One thing readers hate are coincidences. Sure, coincidences occur in our lives every day, but in a story, they are generally a problem. Readers lose interest when coincidence leans in the protagonist’s favor because coincidence or convenience does not convey meaning. It is conflict that reveals character. In fact, readers often perceive coincidence as an author’s way of cheating.
For example, if Bob is hitchhiking on a deserted road trying to get to Chicago for a wedding, and Chuck, the best man, picks him up when he just happens to be passing by—that is a coincidence. But if Bob is thumbing it to Chicago and the husband of the woman he’s having an affair with picks him up—that is synchronicity. Synchronicity conveys meaning, while coincidence does not.
Coincidence Lacks Conflict
It’s expedient, and often an indication of where the writer got stuck. Rather than exploring what they are attempting to express, the writer simply creates a loophole and proceeds. But just because the author kept writing does not mean that the reader hasn’t closed the book.
Synchronicity speaks to the underlying meaning of what the writer is attempting to express. There’s a reason for the event, which raises the stakes.
If you find yourself relying on coincidence to move your story forward, see if you can find a way to disguise it by creating conflict that is germane to your theme. It doesn’t mean that you need to ditch your idea of Chuck giving Bob a ride. But, you might want to inquire into why this ride will be more trouble than either character had bargained for. You can keep your story points, as long as you lose the coincidences.
Learn more about marrying the wildness of your imagination to the rigor of structure in The 90-Day Novel, The 90-Day Memoir, or The 90-Day Screenplay workshops.