Writing Secrets: We buy coincidence in life, but less easily in fiction

 In Tips for Writers

And so, it turns out that the mother she’d spent years searching for was living next door all along.

It’s possible for wild coincidences to occur in real life. You hear about them all the time, right? But we don’t buy them in fiction.

There must be a reason for the coincidence. In other words, it shouldn’t be pure coincidence. There’s a logic to the fact that they were living next door to each other all this time.

This is the last place they both lost track of each other. The mother lost her home, but couldn’t leave the area since this was the last place she saw her daughter. She moved into the guest room of a neighbour, so as to be near the place she lost her.

The daughter returns and, in a fit of nostalgia, buys the house she remembers as the last place she felt safe and loved. There, now it’s no longer a coincidence.

Where something does happen through pure chance, make a point of it. This is a little trick of Richard’s. If you’re going to have best friends from Vietnam meet randomly on a London tube, they must comment on the weirdness of life and fate, and how it must be meant …

That we’ll buy, because those kind of meetings do happen. But leave it unremarked and we’ll be sceptical.


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