On Writing & Publishing by Robin D. Owens

Personal notes on writing techniques, writing a novel, my writing career and threading your way through publishing a book.

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Location: Denver, United States

RITA Award Winning Author -- that's like the Oscar, folks! Futuristic/Fantasy Romance and Fantasy with Romantic Subplots.

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Monday, August 08, 2005

Using Coincidences in Your Writing

Coincidences – if they're small and done well, you don't notice they're a plot device. I was recently re-reading Carolina Moon by Nora Roberts for about the fourth time (I love reading AND analyzing her work), and she has the heroine as a passenger in a speeding car, holding a cola. A rabbit runs across the road, the driver brakes, and the cola goes all over the heroine's blouse. So they decide to go to the heroine's home where she can change. And there, waiting for them, is the villain.

It took me THIS READ to realize that the running rabbit was a coincidence that felt like a plot device. Without the rabbit, the heroine would not be going home, but to the original destination.

When using coincidences, I've heard the following: First, readers will USUALLY believe in BAD coincidences. This is human nature. The above coincidence was small and "bad." Usually if you're in a speeding car, holding a drink that will stain your blouse/shirt, something will happen to do that.

Second, if you DO use a GOOD coincidence as a plot device, plot point, do it right up front to set up events, not in the back to solve events. That smacks of "deus ex machina," or something solved by outside forces, not by the characters' own efforts, intelligence, seeing the problem and growing. (Yes, I like describing in 3s, too).

My 2 cent wisdom for the day.

Love to all, Robin


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