A character has learned that something is going on however they learn that the proper authorities they need to tell about what is going on refuse to even listen to them because of their gender, class, religion, or race because it is Victorian England. Zeitgeist is a German word which means “the spirit of the times”. It is used to describe the spiritual and cultural attitudes, and the knowledge of a country or society during a certain time.
This is a plot device that can only really be used in historical fiction or time travel stories. Since I don’t usually read, or watch historical fiction I don’t have any examples of it other than Legends of Tomorrow, however I am delightfully surprised that I was actually able to find a plot device for “z” and it’s such a good word.
In order to use zeitgeist in a story you first need to do a little bit of research into the zeitgeist of the time period and region you want to set your story in. Look at all the difficulties your characters may have and look at how that could hinder the plot. After you are done with that use what you have learned to write your story.
A young character learns that they need to do something however their age gets in the way. Their adventure is made more difficult just because they are young. Sometimes in stories youth is used to slow a story down since there is so much a character can’t do when they’re underage. In contemporary they can’t drink, gamble, or feel welcome at gatherings with a lot of older people. Society also tends to look down on younger people making youth a great motivator for characters to show their strength in multiple aspects (strength of character, intelligence, physical strength). Youth can also be of aid to a character because people in most societies tend to have more freedom to do things when they’re younger.
Some young adult fiction and anime uses youth as a plot device. Most commonly the inexperience of the young characters is pointed out and it is up to these characters to show that even with less experience they can still do whatever needs to be done. Stories that use youth as a plot device include Darling in the FranxXx, My Hero Acadamia, and more.
To use youth as a plot device show how it either hinders or helps your characters. Show how other people react to seeing younger people doing whatever they’re going to do in your story. Show whether or not they believe what the younger people are saying. Or you can just have your characters grow up in a time skip after introducing them as children.
In a medical drama when it seems like there is nothing the doctors can do for a patient suddenly they take another look at the x-rays and after a quick epiphany it is clear. There is something the doctors can do however they must move quickly in order for it to work. An x-ray in a piece of fiction is something or someone that reveals key details to the characters and by extension the audience. They are common in crime and medical fiction, as well as mysteries. They can act as a trigger for anagnorisis.
To be fair for “x” and the next two letters of the alphabet I’m going to mainly be choosing a word that could be a plot device and explaining how it is one. In the example above an x-ray is used to push the plot in another direction. The x-ray doesn’t necessarily need to be an x-ray, it could be a computer, a person, or many other things. Stories that use x-ray’s as plot devices include Greys Anatomy, House, Criminal Minds, Sherlock, and others.
To use an x-ray in a story first look at what it reveals, and then show how it impacts the characters and their actions. Don’t make it appear like a Deus ex Machina by spelling the revealed information out. For instance don’t write the information clearly in a journal and have it be sent to your characters. In order for an x-ray to work there needs to at least some thinking and deciphering because x-rays should also show the intelligence and/or skill of your characters.
A group of characters finds themselves trapped in a difficult situation. They are facing a villain stronger than any they have ever faced before and it is clear that they are fighting a losing battle. Suddenly one of these characters rushes forwards, shouting for the other characters to escape. This one character uses as much power as possible to push the villain back. They do this with the intent of sacrificing themselves so that the other characters can survive this battle. The other characters can now either run like that one character told them to do or stand and fight with greater strength with the hope of defeating this villain.
This plot device is most commonly used in Shonen anime to inspire characters such as the protagonist to access power they didn’t know they had to defeat their current foe. It can also be used in any other genre to inspire characters. It doesn’t need to be a life that gets sacrificed. It can also be money, memory, limbs, sentimental belongings, emotions, or literally anything else. Anything can be sacrificed. Stories that use sacrifice as a plot device include Yu Yu Hakusho, My Hero Academia, How to Keep a Mummy, Mistborn, Star Wars, and many other stories.
