Most Compelling MacGuffins

Very carefully? 87

I realise that my goals can be seen as in tension with each other, but I believe that’s an illusion. Yes, I want the player to know what to do, and yet also to be intrigued by unknowns. But all it takes to see that these things can coexist, IMO, is to acknowledge that every paragraph does not have to do one thing. A player could be told precisely how to do Plan A, and yet be given incomplete, narratively leading information about Plan B. ‘Plan A’ could be an actual plan, whereas ‘Plan B’ is more of a hidden theme. ‘Plan A’ could be a piece of paper with precise instructions on what package to deliver to whom, and why. ‘Plan B’ could be the words ‘If you go through with this, they will kill me. Please think this through. Sue 555-2452’ written on the back of that same sheet of paper, without me knowing who will kill Sue, or who she is to the character. Maybe even the character doesn’t know she is. And yet both the character and I know exactly what we are supposed to do, because we have ‘Plan A’. I just don’t know whether to take ‘Plan B’ seriously, and therein lies the most effective kind of intrigue, in me wanting to read on so that I can test my theories about the meaning of Plan B, not (I believe) in figuring out the precisely correct stepwise execution of the already fully explained and rationalised Plan A.

I didn’t include all this complexity in my examples #1 and #2, because I didn’t really mean to write them in such a way as to be proof against all possible objections; I simply sketched them out to isolate as starkly as possible the difference between the two techniques. But they can, of course, be used in combination.