Monday, March 03, 2014

Writing, Culture, and the use of coincidences

I'm working on My Life as an Onion, my first attempt at a paranormal chicklit...which is scary. This story has a lot of tropes one would find in Korean Dramas and Japanese shoujo. The funny thing is I began writing it before I really got into Korean Dramas and even "knew" (consciously) that such tropes existed. For those who don't know shoujo, some of the conventions/tropes are:
1) The reverse harem: one girl with three or more guys in love with her.
2) The love dodecahedron: heroine and hero are meant to be the OTP (one-true-pairing) but their friends are their rivals with the second lead male and second lead female trying to break up the OTP. Sometimes the rivals work together to break up the fated/destined couple.
3) The contract marriage/innocent cohabitation: hero and heroine are either contractually-married for the wrong reason or living in a situation which can be seen as marriage
4) The love confession
5) Found family vs biological family
6) In this case my heroine is a dojikko (cute and clumsy but hard-working) and her rival (the second lead female) is a cold ice queen.
7) Hero is "troubled but cute" and "rich aristocratic seemingly cold but really sweet guy" and is a bit of a tsundere (a character who runs hot and cold.) He's also Bishonen, or a "flower boy"..very pretty and basically falls into the category of "Cursed with being awesome."
8) Second lead male is a poor country boy with a heart of gold.
9) Second lead female is for "perfect" for the male lead because of their equal status and second lead female's beauty.
10) The intrusive mother who has a particular woman in mind for her son.
11)  The noona-lover (older girl/younger guy)
12) The pretend/accidental kiss
13) Coincidences.

That's what I want to talk about...coincidences in stories. I'm doing my best to subvert a lot of these tropes. For instance, none of this takes place in a school. But the whole coincidence thing: While I don't like coincidence in stories because it is often the mark of a lazy writer, coincidences play a LARGE part in Korean Dramas. Because of the whole fated/destined/karmic thing. In addition, Christians also acknowledge coincidences --often in the form of answered prayers-- so I'll find a place to put it in the story. But it has to be done in an obvious but non-preachy, non-lazy writer way.

Now, like many Christians, I've had my share of coincidences. So many that I can't even list them. In fact I tend to do my Bible devotionals this morning trusting in coincidence. I just kinda flip my Bible to two or three different sections in the Bible and read. I read about three or four different sections so I'm covered with whatever synchronicity God wants to pop up or use for my day. Today I lay in bed thinking about writing this blog and of course I open the Bible to the scene in Acts where the ethiopian eunuch was reading Isaiah aloud when coincidentally Philip popped up.

A few of the coincidences that have popped up in my life:

1) When I was a kid and going through a crisis of faith and wondered if the Bible was the word of God, I was so depressed I flipped through the pages, not looking. I opened the Bible and put my finger on any old Scripture. My finger landed on: "since you are seeking for proof of the Christ who speaks in me, and who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you." 2 Corinthians 13:3

2) After I'd given birth to my first son, I was sitting on the bed and I heard the Lord say in my spirit, "Rest." I got out of the bed and there was my son playing with Boggle letters on the ground near the foot of my bed. He was about a year old. He had put the letters R-E-S-T in perfect order on the ground.

3) I was once in a car with hubby and I suddenly felt the urge to pray. I prayed, "God, please protect us. Don't let us kill anyone and don't let anyone kill us." Yep, a weird prayer. About a mile down the road..we're driving in a traffic circle, a guy on a bike suddenly skids. His bike flew in one direction and he shot like an arrow in front of our windshield. Hubby's driving skills and my prayer three minutes earlier saved us from hitting the guy.

4) Another time I felt I shouldn't go to work one morning. It felt silly to simply not go to work -- where I was a teaching assistant. I did the old Bible as fortune-teller thing (not recommended but hey) and I got this verse: " go not forth thence any whither." 1 Kings 2:36. So I decided not to go. And what happened? One of my favorite student got into a nasty fight. The cops were even called. Maybe if I had gone, I would've tried to break up the fight and gotten hurt. Or maybe there was something else that might've happened. Either way, I obeyed the coincidence.

5) Then there were all these Korean godwinks I've had.

There have just been a lot. Some of the coincidences I've written about on the net, but some I don't generally think about..because they happen so often. As Archbishop Temple once said, "When you stop praying, coincidences stop happening."

Of course some coincidences guide us. Others just are God telling us he loves us and not really about Him telling us what to do.

Anyways, I have to somehow manage to put coincidences into Onion. And I have to do them well. I can't do them to get out of a plot complication. And I can't make them cheesy. I'll see how God does it...cause I know well enough that I cannot write anything well unless God is helping me. Anyway, I wrote this blogpost because I felt the coincidence with the Philip an the eunuch story made me feel God was telling me to.

Happy Creativity, all!

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