Just wondering about something -- the dreaded Deus Ex Machina (aka DEM).
I think I understand the concept but I see DEMs in literature more often than we admit. I'm thinking specifically about The Pelican Brief (Grisham) because something I'm writing has a similar pattern and I'm afraid I'm going to need a DEM to get some closure.
In that story, the protags are uncovering a conspiracy, piece by piece. But there really isn't any closure until they find a videotape, made by a victim of the conspiracy, who spells the whole thing out and validates what the protags found.
Is that a DEM? More importantly (to me), can I get away with something that might be as DEMish?
Julia Roberts wrote the Pelican Brief without seeing the videotape, and as you say, she and Denzel Washington were uncovering the conspiracy piece by piece. The videotape merely validates their findings.
Compare that to the same novel told in the POV of a detective investigating the deaths of the Supreme Court justices, and getting nowhere. Suddenly, in the next-to last chapter, as he's preparing for bed, a pelican flies in his window, drops a crucial incriminating videotape, and flies out.
That, even Grisham couldn't get away with.