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Monday, February 20, 2017

Coincidences in #Writing

By Sandra Nachlinger

It's fascinating when coincidences occur in life, isn't it? The man you talk to at a Chamber of Commerce dinner turns out to be a fan of your favorite author. A woman in your exercise class shares your love of quilting. While gaping at the view from Switzerland's Schilthorn, my husband and I struck up a conversation with a couple who lived in our hometown in Texas. But in storytelling, too many coincidences can cause disbelief in a reader.

I recently read a book where this happened more than once, and it made me question the whole plot.  I won’t reveal the details of the book because I actually liked the characters and the main idea of the story, but I’ll give a made-up example.

Angelica has just bought an old house – a fixer-upper – and the structure has more problems that she realized. One day she’s walking Fluffy, her beagle from the Humane Society, and she encounters Rick, out for a stroll with his mixed-breed dog, Bruiser, also a rescued dog. Fluffy’s fur bristles and she barks, lunging at the mutt. The resulting apologies lead to a conversation which reveals that the man is a building contractor who specializes in restoring old homes.

Okay, maybe I could believe that. It could happen. But then:

Angelica’s sister comes home from college and brings her new boyfriend, who is studying to be an architect. She says, "I told him you're restoring an historic home, and he's looking forward to giving you some pointers."

Hmmm. That’s awfully convenient. If one more coincidence occurs, I may or may not finish the book.

Do these kinds of things bother you? Or is it just me?

I.O.U. Sex (co-authored with Sandra Allen)



  1. Recently at lunch a group of authors were discussing this subject. One person gave an example of true life coincidences and we agreed that if that were in a book, none of us would find it credible. We have to be careful that our writing appears realistic--and that does take caution.

  2. I enjoyed the post. Life is full of coincidences...or is it that really we live lives that are full of like experiences and sameness? In writing, I agree that sometimes coincidences are used strictly for the story to exist and have a plot. If the coincidence jumps out at the reader and makes you stop to think about it than it's not a credible one.

  3. I enjoyed your post, Sandy. Coincidence is a funny thing. I like the quote: "Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous." However, more than 1 coincidence regarding a specific situation makes one scoff.


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