How do you avoid "convenient" or "coincidental" plotting?

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sjgriffiths
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Re: How do you avoid "convenient" or "coincidental" plotting?

#16 Post by sjgriffiths » Sun Jul 23, 2017 12:04 pm

It's quite an interesting discussion, to be honest. What you shouldn't be is too scared of using coincidence in story -- it's a fairly fundamental theory of narrative causality. A specific arrangement of circumstances are, after all, necessary for the story to exist and be driven along. It's more about the extent to which it's portrayed and how it can be at odds with willing suspension of disbelief, almost paradoxically. This is why foreshadowing is such a popular technique as compromise.

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Re: How do you avoid "convenient" or "coincidental" plotting?

#17 Post by Yolo400 » Sun Jul 30, 2017 1:59 pm

Well, I don't see what's wrong with the first example you gave, so long as Mary has a good reason for why she's going. Is she wanting to profit from the organization? Is she wanting to find her long lost older sister?

However there are many ways to handle it.

1) Mary can meet an affiliate of the organization, jane and co. and an arc can happen where she learns of her sisters fate.
2) Mary can listen to her sisters advice but have an internal struggle (nightmares etc) and worries. What happened to Jane? It can nag her, if she has a conscience.
3) When Jane is first introduced as a CONCEPT, she can be writing something, perhaps, so it isn't such a surprise when a letter is found of some significance. WOAH ITS FORESHADOWE
4) It's a literal surprise. Mary uncovers some of Jane's old things and searches through them out of nostalgia, a bloodstained note containing ALL DAT INFO for the taking.

It's really no big deal how you do it, and it'll satisfy different audiences per one you picked.
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Re: How do you avoid "convenient" or "coincidental" plotting?

#18 Post by ArcialIntegra » Mon Nov 13, 2017 1:28 pm

Convenient plotting isn't inherently a bad thing. It's a matter of if it is too frequently convenient. What you listed is fine, but if it turned out that every time Mary tried to do something, something else plot related would happen to lead her on the right path? Then you'd need to rethink this. The example you gave is actually realistic. She may have been avoiding her sister's room, may have read the letter before and forgot about it, or may have actually been recently sent that letter by her sister who is actually still alive and keeping an eye on Mary. There are plenty of reasons why she could have just found it when she needed it. Anyhow, to answer your question: whenever something happens, you need to be able to answer the following question: "What is happening to who and why is it happening?" As long as you can answer all three parts to that question, it's likely not going to be a "too convenient" situation. If it's a series of "it just happened"s and "they just did it"s, your story will be boring. But if there is a reason for everything that happens and it's not all done by mistake, your audience will still be interested. I'd be curious to find out about the reason why Mary just found Jane's letter. Honestly, that intrigues me more than the main plot of your story because that has so much more that can be done with it. Criminal organization plotlines usually have only a handful of outcomes that boil down to adapt to the life of crime, take them down, escape and be on the run, escape and survive, or die. This letter, which is what really acts as the start of the story, is what will really allow your story to develop and grow. This isn't meant to rag on your selected plotline, but rather to say "Don't underestimate the power of things that seem convenient." You can use the convenience of this letter to set the tone of the rest of the story. If the reason is time travel: you just made this into a science adventure, much like Steins;Gate. If the reason is that it was in Jane's room but Mary just now went in for the first time: you made this a drama mystery, much like many classic mystery stories. If the reason is that it was sent by Jane who is still alive: you just made this into a mystery adventure. Use these things to make your story unique and interesting.

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