It’s extremely important that aspiring comic book writers understand this concept. It’s also important to point out that there are varying definitions of the MacGuffin. So I’ll begin with my simple interpretation:
Speaking of Alfred Hitchcock, he was the key advocate of the term. Some say he coined it but according to him, one of his screen writers, Angus McPhail is responsible to for the phrase. When asked “what is a MacGuffin?” Hitchcock would share this now famous story (0:38):
Why is the MacGuffin important? If you are a writer, it is critical that you understand your story, its plot and the driving forces behind your plot. Without a good understanding, you’ll lead your reader around on a pointless journey with little value. The MacGuffin is a means of focusing the story.
Check out this excerpt from an article by Michael Kurland:
"Is it possible to write a story, even a mystery story, without a MacGuffin?
Certainly. It's possible to build a two-masted schooner without a keel, but the ship will be much harder to sail and may be prone to rolling over unexpectedly. Besides, even if the MacGuffin is never brought on stage, the odds are that it's there, hovering around just out of sight, directing the actions of the main characters and snickering in the wings.
Being aware of the MacGuffin in your own story, carefully crafting it to meet your needs, can improve the internal logic of the story, strengthen the characters' motivation, and increase the story's impact."
I highly encourage writers to study the MacGuffin and apply what they learned to their own writings. Every so often when I review a comic I find myself saying that the story is pointless or lacks a MacGuffin. I’m not telling writers to change of simplify their story either. Don’t forcibly shoehorn some fabricated object to chase on account of me. I simply ask that writers be aware of the MacGuffin in their story “snickering in the wings.”
I hope this lesson was helpful to writers and story enthusiasts alike!
Till Next time!
p.s. I highly encourage you to read this essay by sci-fi writer Michael Kurland discussing the MacGuffin.
p.p.s. Check out the video below to learn more about the MacGuffin and it's complexities.