Sarah Aronson began writing for kids and teens when someone in an exercise class dared her to try. Since then, she has earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and published four novels: Head Case, Beyond Lucky, Believe and her latest, a young MG series about the worst fairy godmother ever, The Wish List (Scholastic, 2017). Titles forthcoming include her first nonfiction picture book, Just Like Rube Goldberg (Beach Lane Books) Sarah loves working with other writers in one of her classes at Writers on the Net (www.writers.com ) or the Highlights Foundation.

photoCongratulations to all the winners of the ALA awards! It was very exciting to see so many colleagues receive recognition for work well done. Before I go further, I also want to congratulate EVERY writer, illustrator, and editor who published a book this year–even if you weren’t on the list.

Writing, editing, and releasing a book is not easy work. It requires practice and diligence. Together, we make the world better. We get people talking. I’m waving my pom poms today for all of us!

Now let’s get back to work!

“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” -Albert Einstein

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” -Oprah Winfrey

There are some bits of writing advice that I will always be grateful for. Quite a few of them come from writer, Tim Wynne-Jones, who was my fourth semester advisor at Vermont College of Fine Arts. This is what he says about coincidence in fiction: you can rely on it ONCE. And THAT is in the inciting incident. After that, all your plot turns must be logical. The action must grow out of who the characters are and what they do. As I like to say to my students: Action/reaction.

Think about it.

We’ve all read stories where coincidence or fate (the ultimate in coincidences) provides the missing clue or wraps up the loose ends for characters and readers. Stuff like: EAVESDROPPING. When the main character can listen in on the missing conversation at just the right time, the reader notices. We see the author at work. And this is not good. We want to see the characters. We want the motor of the novel to be logical. We want the author to be in charge…without jumping in to get their protagonist to the next plot turn. We want the motivation of the characters to drive the story. We don’t want to feel the author step in!

So…why do coincidences happen?

Coincidence is often employed when the writer fails to properly plan a way to get a piece of information on the table. And to be fair, they are often important in the early drafting phase, if for no other reason than to get words on paper. But once you have a character who wants something, you owe it to that character to make the plot turns logical. It is often used when the writer hasn’t yet figured out how to get from point A to B. Coincidence is a glowing, flashing, sign that says look at me, I’m here to make this plot twist work or to explain what shouldn’t need explanation.

Coincidence makes a story putdownable. Rejectable. Sometimes throwable. (There is a dent in my wall to prove it.) Coincidence says to the reader: this cannot happen. It takes the reader out of the dream.

So are you ready to stretch those writing muscles???

Write with intention!

26278644.thm(ie: grab the keys to the car!)

Select three random objects. Weave these objects into a plausible, coherent story of 250 words that relies on logic! (You can do it!) The objective here is to underscore that YOU are in charge of the material and not the other way around. You should be able to manipulate the elements of a story or novel, using your imagination to invent alternate action and dialogue, characters, and incidents.


Do you like tips and exercises like this? Sign up for Monday Motivation at www.saraharonson.com. Or check out my classes at www.writers.com!

Comments

  1. Great piece, Sarah! This exercise is something illustrators can do as well, as I did with three random packages per day from the LEGO Advent Calendar last fall, which I put on Instagram and my blog. Eavesdropping is way overused, and I admit I’ve been guilty of it as well. Sometimes, though, characters can’t help overhearing because they live in places where the walls are thin, and sometimes those speaking want the character to overhear for one reason or another.

    1. I actually do a lot of drawing as I am trying to figure out what will happen in my stories.

      And yes, of course, eavesdropping can happen. But I see too many aspiring writers relying on “listening” to figure out important plot points. How many times is it possible to stumble on the conversation that will change your trajectory? Not often! My intention is to urge writers to find other ways…that start with what your characters want, that are more explosive and tension filled. And then, if you MUST eavesdrop, make it count!!!!

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