My brain is full after 4 awesome days at RWA14, but I’m going to try to share the top 14 things I learned in 14 different posts. This is the first.
According to James Scott Bell (who is truly a master when it comes to craft), you should never use coincidences to help your main character. You should only use them to complicate his situation.
What does this mean? It is not okay for your main character to suddenly discover that the key he needs to save the universe just happens to be identical to one that is hanging by his back door. It is okay for him to discover that the key he needs to save the universe just happens to be identical to one that is usually hanging by his back door, but that his brother accidentally took this key with him. On an airplane. To a rainforest. In South America.
Why is this a problem? The first one makes the reader think you are being lazy, while the second makes them think, “What bad luck!”