Watched Ant Man & Wasp recently. I struggle to keep my writerly “How did they structure that?” hat on. If the story’s even half-decent, I’m totally caught up in it, and find it very hard to take a dispassionate view of how it was structured.

I did observe the elegant hierarchy of mcGuffins in the story.

The core problem requires something as a solution. And the something changes hands. This becomes part of something “larger” (it’s Ant-Man, so sizes are fluid) and that becomes yet another mcGuffin.

It’s brilliantly visual story telling.


There are some fight/chase sequences in movies that feel like filler. As an example, the chase through San Francisco in Bullitt is spectacular. But it seems to have repeated sequences and what looks like an obvious reverse angle of another shot. (Watch for the hubcap flying off a car.)

While a chase has part of the story arc, it sometimes feels like a small thing dragged out through a lot of scenery changes. Yes. heroic “JB” (Jason Bourne, James Bond, Jack Bauer, Ethan Hunt) is able to off a parade of 4 (or was it 8 or perhaps 16) bad guys chasing on motorcycles (or skis or was it helicopters.) But after he offs the first few, what more do we learn?

How are the stakes raised as we reduce the number of people in the chase? It’s killers. It’s life-and-death. I got it during the first thirty seconds or so. Unless the hero exercises some new dimension of their skills/powers/perks/limitations, I don’t see the need for all the crashing and bashing. (I do like a fair amount of mayhem, but.)

End Digression.

In the Ant Man story, chases and fights didn’t feel like filler. There’s a lot going on, and they’re used for clever reveals. I think the collection of writers engaged in the MCU super-hero genre have raised the bar in making the action serve a larger purpose in the story arc.

The lesson learned on the mcGuffin(s) in this film was helpful.

In The Forge, there’s — well — the forge. It’s a thing. And it’s gained and lost and regained. Plus some other things, like the spoon, and the cane. I think I might have covered the mcGuffin angles. I’m taking a break so I can revisit it with fresh eyes in a few weeks and clean up some of the spoon’s story as a mcGuffin.

In The Sword and The Crystal, there’s a problem. There’s a whole castle that’s — kind of — the mcGuffin I’ve started doubting this because it’s not the kind of thing that moves around and leads to fights and chases. I think I need something more mobile and tangible. I think the Outlanders need to bring something to the Red Knight that is emblematic of the loss of the Red Howe. Something the Red Knight can lose and regain.

I don’t think the dungeon can be a McMuffin. It can’t be lost. But its secret location can be difficult to find without a map or a special compass. That can be lost.

And in the short story I’m working on — ugh — I’ve got nothing. The conflict is partly an argument over the exercise of political power. This means I have to rework the story to center on a tangible tokenization of that power. Something concrete that will change hands to express what’s at stake.