One of the most appealing things about fiction is that a story can take place anywhere. It can occur in a house, or a space ship; on planet earth or in the afterlife. It can be based on an hour-long event or it can spread itself across several generations. The characters can be any creature you like. But however much we let our imaginations run wild, a good story must be believable – at least in human terms. It must appeal to the intellect or our emotions, preferably both. It must be wholly acceptable to the audience even if we ask them to suspend their disbelief about the settings or even the physics of your imaginary universe.
So what makes a ‘believable’ story? Short answer: connectivity. Why? Because connectivity is a given real life. Everything exists just so. Water always freezes at zero degrees. Gravity keeps us safely on the ground. Everything in the universe behaves in tune with everything else. The laws of nature are all inter-connected. And stranger-than-fiction coincidences are abound.
The law of connectivity – or, to use the technical term, reincorporation – is likewise a must in making the parts of your story work cohesively. But not coincidence. In fiction, coincidence – like the cavalry turning up just in time to save the hero – is considered too convenient. Although some writers think it’s okay to have a ‘bad luck’ type of coincidence (say, a car failing to start in a chase scene to prolong the tension), I personally find that kind of coincidence just as overly convenient and off-putting as the other type.
The TV series Doctor Who appeals to so many people because the Doctor is able to connect all sorts of things in his mind – no matter how obscurely – and also because the writers like to make connections to a single main story line in nearly every self-contained episode. Every detective and mystery story also relies heavily on reincorporation.
The more you can connect things in your imaginary universe to each other, the more ordered, in tune – and therefore believable – your story will be. This allows for events to be set up which would otherwise become coincidence. (Foreshadowing – the provision of hints about events at the end of your story – might be considered a form of reincorporation.)
I must admit, connectivity comes to me quite naturally. I applied a similar device – albeit in a different way – in both my non-fiction books. In Systems, almost everything is connected to something else, conceptually or otherwise. For example, early in the story I show that water has a ‘dampening effect’ on the characters’ psychic abilities. For the serial killer (Peter Manner), this dampening effect is a blessing and a way to get away from the energies of countless people he can feel for miles around. For the police officer (Elise Archer), it impedes her work as a psychic aide in police investigations, since she can’t, for instance, sense danger when she’s around water. This minor issue becomes all-important in the climax scene, which occurs at a dam.
Have you got any examples of reincorporation from your own fiction, or from someone else’s?