As I mentioned earlier, a good friend of mine wrote Xodus, and I’m really proud of her. Having taken two years to get through writing and edits, I’m impressed with her level of dedication. Of course, since we’re two different people, there’s things we agree/disagree on.
One of the things I’m not a fan of is coincidences:
The two spoke, and the man glanced over his shoulder in my direction. Though wide sunglasses covered the top half of his face, I caught a glimpse of his left cheek. It was marred with a terrifyingly familiar scar. (McPike 42)
When I read this, I was pretty upset. This was awfully a large coincidence, like a slap in a face to be worrying about this man and then to see him in the hallway in the school. I mean, seriously, what is he doing here? He doesn’t seem like a parent. We saw him earlier playing with guns, so what the heck is he doing at school with a child?
This was huge! And although I realize, if it’s probably this BIG of a coincidence, it’s probably on purpose, I’m more worried about how gimmicky it seems. I’m worried about the story, not the character. This feels awfully forced, almost ridiculous to insert him into the school when he doesn’t seem to belong.
But the catch to fix this feeling is what follows:
Questions swirled around me like a cyclone, their force enough to make me sway on my feet. He was following me – that much I knew. But why? Did he know what was happening to me? Did he know I’d seen him attack that woman last night? He must’ve hired Kai to pose as a student and keep tabs on me. Why else would he have glanced back in my direction while they were talking. (43)
For something like this, where the author wanted to equalize Kai with her nightmare, position him in a place of distrust, she had to stage this situation, and although gimmicky, it was corrected by having her character call it out.
And for this situation, it fixed that feeling immediately. Having the character’s notice the craziness of the situation, having Lali explain the wonk-factor for it…it fixed everything. She let the character reflect on the situation, and I definitely think it fixed that off-feeling I felt.
Let this be a lesson: If you have to pull something coincidental or something of similar feeling, have the character call it out. Having them recognize it as a crazy situation fixes most gimmicky feelings the reader may have.