Elements in Lit: Isn’t that convenient?!

Filed in Uncategorized Posted on April 11, 2012 @ 3:00 pm 6 comments

Recently, several of the books I’ve been reading have brought something to my attention and I thought we’d take a look at this today. What is it? Well, it’s the artful way that authors either explain certain character knowledge or they methods they use to push a story along.

It was written in the stars…sort of.

Ah, fate! This is when it seems that all factors in a story point to the inevitable meeting of characters. I found this to be the case in The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst. Each of the two main characters were in need of something and as it turns out, they could solve each other’s problems quite easily together. BUT, and fate seems to always have a twist, there was history between the two which meant that neither one would have considered that particular person as the solution. Fate’s totally funny that way though, right?

Right place, right time.

Similar to fate is when something would never have happened if a character (or more than one of them) hadn’t been in a designated place at just the right moment. This plot method brings to mind The Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. If Claire hadn’t been at the standing stones, she would never have met Jamie and one of the bigger love stories in the time travel sub-genre would not have happened.

This also popped up in The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith. The two teenage protagonists find themselves sitting together on a six hour plane ride that may possibly change both of their futures forever. As it happens, the third seat is occupied by a much older lady that offers up tidbits of wisdom about love and marriage to the two decidedly jaded teens that may help them get over any fears and resentments they have. Imagine the luck of it all?

I just happened to research that subject in great detail.

The biggest “coincidences” I found presented itself to me in the pages of Karen Marie Moning’s Beyond the Highland Mist. I had picked up book three of this series way back when I was reading The Outlander books, but hadn’t gotten around to it until now (ten years later, incidentally). Feeling it would be too much like Gabaldon’s story, I decided not to read it back then.

In Moning’s tale, the female lead, Adrienne, has some convenient knowledge that really helped her acclimatize from her 1990’s existence to the “new” one in the year 1513. First, was her affinity for languages. This allowed her to mimic the Scottish brogue with little trouble…at first. She also had done some interesting research on the internet while still in the 90’s, which involved architecture and, of all things, falconry. Ok, the buildings and terminology, I can understand and probably have done myself. But “falconry”? That seemed a bit of a stretch.

Though those were some specific and unusual aspects, the same can be said for elements in the aforementioned Gabaldon books. It can’t go without mention that Claire’s medical experience as a nurse in her pre-time travel life came in handy in the past, as she displayed vast knowledge of healing herbs and methods of keeping those around her healthier than they would have been had she not been there.

I think fiction is all about making the implausible palatable for the reader. Authors need to expand their horizons to create circumstances that will make their stories unique for their audience. As readers, we also need to be able to suspend our disbelief at times to see where the stories will take us. So, fictitious life will always be full of “convenient” occurrences. And yes, some will make our eyes roll a little, but it’s all in the name of entertainment 🙂 .

What situations have you all read that made you say “pul-lease!”? Have there been some “fated” stories that made you squee with how the author made something happen without any eye rolling needed? Do you have a favourite plot contrivance that you never tire of? I’d love to hear!

About Jackie

Jackie is a quirky mom, living in Ontario, Canada. She's a bookkeeper by day and a book lover by night. She also blogs at The Novel Nation and writes occasionally for Heroes and Heartbreakers.

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  • blodeuedd April 11, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    haha falconry, yeah right!

  • Sheree April 11, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    Hey, I really was into falconry when I was a young teen – until I realized that no way would anyone allow a falcon to live in New York City (there are all sorts of rules about that).

    I’m not too thrilled with the “fated” thing, even in PNR, but I would overlook it for a good story.

    My favorite trope is the “idiotic younger brother” whose antics bring the leads together. Two favorites are Loretta Chase’s LORD OF SCOUNDRELS and Teresa Medeiros’ NOBODY’S DARLING – in both it was the heroine’s younger brother who got the book going.

  • Donna @ Bites April 11, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    Great post! I love how you cited actual titles. I know that’s kinda weird but it just reads so well put together!

    One that really jumps to mind is Shelter Me by Harlan Coban (I believe that’s his name). The ending, which I won’t give away, had a service deus ex machina going on that just destroyed the entire story for me. It was okay up until that point but everything shattered with that one element. Most stories have that element of unbelievability but for the most part it can be looked over. It’s when the author goes really overboard that it ruins the story for me.

  • Stella April 12, 2012 at 5:05 am

    Fantastic post Jackie!! And I agree with everything you have written. I passionately HATE love at first sight or being in love after a couple hours of the h/h meeting each other, really pushes my buttons. If I make an effort I can accept the “we were meant to be” in paranormal stories where things work differently and mate recognize each other on some subconscious level (but my favourite is that even they “know” they have found their halves they still want to get to know the other and at least try to decide whether they want to give in to this supernatural urge). But in historical or contemporary romance this predestined to love each other thing drives me crazy!

    I agree that Claire’s training came in handy, but at least that bit was believable and not too far fetched, but heroines who are a connaisseur in some rare field and then time travel or encounter a hero from there make me raise my eyebrows too much.

    And yes, was a great idea that you gave us specific examples with the above mentioned books. Thank you! 🙂

  • draconismoi April 12, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    Have you read Shatter Me? There is a particularly convenient plot device in there that the author attempts to cover up with a sardonic child openly stating, “well it’s that CONVENIENT.” Because meta makes the problem go away.

  • aurian April 13, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Lol, you sure are suspicious. How about a coïncidence in real life? If I had not ordered a taxi home for two days in a row, and got the same chauffeur both times, I would not have liked him, and would not be living together with him. Meeting him twice gave us more time together, and made me invite him over for coffee. Something I really never do with a stranger, but, well, there was something.

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