Peggy Bechko’s World: Coincidence Can Truly Be Crap

Found at Nonglish.Com

Found at Nonglish.Com

by Peggy Bechko

Coincidence can truly be crap.

When you’re writing…whatever you’re writing.

Yes, yes, I know it’s cool when that long lost wedding ring turns up in the gullet of a fish a fisherman just caught…and it’s his wife’s wedding ring.

It’s amazing when you’re in a grocery store and someone calls your name and it turns out to be someone you knew in high school who, for some unfathomable reason, actually remembers and recognizes you.

It’s fantastic when a person messes up enough to miss a flight…which goes down over the Atlantic with few survivors.

That stuff happens of course. It makes us happy when it does. Inexplicable. Delightful. Wonderful.

Coincidences.

So startling. But when writing a script or novel? Not so much. A coincidence can act as an escape hatch just because you, the writer, got lazy and didn’t do the set-up and pay off that are the hallmarks of a great story.

And, in fact, if you throw coincidences in to short cut your story you can even destroy that fabulous suspension of disbelieve which allows readers and movie goers to get into the story.

The simple truth is, in everyday life a coincidence is accepted – mainly because it’s right there in front of our faces and it can’t be denied.

But fiction isn’t real life. So when the writer uses a coincidence in a story it had better be good and for a darn good reason because fiction isn’t the real world and every movie buff and novel reader knows it.

It’s not inexplicable like a real coincidence. It is, in fact, totally explainable. The writer, you, created it, launched it and expected everyone to believe it.

They won’t. In fact, they won’t even like you because they’ll see you as that lazy writer I mentioned above.

Think about it.

A coincidence is something that happens for no discernible reason. Writers create worlds which are driven by cause and effect. In this case there would be no cause. When a writer uses coincidence and there isn’t a REALLY good plot reason, there’s just effect. And it’s not even dropping out of the sky. Nope, it’s what the writer created.

And, let’s face it, it’s usually utilized to create something good for whatever character experiences it. It could snatch him from the jaws of disaster or suddenly jerk him out of poverty into wealth. It’s sort of like some of the old westerns (I wrote some of those and I didn’t use this kind of coincidence!) where the good guys are surrounded – it looks grim – oh, look, here comes the cavalry!

See why it turns viewer and reader off? It’s not something the character has worked his way into successfully; it’s just mana from heaven. And that small thing can throw your entire story into the dust bin.

My advice?

Don’t use coincidence in your story line unless you have a very strong reason and coincidence itself is somehow a part of your plot. Don’t take the easy way out. Go for the arc and the twist. Let the organics of your story surprise the viewer/reader and create something really original.


Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page

WGAw May 2016 Calendar of Events

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See Clickable Version HERE

The Week at TVWriter™ – May 2, 2016

In case you’ve missed what’s happening at TVWriter™, the most popular blog posts during the week ending yesterday were:

Peggy Bechko’s World: Do You Wanna Be a Writer?

Looking for TV Pilot Scripts?

LB: TV Series I’ve Given Up On This Year

John Ostrander: Radical TV Surgery

Web Series: MONICA

And our most visited permanent resource pages were:

Writing the Dreaded Outline

THE PEOPLE’S PILOT

The Teleplay

The Logline

THE PEOPLE’S PILOT: Rules

Major thanks to everyone for making this such a great week. Don’t forget to click above and read what you missed. re-read what you loved, and, most importantly, come back for more soon!

Tomorrow is the Last Day to Get the People’s Pilot Early Bird Discount

Sunday, May 1, 2016, is the last day you’ll be able to get the $35/entry price for the 2016 People’s Pilot. Cuz after that, we’re in normal, fifty-buck mode.

The really cool thing about the Early Bird Discount is that you don’t have to upload your entry by that date. You can hold onto your script, or finish it, or revise it – or even start it – up to the very last minute entries will be accepted, and that last minute is 11:59 pm Pacific Time, November 1, 2016.

Sign in for your 2016 PEOPLE’S PILOT Early Bird Entry HERE.

