Okay, I was going to do this eventually but since Laura Diamond brought it up from last week's post (and this is a momentous week--I have linked to Laura on each of my posts this week!), I thought I'd tackle the MacGuffin.
It's not the MacGyver (though I should have an ode to him, I had such a crush on that guy in high school). And it's not a McMuffin either. Nor a McLovin'. It may possibly be a White Castle burger, though.
The MacGuffin is usually an object that drives the plot. Part of its importance is that everyone in the story seems to want it. It was coined by Alfred Hitchcock, who explained is as such: "It is the mechanical element that usually crops up in any story. In crook stories it is almost always the necklace and in spy stories it is most always the papers." (Oxford English Dictionary)
Some famous MacGuffins?
The Ring in the LOTR books
The Sorcerer's Stone, JK Rowling
The sugar bowl in the Lemony Snicket books
Ice-9 in Cat's Cradle
The Maltese Falcon by Hammett
I had a MacGuffin in my first novel, which is now resting peacefully in my hard drive. Have you used a MacGuffin lately? Or read a book recently featuring a MacGuffin?