As a part of my ongoing exploration of media, digital storytelling, (thanks ds106) and how to use both comical and satirical effect to help learners understand important elements of writing, I decided to attempt the most recent ds106 Design Assignment, “Messing with the MacGuffin”, using something that most fans of the cinema and the literary worlds are familiar with; the Fellowship of the Ring.
The MacGuffin in this case is the “One Ring” itself, the ring that is so cursed that it must be destroyed, lest the entire world of Middle Earth be destroyed by the forces of evil who seek the ring. The ring is the plot device through which the journey of the story finds its impetus. Through coming into contact with it many of the characters experience life altering events (some even meeting their own demise). Without the ring, there is no story, there is no inciting incident, and there is little or no reason for the main characters to make their quest to destroy the ring. The existence of the ring, or the MacGuffin, not only compels a resolution other than an epic 8-hour fight scene in which the evil army is simply destroyed, but forces those fighting for “good” to completely dispell the evil force from the land forever.
What happens to a story then when at a critical juncture, the MacGuffin gets “messed with”, twisting the plot of the story so far that it completely breaks off? How engaging would this be for high school students in a creative writing course, or middle school students trying to understand the importance of plot devices? It helps that the Fellowship of the Rings was made into a movie, so there are rich visual images to pull from for illustration, but you could easily have students create their own drawings or illustrations from novels and texts that have no video counterpart. Regardless of whether you have visual source material, being able to play around with concepts, often breaking traditional constructs of a story, is a great way to help assess if students understand the writing and story telling process.
As far as the creation of the digital artifact above, I grabbed a screenshot from an HD version of the Fellowship of the Ring movie trailer from YouTube, opened it up in Adobe Fireworks (you can grab a free 30 day trial here), added the text, then saved it as a .png. The whole process took less than 10 minutes, but could easily be accomplished in many less “technologically advanced” ways. You could find an image via any image search, open it up in Paint (on a PC) or Preview (on a Mac), add your made up line that twists the MacGuffin, and you’re good to go!
If you decide to make any yourself, or with your class, please share below in the comments!