Mr. McGuffin’s Plot Device And Writer Unblocking Emporium

Today I’m over on Headstuff, the online cultural hub, with the following skit. Headstuff love content with actual content in it so I’m delighted to be there.

I reckon we’ve never needed a laugh more than we do this week, so here is my contribution to our newly hyper-globalised human condition.


Embed from Getty Images


The shop door bell of Mr McGuffin’s Plot Device and Writer Unblocking Emporium tinkles pleasantly, announcing the entry of Writer 1, a woman wearing pyjamas and swathed in several cardigans. Mr McGuffin stands to greet her.

Mr McGuffin: Good morning, Madam.

Writer 1: Good morning. I’d like to buy a plot device, please.

Mr McGuffin: Certainly Madam. What genre are you writing in?

Writer 1: Crime, mainly. But lately, I’ve been branching into grip-lit. You know. Thrillers, that kind of stuff.

Mr McGuffin: Ah. Luckily, we do have a new grip-lit section. Tell me, is your crime domestic or commercial?

Writer 1: Definitely domestic. It involves several kitchen appliances.

Mr McGuffin: Lovely. Well, we have a marvellous array of old letters, tied into bundles with ribbon; secret diaries; grainy photographs, and bloodstained blankets. Or were you thinking of anything in particular?

Writer 1: I was rather hoping for something a bit more sinister.

Mr McGuffin: Than a bloodstained blanket?

Writer 1: Is it a baby blanket?

Mr McGuffin: I’m afraid we’re fresh out of those. There’s been a run on them lately. Could I offer you a bloodstained suitcase?

Writer 1: I don’t think that’s going to get me out of this jam. I have three characters sitting in an attic with no way of figuring themselves out of it.

Mr McGuffin: What if I told you the suitcase contains a strange old map, and is festooned with airline labels from Djakarta, Siam, and Persia?

Writer 1: Oooh, I LOVE obsolete placenames! I’ll take it! How much?

Mr McGuffin: Now that’s another story.


Writer 2 enters the shop, carrying a small dog wearing an unusual rust-coloured collar made out of puzzle pieces,and displaying a mysterious fear of bald men. Writer 2 embraces Writer 1, but they both make faces behind each other’s backs. Writer 1 leaves.


Writer 2: Hello. Is this the motive shop?

Mr McGuffin: Not exclusively, Sir, but we do have the largest selection of motives in the country.

Writer 2: Excellent. I need a reason for a character to burn down an entire Welsh village during a haymaking festival.

Mr McGuffin: Hmmm. Tricky. What age is your villain?

Writer 2: He’s 47. But a young 47, if you know what I mean.

Mr McGuffin: I see. 47 is a difficult age. I have some fabulous motives for octogenarian protagonists – going cheap, incidentally, in an end-of-season sale. And I can’t seem to keep motives for young adults in stock, even though there are only three types of those. But a 47-year-old… let me think. Is he religious?

Writer 2: I’m afraid not.

Mr McGuffin: Abandonment issues? Say, an emotionally detached father? Or a manic depressive mother?

Writer 2: No.

Mr McGuffin: An overly intense appreciation for fine art? A god complex of any kind?

Writer 2: Well, he does have an unusually heightened sense of smell. It’s sort of his thing. He can tell a wine by the nose alone, and once detected a rare cheese from two streets away.

Mr McGuffin: Oh! I have just the thing. [rummaging] Now, where did I put it… Ah! Here we go! [brushing off dust] I think you’ll find this is perfect.

Writer 2: [disappointed] A handkerchief?

Mr McGuffin: This isn’t just any old handkerchief. This is the handkerchief belonging to your character’s sister, who died of an extremely rare and fatal strain of allergic rhinitis – hay fever to you and me – brought on by the pollen from a genetically altered type of crop, which grows only—

Writer 2: In Wales!

Mr McGuffin: Precisely.

Writer 2: Brilliant! I’ll take three. Just in case the first two get lost.

Mr McGuffin: [wrapping up the handkerchiefs] Nice dog, by the way, Sir. What’s his name?

Writer 2: Oh, this is Red Herring. Isn’t he just adorable?


Again, the shop bell sounds. Writer 3 enters and stands patiently as Writer 2 leaves. She is shabbily dressed in clothes which would once have been quite grand, but are now threadbare and faded.


Writer 3: Hi. I hope you can help me.

Mr McGuffin: That’s what I’m here for, Madam. What do you need?

Writer 3: I’m writing romance, and my two main characters just fell over a cliff. But I can’t let them die. I’m afraid I don’t have much money.

Mr McGuffin: Oh, dear. Now that is a tricky situation. Have you considered a narrative device rather than a plot device?

Writer 3: Sorry?

Mr McGuffin: You see, back in the day, in order to rescue your characters, you could have to made the fall into a dream sequence, or a figment of somebody’s imagination. But that doesn’t wash any more.

Writer 3: Don’t I know it. That’s why I was rather hoping you’d have something.

