Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Coincidence or Closure?

"Number one rule for fiction: Coincidence can be used to worsen a character's predicament, but never to solve his problems."
~ Vivian Vande Velde



Coincidences can be fun things to play with in writing. I don't think it's an easy device to master, but it can lead to some interesting outcomes. Like Vivian says, though, we can't use it to end our stories.  If we have created effective conflicts and planned for effective resolutions, coincidence gets in the way at the end.
Above all, we must  leave our readers feeling satisfied, with some sense of closure - if it's a series, then at least enough to carry us to the next book. Our MCs must make choices and experience conflicts and create their own outcomes. Using a coincidence to bring resolution to your MC leaves readers feeling cheated. And that is not what we want.

What do you think?

27 comments:

Falen (Sarah Ahiers) said...

that quote is awesome. It should be fiction writing 101

Angela Felsted said...

Too true.

Jennifer Hoffine said...

I agree, that quote is awesome.

I try to stick with only one coincidence per book...they are far more believable in real life than in fiction:)

Shari said...

So absolutely true.

Jana said...

Well, I have to comment and just congratulate you on your wonderful graphic for today's post! Love the Doctor!!

Beth said...

I think coincidents are good as long as they don't get too "coindental."
beth-project52.blogspot.com

Old Kitty said...

Great advice - I think coincidences if used cleverly but not as a cop out would probably work - although I avoid them as i think my writing isn't so sophisticated to pull these off!!!

I love your Doctor graphic!!!

Take care
x

Robyn Campbell said...

Great advice, bff. And that quote is so cool. YOU ARE MADE OF AWESOMENESS. :)

Meredith said...

Love this! I always have to make sure my closure comes from my characters making decisions and acting on them, not from coincidence. It's so tempting!

Jolene Perry said...

I COMPLETELY agree. I want the characters to work their way to a good end, not trip on it.

Shannon Whitney Messenger said...

Totally agree. I think the character has to resolve the problem themselves, either mentally or physically or both. Having everything coincidentally come together or work out feels fake and trite, imho.

Yet another brilliant post #2. Why am I not surprised? :)

Heather said...

I don't like coincidences in the books I read because they do feel like the author has cheated. With proper set up and plot twists there is no need for coincidences.

Jana said...

Where did The Doctor go?

Elana Johnson said...

I totally agree. I want the MC to DO SOMETHING, not be saved by a coincidence. Great post!

Lenny Lee* said...

hi miss shannon! i could know what a coinsidence is but i dont know what it is in writing or how it could spoil up a end on a story. maybe you could do a email to me so i could know. i been learning lots on how to be a good writer so maybe this is something i could need to know. thanks.
...hugs from lenny

Mary Aalgaard said...

What you and VVV say is exactly right. In real life, coincidence happens all the time - convient AND inconvient, but no one buys it when it just wraps it up in a nice little bow.

Faith E. Hough said...

Good quote and ponderings. :)
I read a similar one in a writing book: coincidences can and SHOULD complicate things, begin things...but never fix them. Some of the few books I've "hated" have ended with coincidence and it really (x 10) annoys me!

Jennie Englund said...

Shannon, that cartoon strip is THE BEST you've ever posted!!!! I love it!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I love this - I've never thought of using the coincidence to intentionally make my MC's life worse, but I may have to give that a spin. :)

Nicole Zoltack said...

Awesome quote, so true!

Jemi Fraser said...

Perfect quote. I had a big coincidence in my steampunk ms. And that would be why I'm heading into a rewrite! :)

Jessie Oliveros said...

I agree--too much coincidence makes the ending seem forced and can ruin the whole book for me. Great points!

Jennifer Shirk said...

Yeah, totally. I even read a book--a published book--where there was not a coicindence but a misunderstanding that was cleared up in the end. I felt really cheated at that ending.

Kelly said...

Most definitely!

Tracy said...

So so true! Coincidences happen in life so there is no problem with throwing one or two into a story, especially if it adds to the conflict. But in order to make the journey feel worth it, the MC has to make some decision or fight some fight of their own in order to reach a final conclusion. Having it solved for them by chance totally alienates readers.

Carolyn V. said...

I TOTALLY agree! I hate books with too much coincidence in it. It just looses the magic.

Alexia561 said...

I couldn't agree more!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...