Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for Meet Mary Sue MacGuffin, she's a Manic Pixie Dream Girl

(TWO POSTS IN ONE DAY?!?!?  Madness, I know.)

What's a MacGuffin, you ask?  Precisely.

A MacGuffin is an Elder Wand, a Horcrux, a sword of Shannara, a briefcase, a notebook, a sled, a baseball, a diamond, a ring, a bike, a few million dollars, a Maltese Falcon, uranium, arguably Pamela Anderson, or the blueprints for an outer space battle station.

Any questions?

What's a Mary Sue?  Actually, I won't provide any examples for that one -- too easy to offend people.  (I've already hit my quotient for that today. Badumpching!)  In short, a Mary Sue is a character that is simultaneously bland and perfect, a substitute for a someone with real quirks and foibles. If you're worried you may have created a Mary Sue, please go here and assess the situation.

What is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl?  Why, she's a delightful creature who exists solely to make grim, dull creatures delightful themselves!

Maybe she gets you out of a rut after you've designed a hideous shoe.

Maybe she makes coming off anti-depressants that much less depressing.

She's probably dying of cancer, but at least she wears some very flowy skirts.

All-in-all, a delightful girl.  Have we mentioned yet how very delightful she is?

So here's my question.

Without turning this into a Twilight-bashing session ... could Bella Swan be considered a Mary Sue-MacGuffin-Manic Pixie Dream Girl?


(Bonus points for people who identify additional MacGuffins, Mary Sues, Manic Pixie Dream Girls, or tell me which books/films I've described above.

PS, you get nothing for knowing that the Maltese Falcon is from The Maltese Falcon.)


  1. Sword of Shannara! (Oh for the days when Terry Brooks wrote fantastic books in one installment instead of so-so books in as many installments as his publishers could turn them into).

  2. I've heard of Mary Sues but I've never heard the terms MacGuffins or Manic Pixie Dream Girls before. Thanks for updating me on the lingo. :)

    Sarah @ The Writer's Experiment

  3. Nah, Bella is way too boring to be a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. MPDGs may be a plot device for the growth of the male protagonist, but at least they aren't so boring.

    If Bella also did yoga and listened to the Smiths, maybe she wouldn't be so boring. Liking one song by Debussy doesn't count.

  4. The Pamela Anderson mention made me smile. I agree with the commenter above that Bella isn't exciting enough for a manic pixie girl, though Alice might count. Now I'm wondering who might fulfill all three though...

    I'm a visiting A-Zer.

  5. Nice post, making it happen...

    Jeremy [Retro-Zombie]
    A to Z Co-Host
    My New Book:
    Retro-Zombie: Art and Words

  6. I took a course in Hitchcock films in college and had to write many a paper on MacGuffins. I think my favorite is the birds from the movie of the same name. Yeah, the movie is called THE BIRDS but really...they don't matter. You never find out the real story of what's going on with them.

    And how many times have people complained about the stupid briefcase? IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT'S IN THE BRIEFCASE! Stop asking about the briefcase, and wondering about the briefcase, and theorizing on what's inside. Doesn't matter. MacGuffin.

    I personally don't think the sled is really that much of a MacGuffin. You see ol' Rosebud early in the film. And it totally does mean something. The guy just wanted to go back to his childhood, playing in the snow and being near his mom instead of being all rich and disconnected from anything truly meaningful in his life. Citizen Kane was a sad, sad man.