All fic/fanfic writers should be well-acquainted with the concept of the Mary Sue (the annoyingly perfect and unrealistic “wish fulfillment fantasy” character). Google it if you haven’t heard the phrase before.
What is less known, I suspect, is the deus ex machina:
In fiction writing, the phrase has been extended to refer to a sudden and unexpected resolution to a seemingly intractable problem in a plot-line, or what might be called an “Oh, by the way…” ending. Some critics think that a deus ex machina is generally undesirable in writing and often implies a lack of skill on the part of the author because it does not pay due regard to the story’s internal logic and is often so unlikely that it challenges suspension of disbelief, allowing the author to conclude the story with an unlikely, though more palatable, ending. -(Wikipedia)
The intelligent reader will be able to spot both, but from a writer’s perspective, I think the Mary Sue is much easier to avoid simply because the concept is limited to a finite character. Now, I’m not thinking of deus ex machina (which I’ll call DEM now because I’m lazy) as limited to the conclusion of the written work itself, but as the conclusion to any important plot/subplot. This makes it difficult to spot in a complicated plotline, as a writer, unless planning is done far ahead of time with the world setting well-developed and static.
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m looking at Syncope as a whole, not just a series of strung-together chapters with a guaranteed* happy ending. So while I’m outlining Part 2 and writing 1.10 at the same time, I’m trying my darndest to avoid a real shetty DEM, especially since my setting is a mostly realistic modern Japan, and I have to follow its laws and culture… most of the time, at least. Now, because a DEM comes into existence after the development and culmination of a plotline, I’m trying not to seed too many problems in Part 1 into Part 2. This is serious business. ^_^; Obviously, I can’t say too much about this process, but today I was quite happy to get rid of a big plot problem and potential DEM. Riiiiight.
Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to check and update my big Syncope research library as I’m resuming writing. This includes checking over 200 browser bookmarks and reorganizing nearly 40 megs of extant random PDFs, HTML pages, and reference images. I was pretty sad to find that many of my bookmarks were dead, so I’ve been trying to go through all those links, find replacement links, and mirror all sites to my hard drive; currently mirrored content: 451 megs and rising.
Edit: Oh yes, and the ending of Mai-HiME is kinda DEM-y, yeah.
*What’s happy for me may not be happy for you. [cough]