Many games do it. Most globe-trotting adventures do it. Even cat-sitting MIB stories do it. Objects become a matter of objective in storytelling. Be it a handful of pearls to break out of hell or a galaxy on a cat's collar, you won't have an ending without these little savers.
The Plot Coupon - An item (or a series of items) that are required to resolve a plot. These are often picked up and used later, when their importance is realized. This is not to be mistaken as a MacGuffin, an item that is used to drive a plot, but isn't used to resolve anything.
The Plot Coupon can take on a range of objects, people, or electronics. We never really got to see the Death Star plans, but the rebels never would have been able to launch their massive attack without them.
What if The Plot Coupon is more than just random objects, and more than people, but trapped souls? The only way one little girl escaped another dimension was by collecting and releasing the souls of three children. It's nice having a talking cat help you out (if you find one, let me know).
And, on rare occasions, a Plot Coupon is a for-real coupon! Better cash it for a lifetime of chocolate!
Don't let the dog eat it!
If you're not familiar with the novel or BBC mini- series Little Dorrit, it's worth your while. There's a box in it that contains special documents, which obviously holds the answer to everyone's problem. Can I say it? You gotta love Dickens!
The possibilities are endless, but The Plot Coupons that are most valuable are the ones that characters aren't aware they need in order to solve their problem. As was the "case" in the first MIB film (first picture). Just like those pesky ads that fill your mailbox each week, we'll keep finding (and writing) these coupons in our stories.
Have you used The Plot Coupon in your writing? Did they know what it was, or was it a complete surprise?
I'm David, and where's that flute music coming from?