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How to get my protagonist out of captivity without a deus ex machina? (1 Viewer)

Tyrannohotep

Senior Member
This is for a historical-fiction side project I've been working on the past few days, which is set in medieval times around 1200 AD. I have in fact posted the first four scenes in the Workshop already, and overall I would say I am 2/3rds of the way through the whole story. But I need to get myself unstuck before I can finish this story's first draft once and for all.

This is what I have envisioned so far for the final third:

My protagonist, Drazhan, has been sent on a scouting mission to uncover the whereabouts of the approaching enemy. An enemy patrol captures him and takes him to their camp where he will be interrogated and held prisoner. Now, my original plan was to have Drazhan's love interest (who is in fact the Queen of the nation he's allied with) then sneak into the camp and break him out, and then they would lure the enemy into a climactic ambush. My concern is that this might sound too deus ex machina-ey since the protagonist is dependent on external help to free him from his captivity. If that is indeed the case, what would be an alternate method for him to break free?
 

Megan Pearson

Senior Member
My concern is that this might sound too deus ex machina-ey since the protagonist is dependent on external help to free him from his captivity. If that is indeed the case, what would be an alternate method for him to break free?
Make it less unexpected? If you set up some skill or knowledge or associations beforehand, it won't seem so contrived. Maybe the queen has some special knowledge of the enemy encampment (through an informant?) you can introduce in an earlier scene? Then it can still be a twist, just a twist that makes more story-sense.
 

Tyrannohotep

Senior Member
Make it less unexpected? If you set up some skill or knowledge or associations beforehand, it won't seem so contrived. Maybe the queen has some special knowledge of the enemy encampment (through an informant?) you can introduce in an earlier scene? Then it can still be a twist, just a twist that makes more story-sense.
I've finished the first draft of the story now. What I ended up going with was having the protagonist do something earlier that helps the queen sneak into the camp more easily.
 

Steve_Rivers

Senior Member
The thing is, Deus Ex Machina usually refers to something helping the protagonist that isn't given a setup to explain it beforehand. You sound like you're actually doing that, so as long as Drazhan's love interest has the motivation to do so and the knowledge of where he is, then it's not Deus Ex at all. As long as she isn't so laughably incompetant as to break disbelief that she could do it.
 
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bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
Have him meet in passing a minor character earlier on. Make it so all we know about them is that a. they are allied with whichever side of the cause he is on; b. that they are almost comically supportive of him, to the point where he gets a bit narked with them and c. that they "work in security" (or whatever the historical equivalent would be). The hapless reader writes them off as throwaway comedy/levity worldbuilding, and your MC never thinks of them again, but then when he's banged up in jail who comes inching out of the woodwork? You guessed it. Your boy's number one fan. :)

That's what I would do anyway...
 

Joker

Senior Member
She and the hero have developed a special bond that makes her want to rescue him herself.

Surely her entourage would have noticed, though.

Maybe you could include a scene or two of her stressing the importance of the protagonist? Not wanting to entrust such a rescue mission to lesser troops.
 
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