1. SwampDog
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    SwampDog Contributing Member

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    Coincidence and contrivance

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by SwampDog, Dec 21, 2014.

    Oh, the irony...

    Three characters, all from the same warship, involved in a murder (directly or indirectly), ten years ago and ten thousand miles away.

    All three end up living in close proximity. I can account for two of them, being 'townies' and recruited from the same area (although not necessarily known to each other.) The third one is the murderer.

    Character 3 is the last surviving relative of the victim and his life's mission is to find the murderer. C3 is geographically stable running an antique shop (he later gets murdered as well). The protagonist witnessed the first murder, and was disfigured by the murderer in the course of his escape.

    The murderer runs a local pub.

    Two in the same locality can be explained away. But to bring all three together in the same locality seems artificial and contrived. But they need to be together.

    Any ideas/suggestions to get round this logically is appreciated.

    Why ironic? A thread through my tale deals with coincidence, and the working title is... Coincidence.

    I've missed the very essence for a long time. :eek:

    Cheers
     
  2. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, if they are in the UK it is entirely feasible that they would all move to London for work, and all end up working in the City or the West End.

    The other issue with coincidences is that you could design them out of a story if you chose to, but the if they are part of the plot then that is what happened and the reader can like it or lump it. Shakespeare is full of quite shocking coincidences and I think he got at least one of his plays published, it might even have appeared on stage.

    Frankly the unfolding of the coincidence could be highly entertaining, if you explored the reaction of each of the three warship characters realising that first one, and then the other of their cohorts was nearby. I would just be bold about it and play the coincidence as black comedy.
     
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  3. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    If they're all from the same town in the UK, there may have been high unemployment (former mining communities? - although I wouldn't have thought antique shops would thrive in such an area!) where they came from, and the services was one way out...and the navy was the one with the recruiting push at the time.
     
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  4. SwampDog
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    SwampDog Contributing Member

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    A couple of good ideas there - thanks.

    I may head off readers' incredulity at such 'coincidence' by bringing it up in the narrative or conversation. Something to work on.
     
  5. KevinMcCormack
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    KevinMcCormack Member

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    I sometimes try to recruit a common attractor.

    Maybe the first two don't live in the same city, but they decided to visit it, because it has a pub whose name is meaningful to them in terms of their previous employment. Then they walk into the pub and discover they know the owner, and he chose the name because it's meaningful to him, too.

    For example, their warship (I'm assuming something like a contemporary destroyer) could have an insider's joke nickname ("The Iron Seahorse") and that's the name of the pub.
     
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  6. KevinMcCormack
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    KevinMcCormack Member

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    Just to add a thought about C&C...

    I've read some writing guides that explicitly warn against plots that try to solve problems with "the three Cs" - "Coincidence, Contrivance, Convenience" but I take that with a grain of salt.

    As another poster said above, I'm pretty sure that's what makes some great literature work... Shakespeare was not a sloppy writer. Where would Comedy of Errors be if The Bard was afraid to write in a few coincidences.

    Just make it either plausible or put it in a more fantastic story where it doesn't matter.

    You could also try lampshading an incredible coincidence, if you can't make it feel plausible any other way.
     
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  7. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not necessarily. There is a difference between a story about an unlikely setup and a story that uses an unlikely occurrence to solve a problem that has already been presented in the story.

    Stories about unlikely setups are interesting. They are the kinds of stories people tend to choose to tell, anyway.

    Even an unlikely solution to a problem is not necessarily artificial or contrived. But it is in an entirely different category from what you are talking about, so its risks do not apply.
     
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  8. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure that Shakespeare is the best example; As far as I'm aware, most of his coincidences were in his comedies (like the brother and sister in Twelfth Night) where greater latitude in credibility is allowed in the interests of entertainment.

    However, as Daemon comments, the main problem with coincidence is where it SOLVES the problem. Here, you're using it to set the problem in the first place. If you look at real cases (e.g. the Yorkshire Ripper) there are more coincidences in how they WEREN'T caught than how they were.
     
  9. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Like others have said, if it's in the premise that the paths of these three will cross and then: PROBLEMS, it's cool, it's interesting. When you shine a lantern on the coincidence, the characters' reactions will feel realistic, and we'll be more easily on board with your set-up.

    Let's see if I got this right. Why would the non-townie murderer start a business in the same town... Either there's great demand for pubs, or it's, indeed, a coincidence? I could see C3 who has an ax to grind with him to follow him wherever he goes, so it'd be easy for you to move him about. If the two others are townies, their presence can be then justified.
     

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