It's Christmas Day today!
What are the chances! It's the first time my day to post in the blog is so perfectly timed for well wishes! So first off, I'd like to wish you all a happy Christmas Day, and if you don't observe it, a joyous day as you like it.
Second off, let's talk about coincidences in webcomics!
In real life, a coincidence is taken as such. A moment in time where things just …happen to align just right for an event to take place. (if it happens more than once, too frequently, etc., that's another story…)
But what about in webcomics, or any piece of narrative work? ‘Selling’ a coincidence is a lot harder than it is in real life. In fact, several things that have been coincidences wouldn't ‘fly’ within a story, because the audience would find it ‘too convenient’ or ‘lazy writing’ on the part of the creator.
To convince an audience that a coincidence in a comic is legit, rather than ‘convenient happenstance’, the author has to take extra steps: the story must not have more than one coincidence. The way the coincidence happens has to be carefully arranged so that the conditions occur from other sequences of events that naturally unfold. The audience might see what is going to happen (the coincidence) because they can see where things are going, but that's partly why the coincidence will ‘fly’.
When won't it?
When it gives the impression that this coincidence is the only way that the writer can get out of the corner they have written themselves in. Basically when the coincidence gives the ‘deus ex machina’ effect and, to add insult to injury, hasn't been thoroughly prepared as the natural result of a pre-existing sequence of events. For example, if a character runs into a dead end, and then just ‘happens’ to find a lever, completely by chance, that opens a trap door to let them escape, then that has a higher risk to be considered ‘convenient writing’. If the same character runs into a dead end, but we have previously seen them having studied such places and knows there must be a lever somewhere, and starts frantically searching for it, not finding it, and then accidentally comes across it, it's more likely to be accepted by the audience as a ‘coincidence’ that they trip over the thing, since they're already trying to find it.
So how ‘convenient’ would it be that my posting is perfectly timed to be published on Christmas Day?
If it's vital to the plot, a lot. If it's not as vital, maybe not so much. If it's real life, 100%.
Have you ever needed to introduce a coincidence in your story? Do you remember reading or seeing on film any ‘convenient’ coincidences?
Have lovely holidays everyone!
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Μerry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Coincidence?Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Dec. 25, 2021
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Banes at 8:02AM, Dec. 26, 2021
I remember a couple of sequences in Breaking Bad that stood out because the show was usually so believable and immersive. A couple times events were a little too convenient in creating the dramatic moments the show was aiming toward (granted, these were generally 'BAD' coincidences...bad news for the characters. Not as big a sin as the coincidence that helps the characters win.
Banes at 8:00AM, Dec. 26, 2021
Coincidence being a sign of something supernatural is a neat twist; hadn't thought of that! Overall I'd say that coincidences can be used to get a plot going, but not to resolve important conflicts. So...coincidence is okay at the beginning but not later on. I've heard writers say that coincidences that are good for the Protagonist is bad writing, but if they're bad for the Protagonist it's allowed. That makes sense, but even they coincidence can still come across as unbelievable.
usedbooks at 4:06PM, Dec. 25, 2021
Another thought on coincidence. I LOVE it when a one-in-a-million coincidence turns out to be a sign of something supernatural (like the world is glitching), setting the scene for magical realism. One of the simplest examples is the Twilight Zone episode where a coin flip lands on its edge, and the protagonist starts hearing everyone's thoughts. Or in the game Life is Strang. Throughout the game, weird little coincidences start happening in the background of the setting (whales beaching themselves, bird falling out of the air, a huge tornado forming). It slowly becomes apparent that Max's use of her power is causing these events by tearing the fabric of reality.
usedbooks at 4:00PM, Dec. 25, 2021
Mind is blank for example, but I'm sure there are a lot of lazy writing coincidences I have seen. They take forms of Deus Ex Machina sometimes. I really like in a whodunnit when it is revealed that a "coincidence" was, of course, carefully orchestrated by someone and not a coincidence at all. One problem with writing is that fiction cannot have the same events as reality without losing believability. Coincidence is a good example of that. You have to defend your choice to include them and work extra hard to make them believable.
marcorossi at 3:19PM, Dec. 25, 2021
I think that humans instinctively believe that the world has a logic, and expect logic and meaning from a story (so no coincidences), whereas the real world isn't really that logic (so coincidences and sheer luck are important).
Chickfighter at 11:38AM, Dec. 25, 2021
Not coincidentally let me wish you a happy holiday as well! ;)