idol prize fight | week 12 | 730 words
[Fade in on the cry of birds calling to one another over the rushing waves of the sea]
[Helicopter camera footage of the ocean, drifting right to pick up the shore and then slowly zooming in on large gray rocks upon which stand groups of...]
Birds. Great flapping, squawking, colonies of birds.
Here, where the land meets the sea, these strange creatures make their homes.
Hunted… haunted… they are the object of obsession for characters ranging from dime-novel detectives to bullwhip-wielding archeologists.
These are MacGuffins.
[Camera pans across coastline, where birds of varying shapes and sizes bustle, hop, and occasionally take flight]
These longtime components of literary construction live by the dark, frigid waters of the vast Word Sea.
Distinguishable by their brightly-colored beaks, they are an ancient species, perhaps as old as the dawn of civilization itself.
[Footage of sun rising over the ocean]
[Dissolve to camera zoom on close-up of MacGuffin chicks being fed by a parent]
From their beginnings as chicks, these birds will grow larger and larger until they reach adulthood. Then and only then will they be able to fly while bearing the weight of an entire plot on their shoulders.
[Camera close-up of MacGuffins in flight, soaring at low range over the sea]
The variety amongst these creatures is astonishing. Some resemble jewels or currency, and others may look like briefcases, automobiles, stolen princesses, or objets d'art. One of the largest recorded MacGuffins was the lost city of Atlantis, whilst the Golden Fleece was one of the oldest.
But not all MacGuffins are fully realized. Some remain ill-defined lumps due to incompetence or lack of effort.
[Camera close-up on a gray bird-thing shaped like a moldy burlap bag set on top of a pair of toothpick legs]
These wretched creatures may be ostracized by other birds and forced to live at the periphery of their own society. Some may even die.
Still, by the time they have reached maturity, even the weakest MacGuffins are hard to kill.
[Footage of other MacGuffins screeching at the bird-thing and attempt to peck it. The bird-thing puffs out its scrappy feathers and raises its misshapen wings, lunging at the other birds as they back away]
[Dissolve to new footage of MacGuffins flying above the ocean. At intervals, the birds swoop and dive into the water]
The birds spend hours each day hunting for the nourishment they need to survive. Swimming through the Word Sea, they search for the scraps of dialogue and fundamental narrative that comprise their main diet.
But these elements alone are not enough. Without regular supplements of viability and plausibility, a MacGuffin may grow weak and die.
[Camera close-up of a sickly MacGuffin slowly drowning in the Word Sea]
Some MacGuffins particularly enjoy the taste of action sequences, while others are partial to incidental friendship or romance. But most are driven to seek out the most elusive prey of all: character development, intrigue, and suspense.
[Camera close-up of a MacGuffin's beak tugging a black cloud-creature of suspense out from under a rock]
Still, they must be careful not to overindulge their appetites. While both tempting and plentiful, too much red herring can be toxic—even fatal—to the smallest and weakest of MacGuffins.
[Camera close-up of a droopy fledgling MacGuffin roosting on a rock]
Tragically, not all MacGuffins have the capacity to survive. Their long history notwithstanding, at times they can be horrifyingly stupid.
[Montage of MacGuffins flying into cliffs and smacking at high speed into the Word Sea in explosions of feathers]
And there is always the risk of falling prey to larger, more powerful plot devices.
[Footage of a MacGuffin being swallowed whole by a gigantic white whale]
But most will continue on in quiet determination, living peacefully here on these shores and raising their young…
[Footage of a MacGuffin tending its chicks]
Feeding off of narrative elements and literary structures…
[Footage of a MacGuffin swimming underwater, chasing sparkling sentence-eels]
And keeping plots aloft for generations to come.
[Footage of MacGuffins wheeling over the glittering ocean under a bright blue sky]
[Closing Theme Music]
Next week on What In The World, join us for θ, the secret life of the theta symbol: mathematical complex variable function, or spy?
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