We love coincidences. They’re bound to be unusual and so we receive them with joy. I can quote a few real life ones:
- On a trip to London I got off my train and walked along the platform just as my business partner’s train drew out of the station from the other side of the platform.
- We travelled all the way from Holland to Denmark and visited a colleague of my husband. His front door was opened by one my former students who was staying with his daughter.
- My PhD supervisor moved from North Wales to the south coast and then back again. Once when retuning to the south coast, where I lived at the time, I followed a haulage firm that specialised in moving between the south coast and North Wales – and the company and my PhD supervisor shared a surname.
However these days if we include such happenings in our stories commissioning editors are known to tut and say “That wouldn’t happen in real life.”
Yet Shakespeare, Dickens and Molière used them a lot. Not only did they get away with it but that is what particularly delights us in their stories.
It is delightful again in Ann Booth’s Girl with a White Dog. The protagonist’s grandmother has a close connection with the family she befriends as she works with the white dog. And the connection is all about another white dog.
These have to be handled well. You can’t simply have a deus ex machina. It has to be convincing and possible.
Maybe the answer to all of this is that we actually move in quite restricted circles. And that, of course, is an enticing premise for story.