Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Too Coincidental?

by Rebecca Talley

by Rebecca Talley

Have you ever read a book and said, “That’s too coincidental?” If you have, you’re not alone.

I finished reading a book the other day and thought there were far too many coincidences in the storyline. In fact, by the end of the book I felt like I’d been manipulated by the author. Not a good reaction from a reader. Definitely not the reaction we want from our readers.

Yes, coincidences happen in real life. But we're not writing real life, we're writing fiction and in writing fiction, things that happen must not only have a purpose, but they must grow organically out of the plot.

For example, if a character needs to know a secret, find a way to allow that character to naturally discover the secret. If you have another character blurt out important information, especially if that character had been keeping the secret for a long time and it wouldn’t be natural for him to blurt out guarded information, it will feel manipulative.

Ask yourself as you write, “Would this character really say or do this?” “Would this really happen the way I’ve written it?” “Are my events growing organically from the plot?”

If you need a character to learn information or meet another character, foreshadow it so when it does happen, the reader feels like it’s natural. Don’t just plop a character in a specific place because you need to do so to advance your plot. Give the reader reason to believe the character should be there, naturally.

As you write your story, consider your plot points and make sure that one point leads to the next in a natural way. Don’t force a plot point because it will be evident to the reader. Don’t rely on coincidence to move your story forward because a reader will feel manipulated and as soon as he feels that way, you’ve lost him.

Make sure your plot grows organically and you won’t have readers scratching their heads and muttering, “Too coincidental.” Or worse, throwing your book across the room.


JoAnn Arnold said...

Great post. I've read a few books like that . . . well the beginning and the end of books like that.

Stephanie Black said...

Excellent post, Rebecca! A little thought and work and foreshadowing can turn what would have been a coincidence into a credible story event.