The tag wiki for the tag says:

An element introduced into a story, film, play etc. to advance the plot.

This is really not a good definition of a plot device. A plot device is a narrative technique used to advance the plot. Not every element of a story is a "plot device" even though almost every element of a story probably affects the plot in some way.

A plot device is really a "key" element of a story that drives the plot -- without which the plot wouldn't advance.

For example, in Lord of the Rings, the One Ring was a plot device, but Gimli's axe isn't.

Looking at the questions tagged a good number of them seem to be using it in the same way the previously-burninated tag was used, i.e. "I didn't understand this part of the plot, what happened?". I think the overly broad tag guidance may be playing a role in this.

As it stands, with the current guidance, nearly every non-story-id question on this site could be tagged . Should we try to make this better?

  • I love the title ROFL Aug 10, 2017 at 6:03
  • Huh. I thought we'd already got rid of this one in the big Jan '16 tag cleanup.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Aug 10, 2017 at 11:13
  • so did I but we missed it. We got [plot-explanation] and [plot-inconsistency] and [plot-hole]; this one seems like an oversight, TBH, but I wanted to check :)
    – KutuluMike
    Aug 10, 2017 at 11:51

3 Answers 3


Option 2: This tag is stupidly broad. We got rid of , get rid of this one.


Option 3: Clarify the tag guidance and wiki, and clean up the tag where needed.

My suggestion for new tag guidance would be something like:

A plot device is a literary device (technique) that is introduced into a story to drive the plot forward. Plot devices can be actual objects (e.g. a MacGuffin) or merely a storytelling technique (e.g. a flashback). Use this tag to ask questions about the use of specific plot devices in sci-fi or fantasy works.

  • How useful would the tag be if we did this and left it?
    – Möoz
    Aug 10, 2017 at 3:56
  • Not sure; it's really more of a literary analysis type tag. Given our current policy on subjective analysis I think many of these questions would be off topic.
    – KutuluMike
    Aug 10, 2017 at 4:40
  • 1
    Arguably, a question like this would apply; the Thunderbird is a literary device (a macguffin, essentially). But I dunno that the tag would actually help.
    – KutuluMike
    Aug 10, 2017 at 4:43
  • Yes, and we wouldn't be asking about plot-devices as a concept, we'd be asking about a specific plot-device, in which case it would probably have its own tag, or else not need one (IMO).
    – Möoz
    Aug 10, 2017 at 4:45
  • Wouldn't we then have to add the tag to hundreds of questions that don't have it, as well as probably remove it from a bunch that do?
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Aug 10, 2017 at 12:42
  • Most likely, yes. So far of the 77 that are already tagged, very few of them qualify. I think the tag is better off dead, personally.
    – KutuluMike
    Aug 10, 2017 at 12:43
  • I'm upvoting this but frankly, i don't agree with this new description. As with other literary analysis type tags, it should be confined to questions ABOUT plot device as a literary technique, NOT all questions "about specific plot devices" as the text proposes. Questions about One Ring shouldn't have this tag in general - questions about use of One Ring in the plot specifically as a device should. Or, about plot devices in general Aug 14, 2017 at 17:41
  • That is the idea I was trying to get across, actually. If we insist on keeping this tag I would definitely prefer better verbiage -- this was just a starting point
    – KutuluMike
    Aug 14, 2017 at 18:40

Option 1: Leave this tag alone; it's not hurting anyone.


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