Mr McGuffin: My best advice would be to use an unreliable narrator. I’m afraid I don’t sell those, but you can make one yourself if you have the time.

Writer 3: That’s just it. I don’t. Are you sure you don’t have anything?

Mr McGuffin: The only thing I would have in your budget is a Deus Ex Machina. But I don’t recommend them. I mean, you can’t just have someone paragliding past, or, say, a fighter pilot on training manoeuvres picking them up. That would be silly.

Writer 3: I’m desperate. I’ll take it. If I try really hard, I could work the Deus Ex Machina into their clothing, I dunno – tiny parachutes or something – and have them save themselves.

Mr McGuffin: On your own head be it. But I must ask you not to say you got it here. If you promise not to tell anyone, I’ll give you 50% off. Deal?

Writer 3: Deal! Oh thank you, Mr McGuffin! You’re the best!

Mr McGuffin: [sighing] You all say that, and yet you forget about me the moment I’m out of sight.

Writer 3 leaves, whistling. And as for Mr McGuffin… well. That would be telling.

Mr McGuffin's Plot Device and Writer Unblocking Emporium

  63 comments for “Mr. McGuffin’s Plot Device And Writer Unblocking Emporium

  1. November 12, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    Red Herring may be the best canine name EVAH!

    Liked by 2 people

    • November 12, 2016 at 12:21 pm

      I’ll lease it to you lovely lady, but only because I don’t have my own dog. Yet.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. November 12, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    Mr. McGuffin’s Plot Device And Writer Unblocking Emporium – I may have died and gone to heaven! Nothing smart to say, just that basically this is your best blog EVER IN THE HISTORY OF BLOGS 🙂 Sorry, don’t know why I always shout on here (to be heard, says you, over your adoring crowd!)

    Liked by 2 people

    • November 12, 2016 at 1:46 pm

      Ah, Evie. Thank you so much. But how do I go on from there? I’ll have to change the face of politics with a single blog post, or something. Well, I’m never one to back down from a challenge. I suppose I’ll start with town councils and work up from there.

      Liked by 2 people

      • November 12, 2016 at 2:46 pm

        Knitting you a cape as we speak (because Irish superheroes probably have aran capes, right?)

        Liked by 1 person

        • November 12, 2016 at 3:00 pm

          Oh my Blog. I want that aran cape IMMEDIATELY AND IN BLOCK CAPS. This is the best thing ever. You’re creating a monster. I will be a benevolent dictator. (On Tuesdays.)

          Liked by 2 people

  3. November 12, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    If I apply for a job at McGuffin’s, can I get a staff discount? Picture me hiding plot devices on the back shelves to keep them from selling before payday.

    Liked by 2 people

    • November 12, 2016 at 5:19 pm

      You’ll have to speak to Mr McGuffin about that, Timothy. He’s slippery, though. Keeps changing when nobody’s looking.


  4. November 12, 2016 at 4:49 pm

    There used to be a shop like this one near the junior school I went to. (Early 1970s) Some of the stories that came out of there, you just couldn’t make them up. It’s an estate agents now, so some things never change I suppose.

    And is it my imagination or is everyone at Headstuff called Tara?

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 12, 2016 at 5:20 pm

      I think they are, Chris. And I’m Tara Nobody there. Although I have a cunning plot to sort that out.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. November 12, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    Sorely needed this week – far too many bad guffs coming over the Atlantic from the New World 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  6. November 12, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    I wondered where you got your inspiration. You shouldn’t give your secrets away

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 13, 2016 at 4:11 pm

      I don’t have any secrets, Geoff. I had one once, but then someone told me everyone knew about it, so I just kind of gave up. If you have any going spare, I’d love to take a look.

      Liked by 1 person

      • November 14, 2016 at 8:16 am

        Ah yes secrets. Like what’s the inside of my now retired unbeaten conker and why the dog calls me colonel. Yes lots Tara, some of which are pluripotent so can be adapted to suit your DNA and no one will know you bought them from the dodgy old guy with a tungsten conker and a talking dog.

        Liked by 1 person

        • November 14, 2016 at 2:44 pm

          You’re darned lucky nobody reads this blog, Geoff. You nearly blew the lid off the DNA modification conspiracy there.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. November 12, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    I’ve been starved lately – just pigged out on one of the best yet Tara.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. November 12, 2016 at 8:10 pm

    Reblogged this on Same Train, Different Track and commented:
    Do let Tara know your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. November 13, 2016 at 3:57 am

    Fun post, Tara. 🙂 I’m in need of laughs this week and for the next 4 years, assuming we all survive. On that cheery note, I need to get back to plotting my next post-apocalyptic dystopian epic. I write one for every Republican presidency.

    Liked by 2 people

    • November 13, 2016 at 4:12 pm

      Well, every cloud, and all that, Diana. I just hope that this one isn’t so post-apocalyptic that the pages explode before they’re even finished. I can’t help feeling that it’s not beyond the fantastical realms of possibility.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. November 13, 2016 at 10:16 am

    Absolutely brilliant, Tara 😀

    Plus, I now know what I’ll call my next dog.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. November 13, 2016 at 1:24 pm

    Great post… had to share immediately. Some of my minor characters in the NaNo comedy I’m writing are about to be re-named! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • November 13, 2016 at 3:40 pm

      Glad you shared mate, it’s a top post! Thanks Tara!

