is a calque from the Hellenic ἀπὸ μηχανῆς θεός (apò mēkhanês theós), which has roughly the same meaning. The term has evolved into a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability or object. Depending on how it is done, it can be intended to move the story forward when the writer has stuffed up and sees no other way out, to surprise the audience, to bring the tale to a happy ending, or as a comedic device.

The term was coined in Hellenic tragedy, where a machine was (and still is) used to bring actors playing Gods onto the stage. The machine could be either a crane (mechane) used to lower actors from above or a riser that brought actors up through a trapdoor. The idea was introduced by Aeschylus and was used often to resolve the conflict and conclude the drama. Although the device is associated most with Hellenic tragedy, it also appeared in comedies.

Aristotle (Ἀριστοτέλης) was an ancient Hellenic philosopher and scientist who lived from 384 BC to 322 BC. At seventeen or eighteen years of age, he joined Plato's Academy in Athens and remained there until the age of thirty-seven. His combined works form the first comprehensive system of Western philosophy. Philosophy, to Aristotle, was not limited to ethics. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, theater, music, rhetoric, linguistics, politics and government. All those together, he believed, formed what could be perceived with the senses and thus made up the world.

Aristotle wasn't a fan of the deus ex machine, so while I work toward the end of my second book in twenty days, you get to enjoy Aristotle's opinion on this tried and true theater trope. Enjoy!

“Clearly, the resolution of the plots should come from the plot itself and not, as in the Medea, from some divine contrivance or as in the Iliad during the rush to the ships (Il. 2.155). The divine device should instead be used for events that are outside the drama either for those that come before what people could know or those that come later which require prophecy and revelation—since we allow that the gods may see everything. There should be nothing illogical in the events, unless it comes from outside the tragedy itself as in Sophocles’ Oedipus.” [Aristotle, Poetics 1454a] 

“Narratives ought to prefer likely events, even if impossible, to improbable possible ones. Stories should not be made from illogical parts: in the best case, they should contain nothing illogical, unless it comes from outside the plot itself as when Oedipus is not aware how Laios died, instead of in the play itself, as when they report the events at Delphi in the Elektra or when the silent man comes from Tegea to Mysia in the Mysians. To say that otherwise the plot would be wrecked is ridiculous—it isn’t right to set up these sorts of events from the beginning. If a poet does this, and there is a more logical option available, it is strange. Even those illogical events in the Odyssey when Odysseus is put ashore [asleep by the Phaeacians] would have been manifestly intolerable if a lesser poet had created it. In the poem now, Homer softens and erases the strangeness with his other good traits.” [Aristotle, Poetics 1460a26]