In writing, coincidences look forced. If a writer doesn’t plan for a coincidence to occur, the reader will complain the circumstance was intentionally planted by the author to make the plot move in the right direction.
In life, coincidences are happy reminders that we are not directionless boats floating through our days but purposeful human beings with goals and dreams.
During a rewrite, an author works hard to eliminate any coincidences that are not necessary. If a coincidence is vital to the plot, an author will work to foreshadow it so that it doesn’t seem random.
Yesterday I received a card in the mail from a business associate. The picture on the card depicted a scene from my crime novel, the inside of Hank’s office, complete with the chandelier and red velvet divan on which a pivotal event takes place.
I laughed aloud, wondering what the writing gods were trying to tell me. It’s been a distracting summer, full of diversions and demands that would derail even those writers with the best intentions. Sometimes I feel like I will break under the pressure. But the card reminded me I am on the correct path, and if I just keep calm and write on I’ll make it to my next destination.
In a novel, this same event would have to be so careful planned and executed that it would appear seamless and natural to the reader, an organic part of the story, so inevitable that the reader would say, “Of course, that would happen. Why didn’t I see it coming?”
A writer must use every trick in the tool box to get to this point.
In life, coincidences are unexpected surprises that leave people wondering about the grand plan of the universe. People may want an explanation, but the universe doesn’t have to deliver one.
In writing, coincidences are planned events, carefully thought out and rewritten until they appear essential to the story. Readers need a reason to keep reading, and writers must deliver one.