A MacGuffin is a storytelling technique that can be described as a mysterious motivation of a character, usually the protagonist. It's typically a goal, object, person or piece of information that a character passionately pursues as the driving force of the plot. Despite its importance, it is not explained clearly so that it remains something of a mystery.
MacGuffinThe term MacGuffin was popularized by Alfred Hitchcock in the 1930s. He described the term as follows.
It might be a Scottish name, taken from a story about two men on a train. One man says, "What's that package up there in the baggage rack?" And the other answers, "Oh, that's a MacGuffin". The first one asks, "What's a MacGuffin?" "Well," the other man says, "it's an apparatus for trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands." The first man says, "But there are no lions in the Scottish Highlands," and the other one answers, "Well then, that's no MacGuffin!" So you see that a MacGuffin is actually nothing at all.~ Alfred Hitchcock
Nothing but MysteryThe main purpose for a MacGuffin is to instill a sense of mystery in a story. To put it another way, characters with a clear motivation may be less attractive to audiences than characters who are on a mysterious quest that never gets explained.
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