1. Sylvester
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    Sylvester Member

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    Coincidence or Chance.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Sylvester, Jul 12, 2009.

    Do you use plots twists that happen by coincidence or chance?

    For example: The finale of Battlestar Galactica has a Raptor tumbling in space, it's crew dead. Yet at just the right time, a meteor hits it, the pilot's arm falls onto just the right button to launch a dozen or so nukes at just the right angle to hit the Cylon colony without hitting Galactica.

    After four seasons, I feel it was a cheap way of disposing of the Cylons.
     
  2. SA Mitchell
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    SA Mitchell Member

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    That sounds like a deus ex machina and it's generally discouraged.
     
  3. wave1345
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    wave1345 Member

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    I think both are the fallbacks of a poor writer. I much prefer for serendipitous or
    fortunate accidents to have some sort of subtle framework built around them
    and leading up to them. Anything else is a cop out, in my opinion.
     
  4. Anders Backlund
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    Anders Backlund Contributing Member

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    Yeah, I wouldn't call that a plot twist. Plot twists are when the story itself takes an unexpected turn.

    Though, having the characters succeed at something or get out of trouble through sheer, dumb luck might be good for humorous effect or dramatic relief. But I don't think it's a good way to resolve major, important plot events.

    Plus, unless your character is Gladstone Gander or something, you don't want to do it more then once per story. The whole point about crazy good luck is that it's very rare.
     
  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I wouldn't automatically call a writer bad if he or she relies on coincidence to propel the plot forward. Take a look at Les Miserables. There are about a dozen or so situations that occur by chance. However, I think the example from Battlestar is kind of pushing the limit.
     
  6. Anders Backlund
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    Anders Backlund Contributing Member

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    Put like that, it can even be a good storytelling element, if the plot in general is supposed to hinge on random events that the characters have no control over.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Coincidence/Chance or Destiny?

    I wiouldn't want to stretch coincidence too much, but it can have a place in good fiction. I would be more likely to have chance come into play as a complication than a solution, though.
     
  8. starseed
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    starseed Contributing Member

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    Weirder things have happened in my own life. I definitely like random and crazy coincidences.
     
  9. Anders Backlund
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    Anders Backlund Contributing Member

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    The difference is that Destiny is foreshadowed. ;)
     
  10. Zybahn
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    Zybahn New Member

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    Coincidence can work. In the case of Les Miserables (great example by the way), nineteenth century novels frequently applied coincidence to progress plot; the novel was a younger, inexperienced form & hence chance was an accepted trope. Coincidence has become more complex with the development of prose. A great example is Sartre's story "The Wall," where a far-fetched incident illustrates notions of absurdity. Coincidence is widely used in television, simply because of time constraints. The greatest example is the sitcom; Seinfeld perfected the use of absurd coincidence to great comic effect. In one episode a character even claims: "There is no such thing as a big coincidence." A coincidence is a coincidence & there is no way to measure or weigh it as an event. It is what it is, but just make sure that unless you are writing a sitcom, it illustrates something more than just, well, laziness, I suppose.
     
  11. Unit7
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    I would feel really disapointed if that were to happen. I dislike Dues Ex Machina, especially when its at the end of a great series. The way Battlestar Galactica ended seems like a major disapointment.

    I don't mind if something purely by chance or luck or just out of dumb luck happens in a story, as long as its not the end of a major conflict. Well unless its done for comedic effect in a comedy.
     
  12. UnknownBearing
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    UnknownBearing Contributing Member

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    only time i've ever used something like that was in great great abundance in my comical graphic novel Max McRage. seeing as it's about a bumbling action hero... yea...

    so no, i dont really do that for my serious works. everything has very strong structure, even if it's invisible to the reader until it happens. unless i made coincidence the main focus in a short story or something (i've come close to that) i probably wouldnt do that.
     
  13. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm against coincidences that resolve conflict. But if we're creating conflict with random chance, then I see that as acceptable in most situations. A lot of inciting incidents hinge on coincidences, for example. (And when I come up with a specific example, I'll use it.)
     
  14. SA Mitchell
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    SA Mitchell Member

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    I'm sure everyone would agree that using chance/luck/destiny/whatever as a plot device is different than (figuratively) invoking the power of God to save the day because the author couldn't think of anything else.
     
  15. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Contributing Member

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    I basically use whatever fits.
     
  16. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    See now, an example would make that a useful comment. :)
     
  17. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    I think it really depends on if your world is chaotic or deterministic.

    Our world could be considered chaotic, but also deterministic.

    Like: MC gets out of bed. But they don't know that at the same time Person A is getting out of bed making decisions about their day that will lead them into a collision with the MC in a car in about two hours. If either party changes their decisions, the event is avoided, but do the decisions change? If they don't, then the is already fated that these two people will in fact have a car accident. Killing one of them.

    Coincidence? Chaos? Or pre-determined? I read an interesting book during one of my college courses on determinism. It wasn't talking about stuff like religion (which sort of depends on deterministic style beliefs) but about how each human (conscious being) has choices in their life, but what makes them choose those paths, are a culmination of all past experience. Then it looks how our choices then in turn lead to crossing other's paths, influencing their choices.

    IT's a lot of a concept to wrap your head around, but something fun to think about.

    How does the world work in your fictional world? Would be how I would determine the events happening. Determinism can be very subtly introduced into a story, but usually it just looks like coincidence rather than chaos or chance.
     
  18. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Contributing Member

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    This may sound so simplistic but, when I'm developing work, everything that happens, happens because it enables my plot to move on. It's then I decide if I want the story to move in that direction. If my mc has to get somewhere, maybe in reaction to the expectation something bad is going to happen due to a recent action, I have no problem having him/her meet a character, unexpectedly, who may be connected from earlier on and whose presence may assist my mc's objective being achieved. Is it a coincidence? Does the other character have a hidden agenda? I don't really care, because if it fits and moves things forward, well, it's cool and I'm happy in my nappy.
     
  19. Akraa
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    Akraa Member

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    Chance or destiny is often the start of a good plot, but rarely the resolution.

    The trick is to keep full control of the story out of the hands of the characters, but to cause their efforts to influence the outcome. Whether this lies in mere 'chance' or the actions of the antagonist.

    A meteor heading at Earth is a great coincidence to start a plot with, but space debris knocking it off course is usually a horrible resolution. Chance events make a good starting point, but an unsatisfying resolution. It invalidates all of the characters' efforts in a single hatchet job of deus ex machina.
     
  20. UnknownBearing
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    what would make a better story though, is to throw that coincidence out the window and have the meteor somehow be caused by man himself.
     

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