Does a good crime plot always have to rely on coincidence?
The plotting of my books is the process I enjoy the most. My ideas are always carefully recorded in notebooks first. I try to keep one notebook for each novel, but sometimes I will have separate notes for research and story/characters. I would recommend keeping these as I refer back to them a lot. Even when penning future instalments. They can also be useful if you have any intellectual property issues further down the line.
As the structure of your mystery novel begins to take shape, you may be faced with a dilemma. You want the story to be convincing to your audience, but are also aware that to have a gripping narrative there will have to be connections between each of your plot lines and, dare I say it, certain coincidences have to occur in order for the piece to hold together. I found this was particularly the case in my fifth novel, Memorial for the Dead, which I also happen to believe contains the best of all my plots.
Try not to be overly concerned by the use of coincidence in your writing. Every single murder mystery, be it a novel, short story, or television script needs to rely on this type of literary conceit. In fact, I find that coincidences happen really quite often in real life as well. Usually, it is not caused by anything sinister or supernatural, but is simply a result of it being, in many ways, a small world. For example, you may be temporarily stunned when you bump into someone you once worked with in London ten years ago on a busy street in Sydney. Actually, it’s not really so surprising. Londoners travelling abroad tend to go to the same kinds of places. We all use the same travel guides and consult the same travel websites. It’s no wonder we end up in the exact same locations on holiday. So don’t become too alarmed about using the literary coincidence in your writing. In fact, the way you weave it into the plot can often add an interesting dimension to the story.
Your readers will be happy to follow where you lead them, because we all understand the old adage that there are never more than six degrees of separation between us. So don’t allow your imagination to be curtailed. Your plot can take you wherever you want to go.