Secret doors, dream sequences, lucky breaks and coincidence.

19 05 2014

There is such a thing as coincidence. Happens all the time. Meeting someone on a train you haven’t seen since school is a coincidence. Having the same birthday as a relative is a coincidence. Not liking Manchester United is normal but also a coincidence what chatting with new friends.

But should you rely on coincidence in your writing? Would it stretch your reader’s credibility if your hero was “coincidentally” watching CCTV live output when the villain of the piece walked by? No matter how much it may happen in real life, you are not creating real life. You are creating a new world in each of your reader’s heads. It may have foundations in the real world but it dances to your tune, your rules.

If not coincidence, how often can you rely on a contrivance to get you through a sticky plot cul-de-sac. The most famous dream sequence in recent(ish) cultural memory is a whole series of Dallas on US TV. However many episodes (20+ probably) all a dream whilst one character took a shower? This is not credible.

The secret passage from a prison cell. That’s credible if you lay enough groundwork in the rest of the book – old castle, passages on the upper floors, historic unexplained escapes etc etc. But putting a secret passage behind a vanity bookshelf to hide a crime no-one know is happening may be stretching the drumskin of reality a touch more thinly than it should be.

Of course, I am not you. I wouldn’t do it but doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. I read a book years ago where everything just happened as it should because of coincidence not contrary to it. I was laughing out loud at parts of it. Unfortunately I don’t think the author intended it to be a comedy – which is why I am not stretching my memory to remember the name of it now. Libel and slander, not for me thanks!

It would be a bit of a coincidence if anyone out there in the blogosphere had also read it and then read this blog.

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