Contrivance vs. miracle

tamrawilson Uncategorized

The phone rings when you’re thinking of that very caller.

A random airline passenger used to live in your neighborhood.

A cloud formation gives an awesome signal to those attending a funeral.

Coincidence, miracle or Godwink, they never cease to amaze. We’re eager to share such anecdotes. The world may be large, we say, but it’s also very small.

Meet anyone randomly and strike up a conversation. chances are that you will find some amazing commonality–you attended the same school, you belong to the same organization, you know the same people. That hunger to find common ground, human connection–even with strangers–fills a basic need: to belong.

Read about such things in memoir or essay, and we’re awestruck at how life can offer such connections. Read about them in fiction and we call the events contrived. The old saying “Life doesn’t makes sense but fiction must” is so true. It behooves the fiction writer to avoid such unbelievability because it will call attention to itself–cause the reader to say, “No way.” Such noise detracts from our suspension of disbelief–the magical zone we inhabit while reading a piece of well-crafted fiction. We forget ourselves and the fact that we are reading words on a page. We have entered the fictional world the author wishes to convey. We resent anything that kills the spell.

“Real” stories (memoir, essay) are approached differently. We know the material is factual, so we’re willing to take the leap with the writer who’s saying, “You may not believe this, but here’s what really happened.”

So what happens when the truly amazing happens? As a fiction writer I know such material probably won’t work in a story, but it could make a stunning non-fiction piece. Case in point, the “O” cloud formation that watched over my Aunt O’s final journey to the family cemetery. How long to cloud formations last? This one stayed put at least thirty minutes, well past completion of the graveside service and clearly visible to mourners at that particular cemetery at that particular time. What are the odds?

We see notice such things when we’re vulnerable and want to find a “sign.” I contend that such signs are around us every day; we’re too busy and self-absorbed to notice.