No Such Thing as Coincidence

So, here’s a point to ponder.  Is it better to use a formula that your reader can guess—or at least infer—or should you twist your story enough that everything that happens is a surprise?  Or, maybe, should you shoot for somewhere in-between?

Imagine a story line where a young couple makes plans to start anew, together, under extreme circumstances.  As “fate” would have it, however, something interferes, and one or the other is whisked away to places unknown.  The remaining partner goes through a period of grief, spends all the remaining fortune, and expends great energy looking for the other, but not a clue is found.  Not a single clue. 


Dejected the one left behind joins the military to serve and forget, is shipped to a wild, foreign and far-flung locale, and one day sees the missing one.  It is only a matter of time then, well, time and extreme effort, and some serious loss along the way, but the two are reunited, and finally, hand in hand, go off to rebuild their life plans.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve just about had my fill of that story.  This in no way means I won’t write it one day, I think we all must write something like it once in a while.  But, come on!  World-spanning coincidence?  Don’t even bother trying to work out the odds.  They’re outrageous!

I guess the question is, what better serves drama, excitement—story—long odds coincidence?  Suspension of disbelief?  Turning impossible circumstances into a fell-good story?

I wonder if a more realistic story line might be appropriate from time to time.  Perhaps the guy finds the girl, but she’s moved on, believing him lost, and now has given her heart away to someone new.

Maybe the hero never finds the missing person, but instead grows in skill and reputation as a finder of lost persons… serving humanity despite his grief.

What I’m getting at is, 1) it doesn’t always have to be a traditional happy ending – but your characters need to change and grow, and 2) sometimes a coincidence is just too far-fetched.

Your thoughts?


2 responses to “No Such Thing as Coincidence

  1. Well this is a long way from the ‘synchronicity’ being preached on Spirit. It’s so nice to come back here where I can feel ‘down to earth’. On the happy ending, yes I ended Portals, now 2-Thought Experiment, with a little discussion, reverie on what would constitute a happy ending. Penny thinks up possible scenarios for the women she has met along the way. It ends up by saying that perhaps salvation is in the belief that whatever the ending is, it is ‘happy’. But that’s all a matter of mind.
    My own philosophy, I suppose. Acceptance perhaps, although Hatch would deny I have this. But the way I see it is that ‘synchronicity’ necessarily involves a one-to-one possible correspondence with mind and the external reality, and I’m just not sure whether they have allowed analysis to break down just what there thinking is, and what is ‘really’ constituted by the grand sayings.
    Ironically, I spend a lot of time with the Buddhists, – I was even on my way to becoming a monk – but turned it down to be more in the world. But once past the initial introduction, the Buddhists are all analysis, analysis, analysis. I’d love to forward someone I know a copy of some of their treaties, and arguments.

  2. Pingback: Top 10 Posts – Ninth Edition « Uphill Writing

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