      Liked by 2 people

      • November 13, 2016 at 4:33 pm

        More than welcome, babbitman. Pleased to make your acquaintance.

        Liked by 1 person

        • November 13, 2016 at 4:45 pm

          Why, thank you! It’s a lovely blog you have here (and followed by many of my pals too!) 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          • November 13, 2016 at 10:47 pm

            I’m glad to hear that, babbitman, but I do have to ask – where’ve you been until now? I’ve been waiting, so long…


            • November 13, 2016 at 11:35 pm

              Umm, er, I’ve been doing the bins. And a big pile of ironing. I have such a list of stuff…
              Terribly sorry for being a bit late. :-\

              Liked by 1 person

              • November 14, 2016 at 1:20 am

                It’s okay. I’m in therapy, and Dr Ginantonic says I’m doing really, really well.

                Liked by 1 person

                • November 14, 2016 at 9:45 am

                  Good to hear. That reminds me, I need to book another appointment with my consultant, Sue Vignon-Blanc.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • November 14, 2016 at 2:41 pm

                    😀 😀

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • January 15, 2021 at 4:02 pm

                      Just listening to the radio podcast and loving it 🙂 It’s great to re-read the original too and realise that this was my first exposure to the World of Tara!

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • January 16, 2021 at 8:11 pm

                      Thank you Your Babbitness! Glad you got to hear it Nick… can’t believe it made it into performance. Was a while truckload of fun. More to follow! Hope all well with you.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • January 16, 2021 at 11:27 pm

                      It’d be great to hear a collection of sketches based on your “living with a character from xxx novels” 🙂
                      All good here, thanks. I’m actually close to finishing my accidental Greek mythology novel. It’s only taken me 4 bloody years! 🤣

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • January 17, 2021 at 10:32 am

                      It really would be good to hear those Nick but sadly it takes a small army to make a radio drama so I’m exploring my options on that score! Delighted your Greeks are behaving themselves – hope it’s been fun finishing it off…

                      Liked by 1 person

    • November 13, 2016 at 4:14 pm

      Excellent, Al. I might have to branch out into character name generators after all this.

      Liked by 1 person

      • November 13, 2016 at 7:29 pm

        I wasn’t sure how to read that, until Mr Exposition explained it to me. Susan Ubtext made me wonder if there were more to it though 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • November 13, 2016 at 8:38 pm

          OMG, you know Susan Ubtext?? Small world! Listen, would you tell her to return my calls? She hasn’t been the same with me since that episode with the steamroller.

          Liked by 1 person

  12. November 13, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    Re-blogged this WONDERFUL post. Loved the voice and the very clever humor!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 13, 2016 at 4:15 pm

      Thanks, Mara! I did enjoy writing this one a lot, I must say. My permanent scowl even wavered.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. November 13, 2016 at 5:56 pm

    I don’t suppose you’d be willing to share the address for this shop, would you? And their opening hours? Please tell me they’re open late at night – that’s when I’ll really need them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 13, 2016 at 8:40 pm

      Mr McGuffin’s a bit funny about that sort of thing, Graeme. He tends to appear & disappear at will without explaining himself. Especially when Hollywood calls.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Liberty On the Lighter Side
    November 14, 2016 at 10:09 am

    I look forward to your posts Tara as i know they are always just what I need! Bravo once again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 14, 2016 at 2:42 pm

      You’re welcome, Liberty. I’m hoping comedy is the new humour.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Liberty On the Lighter Side
        November 15, 2016 at 12:37 pm

        I hope you don’t mind Tara but I wrote a blog this morning inspired by Mr McGuffin. Credit goes to you of course, I have linked it back to your post. Perhaps he had a little something in his shop for me!

        Liked by 1 person

  15. November 22, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    Gave me a good laugh on a very dreary afternoon. If only solutions were that easy we’d all be best selling authors. More than a grain of truth in your post, though, as I’ve read numerous books recently where the writing and plot are gripping but where I’ve also had to suspend belief. Muttering to myself that, no matter how convenient for the plot, something could never happen in such a way spoils the book for me. But maybe I’m just too picky.

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 22, 2016 at 5:31 pm

      Don’t blame Mr McGuffin too much, Dorothy. He’s a total pushover in the wrong hands. In the right hands too sometimes, sadly, but that’s why he’s so popular.


  16. December 12, 2016 at 2:51 pm

    I love this post! Made me laugh on a day that’s been fairly rubbish so thanks Tara.

    Liked by 1 person

    • December 12, 2016 at 4:46 pm

      You’re welcome, Donna. I’m glad to return the favour – your recipes have lifted my spirits despite my best efforts more than once!

      Liked by 1 person

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