You Got Lucky, Pal!

As I’ve mentioned before, relying on luck for the main characters in your story can be seen as lazy writing, and yet one of the greatest selling books of all time (The Hobbit) frequently mentions its main character’s extraordinary good luck”.

So what’s a writer to do? How lucky should your main characters be?

It’s okay to utilize a few lucky breaks. Now, there are some purists who might call out any stroke of luck as poor writing, but ignore this. Luck is involved in real life from time to time, so why not in your books? Honestly, never allowing your protagonists to be aided by a strike of good fortune is more unrealistic than the occasional lucky break!

In Her Name Was Abby, the soon-to-be-released sequel to His Name Was Zach, there is a scene where Abby catches a couple of lucky breaks while in a dangerous situation. Could I have tried to plot it out so that there was a rational explanation for every single part of this scene? Sure!

But that’s not how it works in real life. Sometimes you survive a scary incident or encounter by nothing but sheer luck.

That said, I would suggest not using luck as a driving mechanism in the main plot. In the aforementioned scene in my book, it’s not a pivotal part of the main plot line, so I felt like I had some wiggle room in which to work.

Also be wary of utilizing luck too often. At some point there does need to be a plan of some kind, something that is deliberately moving the story along.

Readers, what do you think of god luck in books? Where do you draw the line? And fellow writers, do you utilize luck in your writing or stay away from it? Let me know in the comments!

Published by Peter Martuneac

Marine, Boilermaker, husband and father. I'm here to share my thoughts on all things political or philosophical.

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9 Comments

  1. I’m not a fan of Deus ex machina; besides that, the events that happen as I write work for me. Sometimes that’s a lucky break and other times it’s what’s made sense. As I grow to write better and plot more, I think some ‘lucky breaks’ can be set up with foreshadowing of sorts.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I read another blogger’s book recently. He had a neighbor’s car break down on the road. The protagonist then had to deal with some other characters before they could move the car. A few minutes later, and the other characters tried a quick getaway -only to be blocked by the car. That didn’t feel like luck, even though it was, because I read about the car stalling first.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post, and a fabulous typo at the end too… “god luck”. I absolutely loved Tolkien’s work. My one criticism of it all though is that the characters have so many good luck rescues from the brink of disaster that it looks like they’re just pawns of some divine being that’s moving them around the board.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s definitely a valid complaint, one a lot of people have. But I think it’s to be expected considering Middle-Earth in the big picture. Iluvatar is the Supreme Being of that world and created it all in a story quite similar to the creation story in the Bible. And Gandalf could be considered a kind of Jesus Christ, a savior who came to Earth, dies, then rises again.

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  3. Interesting dialog in the comments that adds even more to the writing wisdom. I think I mentioned last week about the writing workshop we are starting at the cafe in March. Would love for you to share your wisdom!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Excellent points, Peter! I absolutely love LOTR and The Hobbit, but one of the main “literary” criticisms is that there is little character development, especially in The Hobbit. Luck is a plot device, and overuse of plot devices of all kinds, I think, can detract from opportunities to grow the characters intrinsically. I try to balance this in my own writing.

    Excellent discussion! As Stephen said, I hope you bring your thoughts to the Writer’s Workshop I am hosting beginning in March. I would love to have your participation and input!

    Liked by 1 person

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