12 April, 2012
Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle are both considered to be giants of literature - and I love their work - and yet, if they were writing now, I'm pretty sure their editors would tell them off for their uses of coincidences to solve a plot. I wouldn't dare to accuse these literary heroes of cheating, but coincidences can seem like cheating can't they? It's another one of those things that writers do to rescue a plot - like untraceable poisons, identical twins, shots ringing out suddenly - that just seem unsatisfactory to the reader.
Have you ever been cheated in a book by the author relying on coincidences, or other cheap tricks ("and it was all a dream...")? Ever been tempted to use one yourself to get through a sticky patch in your writing?
I have recently experienced my own coincidence. The novel I am currently writing, uses The Scream - the famous painting by Edvard Munch - as the starting point of the whole thing. I came to write the book this way after a convoluted research process and many false starts. A couple of months after I first decided to use The Scream as my muse, the owners of the only privately-owned copy of the painting decided, for the first time ever, to sell it. When this news broke there followed a string of feature articles on the BBC and in newpapers about the painting itself. It has just been put on display and will be sold next month for some ridiculous price. Suddenly my novel is topical - maybe it's a sign!
Have you ever been involved in an interesting coincidence? Do you think they ever have a place in good literature? (If you can think of an example of a brilliant use of coincidence, do share!)
PS: Couldn't think of a suitable image for this post, so as Spring has sprung up here on the moor, here is a picture of one of the locals. Everyone loves ponies, right?