To use sacrifice in a story you first must keep in mind that this plot device has the potential to become very dark. The impact a characters sacrifice has on other characters can be strong and can make for some very emotional scenes. Sacrifices do not need to succeed. A characters failed attempt at sacrificing themselves can greatly upset other characters. Of course these two points only have to do with a sacrifice of life. If anything else is sacrificed it tends to have more of an emotional impact on the character doing the sacrificing than any of the other characters.
A group of characters finds themselves trapped on a spaceship alone in space. Only they aren’t alone after the first character is found half eaten by the rest of the crew. That is when they realize that they aren’t alone, in fact they began to doubt if they ever were alone or if whatever ate this character is also what caused the ship to drift in the first place. Now the crew is trying to make sure they survive long enough to fix the ship and fly to safety. All the while there is a monster of some sort wandering about the ship looking for its next victim. Every time the crew thinks they’re safe the monster will find them and force the tension to rise much more. This is a common plot device in horror since it can help create a creepy tone for the story and provide sudden jump scares. It’s a plot device when it helps move the plot forward or when it prevents the plot from moving forward for a little while. The monster doesn’t need to be a monster, just a dreaded enemy.
Stories that use wandering monsters include Alien, Captain America: Civil War, Pirates of the Caribbean, Another, The Lost Village, Attack on Titan, and more. Wandering monsters are also common in video games only when they appear in games they rarely act as a plot device. Instead they act as motivators for the player, tests of skill, or unrequired challenges.
If you want to use a wandering monster in your story as a plot device you need to make it clear to your audience that the monster can strike at any moment and that no one is safe. Sequels to horror stories don’t tend to be as scary as the original movie when surviving characters are reused. That’s because it takes away the threat of death for that character away. Similarly if you know a character is going to survive for a sequel that already exists that threat is also taken away.
Your protagonist is bored in their small village and has never been on an adventure, or they have just ended an adventure and now they find themselves with nothing to do and are bored out of their minds. Suddenly either they have a prophetic dream or someone else comes to them claiming that they have had a vision. This dream/vision warns the protagonist that something terrible is coming and that they have a new adventure to go on. Thus starts either the protagonists first adventure, or an adventure in a line of many. This is a common plot device to use when religion is either a big part of your plot or setting, or if you have a character with prophetic powers. Because of this visions are common in stories that use gods from other cultures such as with the Ancient Greek, Roman, or Norse pantheons. Also a vision can be used for simpler plot points such as telling characters where they need to go next or how they need to change to be better people.
Stories that use visons as a plot device include the Percy Jackson series, A Game of Thrones, the Cainsville series by Kelley Armstrong, and others. The only visions that count as a plot device are those that directly influence the plot. Characters can have visions without the plot being changed too much especially when they come often.
If you want to use visions as a plot device in your story first think about how you are going to use them, then look at what’s in store for either one of your characters, a location, or the entire world. You cannot effectively use visions in a story if you do not know exactly what is coming for your characters. The visions don’t need to be literal. Using a spreading shadow or showing your character things dying within a circle around a specific location can easily show that there is a great evil coming. Just in order to use visions as a plot device you need to make it obvious what the characters need to do or where they need to go. Don’t make everything in the vision a metaphor unless you want it to simply help you set the tone of the story.
Your protagonist and their companions are out on their journey and things are starting to get really tense. Suddenly they have an argument over something small compared to what their goal is and these characters have a falling out of some sort. It seems that the small thing they argued over had more meaning related to the thoughts of these characters and what is going on. They go their own ways most likely towards their for a while before meeting back up realizing just how silly their argument was. This argument over a trivial subject is known as a quibble and is often used as a plot device in a story to either show how unbreakable the bond between multiple characters is or to make them realize that they need each other to accomplish their ultimate goal.
Stories that use quibbles as a plot device include Fullmetal Alchemist, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and others.
If you want to use a quibble in your story you need to make sure it’s over something that doesn’t really matter in the long run and it needs to either be during a tense period for all the characters or only one. There needs to be some form of falling out. Often quibbles are used to start short character arcs. Characters should change and grow from this arc, and they should learn more about themselves.