Monday, June 28, 2010
What a Coincidence
My dad has talked about a family trip we took to Kentucky when I was little. Driving back through Cincinnati, he missed his turn on to the 3C Highway at Kemper Road (pre-interstate days, of course) and ended up in a town at the bottom of a hill. Kemper? Hill? Why, the town must've been Loveland, where hubby grew up. Suddenly everything sounded familiar, and we realized that we had passed future hubby's house that day! Could I, a three-year-old, have looked out the car window and seen him as a seven-year old, riding his bike up Cactus Lane? Maybe. What a coincidence!
(Thus this recent anniversary card. Inside, his note reads: "Remember when you saw me when you were 'threeish'? You didn't know I got this picture of us, did you?")
Stories of coincidences abound. An interesting site on the subject lists the "Twenty Most Amazing Coincidences." Writer Susann Cokal at Glimmer Train Press tells her story of coincidence, one she equates to "living in a novel." She makes a case for how fiction is "a series of such coincidences."
Yet fiction writers should be wary of the overuse of coincidence. Irwin and Eyerly, in Writing Young Adult Novels, noted: "A novelist is allowed one coincidence at the beginning of the story, e.g. coincidentally, your protagonist and antagonist may be in the same place at the same time in order to provide an opening scene of the conflict. After that the writer must rely on cause and effect."
Norma Jean Lutz, "Fiction Tips--the Snare of Coincidence," elaborates: "A plot that relies on fate is a thin plot. It's the 'easy-way-out'...lazy way of writing...a short cut that means less hard work of actual plotting--weaving the story to make it work."
Ah, there's the key. In real life, it's fun to be amazed at what would seem to be improbable and unbelievable circumstances. But in writing, such coincidence is counterproductive to writing a believable story. And therein also lies irony (which is a different subject all together).
Hey, care to share a coincidence in your life--or a tip on how you work around it in your writing? We'd sure love to hear about it!