Monday, November 29, 2010

Using Coincidence in Your Writing

It's enormously challenging to find ways for the main character to learn new information without the story events seeming too coincidental. My ideal way to write a story would be to avoid using plot devices that are too convenient. And to especially avoid these devices at crucial moments in the plot. The reader expects surprises, but they need to be believable and flow naturally from the story events.

One thing that helps me with this issue is to think about what the minor characters are doing when they aren't "onstage" in the scene. These characters pop in and out of the story, and may play a crucial role at some point, but as a writer, I need to think about what they're doing when they aren't with the main character. Otherwise, dropping them in just when they are needed can seem too coincidental.

How do you avoid coincidence in your story?


  1. That's a tough questions. I try out plan those events out earlier so they are set up. But sometimes I have to go with my gut. If it feels too coincidental than it probably is.

  2. I find it difficult to see coincidence in my own writing, but I can spot it elsewhere! I read somewhere to make your characters do double duty--that way they're less likely to pop up at convenient times.

  3. Laura, I guess that's where the rest period for a story comes in handy. When you look at it with fresh eyes, you have a better chance of spotting those coincidences that are just a bit too contrived.

    Joan, that's an interesting idea. I think it goes along with thinking more about what the characters are doing when they're not in the scene.

  4. I was just reading something about coincidences recently that said that readers are generally willing to accept coincidences in a story if they result in the character having to struggle more, but they don't like them if the coincidences help the character along. So I guess the type of coincidence is also important.

  5. I can't always see the coincidences in my own writing, like Joan, but it's important to make them work if you do have them in your story. If things are too easy for your characters, it won't jive with the readers.


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