Thanks to swapaskill.com, I’ve made a couple of new friends: a solicitor and her husband. I was at their place yesterday, and he was explaining the finer points of Facebook to me, and I saw on his screen the name of an old friend. That we have this friend in common seemed impossible to both of us.
We all know it. It seems to happen to writers more than to most. Call it coincidence, or synergy, or serendipity – each of these a word inadequate to the task of describing things that happen which are downright spooky. How come you travel half way across the world only to bump into your neighbour coming out of an exotic temple? Why do friends phone you a minute after you start thinking about them? How come the one book you need to answer your research questions is the first you pick up? Open it at random, and there’s the answer you seek. I started to keep a book on these weird occurrences, only they stopped as soon as I did.
A pox upon those who resort to such cheap tricks in their fiction. Vital clues to the mystery should not fall at your hero’s feet. He should not happen upon his long lost cousin – who turns out to be the murderer – at the bus stop. Never, never can any quest be solved in any other fashion than blood, sweat and tears (mostly the author’s). For all this adds up to the reviewer’s most poisonous word of damnation: ‘contrived’.
Strange, huh? But as Mark Twain neatly observed, ‘The difference between reality and fiction is that fiction must be credible.’
I sometimes think that the Great Novelist in the Sky never did a course in creative writing.
So now I’m off to meet a new day which is, potentially, incredible. Adieu.