Find out more about the People’s Pilot, one of the oldest and most respected writing contests on the web – including its rules, prizes, et al – HERE

Your future is, you know, IN YOUR HANDS.

Team TVWriter™

John Ostrander: Radical TV Surgery

Castle-TVby John Ostrander

It was announced this week that Stana Katic, who plays Detective Kate Beckett on the ABC seriesCastle, was not going to be asked back IF the series is renewed for a ninth season. The reason cited was cost cutting which also accounts for the shortened 13 episode season planned IF the show comes back.

The premise of the show is that mystery writer Richard Castle, played by Nathan Fillion, worms his way onto the NYPD and helps the detectives solve actual murder mysteries rather than the fictional ones he creates. Central to the series has also been his relationship with Beckett; he started by annoying her but, after as many complications and delays that the writers could conceive, they fell in love with each other, acknowledged they were in love, and finally married.

Which makes the loss of Katic/Beckett difficult to understand for me. The show may have been titled Castle, but its core was that relationship between the two leads. Yes, I originally tuned in the show because I had really enjoyed Fillion on Firefly (and the movie that concluded that series, Serenity) but it wasn’t the sometimes predictable mysteries or the often interminable story arcs that made me a big fan of the show. It was the relationships between the characters and central to it all was that relationship between Castle and Beckett. That WAS the show so far as I was concerned and has been since the first episode.

Look, I get the idea that the longer a show is on the more it costs to produce and ways need to be found to cut those costs. I would think that going to a 13 week season would do that but evidently not enough to suit the suits at ABC. However, it’s a big risk.

ABC and Fillion have both expressed confidence that the show can continue without Katic/Beckett but I’m not sure. One thing I have learned in comics over the years is that every time you make a big change in a title you run the risk of alienating the fans. The general reason for the gamble is that, hopefully, you will gain more new readers by making the change than the ones you will most certainly lose by making it. You don’t want to give readers a reason to stop reading.

Some titles seem immune to this for some reason. It almost doesn’t matter which creators are doing Superman, for example. The title is going to be there so long as DC keeps publishing. That’s less true for most comics, however, and even less true for most TV shows.

Could it work? Could ABC drop Katic/Beckett from Castle and hope for it to go on? Conceivably. There will be a curiosity value for some fans, at least for a few episodes. Might that bring in new viewers and/or old viewers who have been away? Conceivably. Much will depend on how they handle it starting with how they explain and then deal with the loss of Beckett. I don’t know how they’ll do it. I’m not privy to their thinking. It seems likely to me, however, that they will kill off the character. I suppose they could put her in an off screen coma but I suspect there will be a desire to close the door.

Given this great love the show has established between Castle and Beckett, Castle would have to grieve her death as part of Season 9. If they have him just go out and start romancing and/or bedding a flock of new ladies, that will be a problem for many viewers, myself included. I personally know what it’s like to lose someone you deeply love and that doesn’t get resolved in an hour minus commercials. That takes time. Castle himself would be changed by Beckett’s loss and, if he isn’t, that just trivializes the love affair that has been at the center of the show for eight seasons. It might even undercut the revenue that the reruns of the show generate on other channels.

ABC hasn’t definitively announced one way or the other if Castle is even renewed for that ninth year. My suggestion – don’t. If in order to bring the show back even for a shortened season they have to destroy the central relationship in the show, then don’t do it. Do something else. Let everyone involved go on to other work.

When Tom Mandrake and I were doing The Spectre at DC, we knew about a year ahead of time that the series would be ending due to slowly eroding sales. DC gave us the opportunity to end the book on our own terms and we were able to put a cap on it that made the entire run one story. The ending completed it.

Right now, the ones still watching Castle are the fans. Do the right thing, ABC. Don’t piss all over them. End the show and do it with some style.

It’s not always about the money.


John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. This post originally appeared in his most excellent blog at ComicMix.

We are the Writers of our own Lives

…Which behooves us to put at least as much thought into our very real choices as we do into the fictional choices of our characters. Think about it, as you watch this:

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Another well-crafted Ted Talk