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  1. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    Too much coincidence

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by ToeKneeBlack, Aug 7, 2015.

    I've been putting together the plot for my next book, but there's a major sticking point among the early chapters:

    Delta, a girl who will go on to become one of the main characters is on her way home through a bustling city centre.
    Stalking her is a would-be burglar who was chased away from her home; this served as a distraction to allow the rest of his gang to sneak past the guards unseen.
    Boris, the secondary protagonist from a previous book, is on his way to her house in search of her father; the only person who can assist him in his quest. During the journey, he spots the burglar snatching something from her and running off.

    Boris doesn't know who Delta is at this point, as they've never met, but he confronts the burglar and returns part of the stolen item to the girl.

    Is it too much of a coincidence that the three of them would be on the same street at the same time?
     
  2. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Busy city centre, no major problem with them being there at the same time. Bit of a coincidence that Boris plays hero, but you can live with that...these things do happen.

    But you're handwaving some far larger issues.

    1/ Was the burglar being chased off a deliberate ploy to distract the guards? - Sounds a VERY high-risk strategy for them to employ. And, if it wasn't deliberate, had they got ANY idea how they were going to get past the guards?
    2/ There were guards (plural) at her home? - Sounds a VERY high-security home.
    3/ Stalking (I assume you mean following - stalking is generally a long-term and internet-based spying on somebody) somebody isn't a common MO for a burglar. You seem to be now having him behave as a mugger, in snatching her possessions. While a crook is a crook is a crook, they generally play to their strengths. A gang that is prepared to do a Mission Impossible type raid on a highly-protected target isn't likely to be advertising their criminality by street snatch thefts.
     
  3. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    I think most readers are willing to let a few contrived coincidences slide. It often takes an improbable coincidence to make a real-life anecdote worth telling, and the same is true of fiction. One of the "plotting guidelines" that often floats about is that coincidence can get characters into trouble, but not out of it - from what you describe, this coincidence seems to kickstart the plot (?), so is probably forgivable (not that that guideline is an absolute rule, of course).

    As Shadowfax points out, it's a bustling city (not the top of Mt Everest). The burglar seems to have a motive for following Delta, so their interaction is not coincidental. If you've previously (or perhaps even subsequently) established Boris as a good Samaritan then his intervention is not coincidental. That only leaves question as to his presence in the first place. If you want to reduce that improbability (not that I think you need to), I'd suggest finding a common link between him and either Delta or the crook, then use that link to find a motive that would place them in the same location.

    For example, I surmise that Delta and Boris both know Delta's father (there's a link). Maybe it's Delta's father's birthday, and he likes a certain type of liquor that's only sold at one shop in the city. Both Delta and Boris know his preferences, so both end up in the vicinity of that shop (as does the burglar, who is intentionally following Delta). [ETA: then the main coincidence remaining is the timing - so maybe it's around either the opening or closing time of the shop, and they're both rushing to get in.]

    This specific example might not work for your story, but you'll be able to imagine more appropriate links and motives. And as well as reducing coincidence, you'll flesh out your characters, and tie their characterisation into the plot :) Good luck!
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2015
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  4. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    To answer Shadowfax's points:

    1/ It was a ploy carried out the under cover of darkness. They also have the services of an experienced hacker, who can disable the alarms and other automated security. The wayward burglar's part in the plan was to cut a hole in the perimeter fence, distract the guards & their dogs, and run into a waiting vehicle. While everyone's backs are turned, the other five sneak into the grounds and camp in the trees until morning.

    2/ Delta is the daughter of a high-profile business man - one of the richest men on the planet in the story. She resents being followed around by a "gorilla" all the time, so she snuck out while her dad was called to a false emergency meeting - which had been arranged by the hacker.

    3/ The whole gang have been keeping tabs on the house for weeks. They thought she was going to be at home on the day of the break-in, but her absence only made their plan to break in easier. What they didn't expect was for her to be wearing the very item they had been sent to acquire when she left the house. "Following" may have been a better word to use in this instance, though. The criminal sees she has what he's been sent for, grabs it, and uses his higher than average speed to attempt his escape. He's also stronger than Boris, which is why he ends up getting away.

