Heroes and Goddesses

Suze here, Scribe Fans, wishing you a glorious Thursday. 

Where’s that oil can when I need it?

Up until a couple of days ago I had NO IDEA what I was going to talk about today.  We’re Scribes, coming up on our first anniversary, and we’ve never missed a day posting — even through a multi-day power outage back in November.  An uncomfortable feeling began to grow in the pit of my stomach at the thought I might be the one to break the perfect chain.  The cogs of the idea machine needed grease and, unlike the Tin-Man, my oil can was dry.

Words fail me . . .

Or so I thought.  Because suddenly, out of the blue, something dropped into my lap.  I should say, bombed me from the television screen.  Did anyone see the news article about the woman in California who was forced into the side of a bridge by a tractor trailer?  Her car was crushed like a ball of aluminum foil, balanced precariously over a hundred foot drop into a ravine.  Her two young daughters were in the car with her.  Miraculously, all three were still alive and did not have life-threatening injuries (the tractor trailer driver was not so lucky and did not survive).  But because of the extreme damage to the car, and the way it was perched, rescue workers were unable to extract the family from the vehicle.

Love these posters!

Then, a convoy of U.S. Navy Seabees just happened to be driving by.   And in that convoy just happened to be a specialized piece of equipment: an extendable boom forklift.  This was exactly what was needed to stabilize the car wreck to keep it from plummeting into the abyss below, enabling rescue workers to extricate the family and get them the medical treatment they needed.  (Click HERE to learn more about the Seabees, the Navy’s Construction Battallions.  My father-in-law was a Seabee, stationed in the Pacific in WWII)

I don’t mind admitting that I cried at the end of that news segment when the enormity of what had happened there, and what could have happened, registered.  If that extendable boom forklift is not a real-life example of Deus Ex Machina, I don’t know what is.

The term Deus Ex Machina (literally: “God from Machine”) goes back to ancient Greek plays where, when all seemed lost and no resolution seemed possible, suddenly a god or goddess would descend on a mechanical platform and fix everything.

Tomorrow, Casey will be talking about world-building and Deus Ex Machina in fiction.  Nowadays, the Deus Ex Machina is a no-no in stories.  You’ll recognize it when you see it — perhaps a Samurai sword just happens to have been left by the heroine’s exhusband in the front hall closet, which she suddenly remembers when the villain stuffs her in there.  It’s a little too convenient.  Makes you roll your eyes and/or sigh in disgust.

But when the DEM happens in real life, like the serendipitous appearance of that forklift, it’s awe-inspiring.   Ironic, huh?

So tell us:  Have you ever had a real-life Deus Ex Machina moment, when the exact thing you most needed materialized? 

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15 thoughts on “Heroes and Goddesses”

    1. Now that’d be a GREAT story…haven’t I seen that movie? Someone travels back in time to save the next great woman (or man) from a childhood trauma with a well timed bit of machinery…in fact, that might be the plot of a new Stephen King book….

      1. I want to say I’ve read something like that — but of course something goes horribly wrong because you can’t mess with the space-time continuum!

    2. Hard to believe, isn’t it Gail? There are three people alive in that wreck! I agree — something great is in store for them.

  1. I had a DEM moment yesterday. Nothing like the scale of this story (which made me cry too, Suz!) but something more than just terribly convenient. We’re doing a big Winter Festival at my kid’s school next week. Part of that is a bake sale where we’ve got about a million cupcakes coming. We didn’t know how to package them to go home with people. It just happened that one of the Mom’s on the committee is a retail general manager and her store happened to receive a shipment of 1/2 pie containers (like at the grocery store) but they don’t sell food at her store. The shipper didn’t want to bother getting them back and wha-la – we’ve got cupcake transportation…DEM.

  2. Since I believe in God, angels, and serendipity, I have no problem with the Deus Ex Machina. I’ve had the perfect solution appear so many times in my life, that I generally don’t worry about catastrophic out-of-the-blue road blocks as there always seems to be something I’m supposed to learn from them and my faith is strengthened every time the solution appears.

    My editor, however, is not so keen on me adding these little serendipitous coincidences into my stories. She had concerns about this very thing with ON THIN ICE. Penny’s life is spinning horribly out of control when the answer to her prayers comes along, seemingly out of the blue. I felt it worked for the story for several reasons. There is some gentle foreshadowing ahead of time, the solution does not appear to be a solution until the character is willing to trust that it is (so she has to change her attitude about it for it to be a good thing), it explains some of the character’s motivations, and weaves together several plot points.

    There is also a scene in SAVAGE CINDERELLA that seemed a bit unlikely, where the hero shows up at the same place as my MC just when she needs him to be there. Again, I added some details that might foreshadow this fortuitous event, and gave her reason to believe he might be there, but I’ll admit it was a bit of a stretch. If it’s used judiciously and doesn’t come out of left field, it can work for the story. However, it should never interfere with the main character’s need to act and change to resolve their problem.

    As with your rescue story, though, things like this do happen every day. The way my husband and I got together again after not seeing each other for fifteen years is nothing short of divine intervention. Maybe the Gods weren’t lowered on a platform in the middle of the mall, but our chance meeting twice in one week the week of Christmas was nothing short of a miracle and a case of perfectly timed serendipity. I’m okay with that!

    1. As long as there’s some setup, or a seemingly throwaway clue early on, I’m OK with adding some luck or serendipity to a story. That’s how many mystery stories work!

  3. There was a story recently about a woman who just happened to catch a child who fell four stories. She just opened her arms and before she had time to think, the little girl landed right in them. That’s the kind of thing I live for!

  4. I saw that on the news as well. Like Paula, I have a very strong belief if God. I think God saw that car dangling over that ravine. But he already knew this was going to happen, and he had it all covered because he knew he sent the Seabees and the equipment along that same road, and being Seabees, God also knew they would come to the rescue. I can’t tell you the numerous times the perfect solution to a problem has appeared for me as well.

    1. It’s happened for me too, I know it has. But darned if I could remember a specific incident when I was writing this post!

  5. I’m embarassed to say that I had no idea what that term meant until you explained it. But thankfully I have never used it in my writing. At least I don’t think I didn’t.

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