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  • Writer's pictureVeronica Cline Barton

Veronica's #WritersDiary: Today's #Mystery Topic; the Elusive MacGuffin!

"It might be a Scottish name, taken from a story about two men on a train. One man says, 'What's that package up there in the baggage rack?' And the other answers, 'Oh, that's a MacGuffin'. The first one asks, 'What's a MacGuffin?' 'Well,' the other man says, 'it's an apparatus for trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands.' The first man says, 'But there are no lions in the Scottish Highlands,' and the other one answers, 'Well then, that's no MacGuffin!' So, you see that a MacGuffin is actually nothing at all."

Alfred Hitchcock, 1939 lecture at Columbia

For my February, mystery topic, I'm discussing the use of the elusive MacGuffin that is often used in stories. It's a literary device used to move the story forward with little or no consequence. It's there, it's discussed, it may be chased after--but in the overall scheme of things it's kinda much ado about nothing, a literary #SmokeNMirrors. It's sometimes compared to the red herring, but it differs in its intent, IMHO. It's not a deception to throw you off course per se, but more of a storyline illusion that draws the characters together and into the sometimes-unrelated plot adventures.

A few examples I think are clever uses of MacGuffins include:

Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code: The search for the Holy Grail uncovers secret societies; a controversial religious claim; prophetic words and artistic clues from the masters; a devious plot from the Vatican; a hair-raising chase; and a sacred bloodline making for an intriguing story (I loved it despite the sacrilege controversies BTW).

The ending leaves us with many perplexing and thought-provoking questions, but-but-but what is and where is the Holy Grail of lore? many of you, besides me, went hunting down those brass, meridian markers on the sidewalks of Paris?

Heart of the Ocean, from the movie, Titanic. The treasure hunt for the necklace led to the poignant story of Rose and Jack and the final days of the passengers on the doomed ship. No one will ever forget that charcoal drawing featuring said necklace...I loved how Rose handled this sparkly MacGuffin in the end..."Plop..."

How about the lovebirds in the movie, The Birds? The birthday gift started the pecking-banter courtship between Melanie and Mitch. They seemed so cute and sister, Cathy loved them--but did the caged, maybe not-so-in-love birds actually incite the ornithologic mayhem that frightened so many of us? Will we ever know?

Of course, like every self-promoting author must do, I'll throw in my fictional, period drama series, Castlewood Manor, into the MacGuffin mix! 💖👑

Castlewood Manor, filmed at the Cherrywood Hall estate, has been a topic of discussion and reason for gatherings in every one of the books in my cozy series. It certainly has changed the lives of all my characters in one way or another--both in a good way, and, ahem, not so good way for the ne'er-do-wells...Dun-Dun-Dun. How much do we really know about this Telly Tiara, award-winning period drama? This story is developing...or is it???

I hope you've enjoyed today's wee discussion on the elusive MacGuffin. What are some of your fav examples? Will you be using MacGuffins in your writings? It's an intriguing element that I look forward to seeing more of in books and films! Until next time, 'Good Evening...' It's Wednesday, time for #DearDiary:

And in case you can't get enough on the topic of MacGuffins...

Join Bibiana Krall, our new #MwW host, Cynthia Raleigh, and me in the #MurdersWeWrite room on the Clubhouse app, February 27th at 4 PM EST! We'll be opining on all things MacGuffin...Smoke & Mirrors, the Elusive MacGuffin!

A special thank you to (former, now permanent) guest host, author Cynthia Raleigh for joining me for the discussion of Weapons of Peril this past Sunday! Oh, those Midsomer Murders...

#AmReading #AmReviewing

Lockdown humor most fine this week from the writers of Twitter...

Author Sheila Patel, The Magic Vodka Wardrobe Book 6, 5

The ladies are back, living life in the not-so-fast lockdown lane. The Wardrobe is bustling with new cocktails and stories of zoom proposals, loads of on-line shopping, and the latest gossip of what's happening in the neighborhood and the world. Dreams of pub visits and concerts, cancelled holidays, and binge-watching shows are the new norm, fraying the nerves of many. Through it all, the ladies soldier on; disco dancing, living with track and trace, the always present masks, and of course, more cocktails.

Author Patel gives us a humorous look at the upside-down, zany life we've all experienced the past few years. Her characters are endearing and realistic, giving a look at the bright, and sometimes not-so bright side of life. The witticisms flow throughout, causing many a chuckle to be had. I am a huge fan of this series and always enjoy the smiles and laughs it brings. This is a fun, witty read--highly recommended!

Next up in the #reading queue:

Our first movie viewing in a theater since 2019!

The OH and I attended opening day of one of my favorite Dame Agatha tales, Death on the Nile, that had its film debut last Friday. The movie caused quite a stir on social media and in newspapers with 'outrage' about adapted character roles from the original book; one of the actress's ties to the Israeli military; and of course, the alleged sex-pest/cannibalistic tendencies of one of the actors to name a few...

I'm not a big fan when the original plot or roles are adapted (Geraldine McEwan's Miss Marple series made me cringe) but when done in moderation, I can live with it. The previous military duties of the stars don't really bother me. I must admit, the opening scenes that featured a bit of grinding, dirty dancing moves with a meat-eating actor did make me grit my teeth. All in all, though, this was an entertaining movie--very visual and dramatic--and one I think would have made Dame Christie proud of.

The basic premise of the tale is: Hercule Poirot investigates the murder of an heiress on a cruise. There are many twists and turns; a plethora of suspects with an ending that leaves you shaking your head (Brilliant!). But is there a MacGuffin hovering about? (It is mentioned many, many times and is the reason for the characters gathering) "People do anything for love..." 💞💔

Welcome to my world. Enjoy the rest of the #week and #weekend friends!

Crowns and Kisses,


P.S. Hope you had a fabulous #ValentinesDay! Stay tuned for next week's focus on romance, featuring an author and her books I know you will love. Gemma and Rikkhe approve 💖👑

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