• Anthony Hett

How to write a short film - Plot devices

Hello and welcome to my blog, where I offer simple and practical advice on how to write and make an interesting, engaging and hopefully successful short film.

In today‘s blog post I will be taking a look at Plot devices.

What is a plot device?

A plot device is a narrative technique used to move your plot forward. Examples of well know plot devices include:


The technique where an object or piece of information is planted early in the story, which later assumes vital dramatic significance. It is leaving little breadcrumbs of information for the audience to find, which add mystery and intrigue by hinting at what is going happen, but without giving the whole story away.

Red herring

Another plot device that can be used to add another layer of mystery is a red herring; which is when an object or piece of information is planted in the story in order to make the audience jump to the wrong conclusion, distracting them from the what is really happening.

Race against time

Used – most notably in thrillers – a race against time helps to create a sense of impending disaster, as your characters attempt to crack the narrative’s key problem within a limited timeframe. This can add extra drama and suspense to an otherwise pedestrian plot. If the characters have an infinite amount of time to solve a problem, then there is no tension. By reducing the time they have, the tension is ramped up, making the audience nervous about whether they will complete their mission in time.

Twist endings

A radical departure from the expected outcome, which can be used to change the audience’s view of the whole film and what they had perceived to be happening up until this point. This can be very effective. However, in order to work, the twist needs to come as a surprise to the audience but it needs to be realistic (within the world of the story) and it needs to make sense.

You should be aiming to find a balance, where the setup is subtle enough that the audience didn’t predict the twist but also where it doesn’t come completely out of the blue. Be careful not to make the rest of the film feel like one long build up to the twist and try to avoid the twist feeling unoriginal and/or cliché. After all, how many times have you watched a short film that has a twist at the end? I know I have watched a LOT of shorts with a twist at the end, I have even written a couple too.

So those are some of my thoughts on Plot devices. I hope that you find them helpful. Let me know what you think in the comments below. Also be sure to check out my YouTube videos and I will see you back here soon. My next post will be examining the topic of Editing your scripts.