    Also, I like Sifunkle's suggestion. It's Christmas Eve, so I could have Boris attempting to buy Delta's father a gift try to persuade the man to help him.

    I could also make it such that Boris knows what Delta looks like from her father's family photographs. While they haven't met, he's done his research, so when he sees her in trouble, he knows that's his ticket to completing his quest. He's acting out of self interest primarily, with the greater good being a "nice side-effect" as he would say.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2015
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  5. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Leaving the handwaving issue out of it ...it's been discussed well on this thread already ...there isn't usually a problem beginning a story with coincidence. In fact many stories begin that way. It's ENDING with a coincidence that's the problem. If, for example, your stalker is stalking your Delta near the end of the book, and the book has been leading up to this moment, then somebody just 'happens' by and saves her ...THAT would irritate readers no end. But starting with that scenario seems okay to me.
     
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  7. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks, Shadowfax, this is the level of scrutiny I need. For context, the story is set during the early 23rd century. The hacker is someone who works for Delta's father, Maxwell.

    1/ The break-in plan as it stands is as follows:
    i: Check to see how long the time periods between patrols are. In this case, it is between 2 and 3 minutes.
    ii: Get the hacker to disable the fence integrity sensors and the light overlooking the point of entry, making it look like a faulty lamp.
    iii: Begin cutting a hole in the fence. Start low, and at the first opportunity, put a hedgehog (captured earlier in the year) through the small gap. When the next passing guard comes past, his dog will find the animal and start growling. The guard will shine his torch on the hedgehog, pull the dog away from it and continue on his way without checking the area thoroughly.
    iv: Continue in this manner until a hole large enough for a person to get through has been cut. Leave the wire at the top of the cut section connected to form a flap.
    v: Signal the hacker to disable the guards' digital radio systems.
    vi: Once the next guard passes and pulls his dog away from the hedgehog, 5 people go through, leaving the sixth person waiting on the outside.
    vii: The 5 people who have made it inside hide in the bushes on the grounds of the house and set up camp away from their entry point to wait until morning.
    viii: The man on the outside poses with the cutters until the next guard comes past. To the guard, it will appear as though the burglar has yet to enter the grounds, and he will send his dog through the hole first before crawling through himself.
    ix: The man on the outside makes his way to a waiting self-driving vehicle with cloned license plates - even if the guard gets the license number, it will be for the wrong vehicle.

    2/ Maxwell is incredibly trusting of his computerised diary, so much so that he doesn't employ a secretary or a P.A. The emergency meeting appears to have been requested by an industry regulator. The subject matter of the meeting could substantially damage his company if not addressed urgently, so he cannot waste time chasing it up with his employees, without first confirming the existence of the session.

    3/ I never stated she was out to get a present herself. Maxwell promised some time ago that he'd spend the day with her and ignore all business plans for the day. When he stressfully broke his promise at the last minute, she's left the house for some fun, attending a "retro" arcade where the games are more advanced than the ones we have today. The item she carries has been valued at under $20 - barely rating as a trinket. It has great sentimental value, as it was the last item her mother gave her before she went missing seven years previous. The burglars know of its true nature, and of the power it can bestow to those who know how to use it.

    Boris researched Maxwell. Delta appears in a publicly visible photograph alongside her father and three older brothers.


    Thanks for clarifying that, Jannert. Delta goes on to become a hero in her own right by the end of the story, returning the favour by saving Boris' life from the jaws of a terrifying monster. She doesn't just happen to be there while he's in trouble, as she had been persuaded by the true villain to kill Boris.
     
  8. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Get it down on paper.

    You have a story, you read it back to yourself - but still there is a stupid section that does not make sense, a horrible blot upon your entire project. Six months later, sitting on the train, you cry audibly, scare an old chap sat alongside, and you rush home, fix your story. Well, you think so.

    Then you draft and draft and draft a little bit more, find some way for people to read your story. People do read it, you read it, notice all the errors, but now you can blame the editor.
     
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  9. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks, everyone. I now have a way to remove a lot of the coincidence from this stage in the story without affecting the rest of the plot.
     

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