Coincidence in Real Life, A Writer’s Best Friend (post by Anna)

Coincidence in Real Life, A Writer’s Best Friend (post by Anna)

Posted by on Aug 8, 2016 in Anna's Posts, Behind the Book, Writer's Life | 22 comments

In fiction, coincidences can potentially wreck the suspension of disbelief writers aim for in stories. But in a real life, sometimes coincidences lead to unexpected benefits for a writer—and I’ve experienced this more than once, just in the past year. Last September, in my first ever blog post on Spunk & Hunks, I shared the surprising story of how I bought a used book about Scottish history only to find my first name inscribed in it by a previous owner, whom I had never met. Not long after that, I started writing Dangerous in a Kilt, my contemporary romance featuring a Scottish hero.

One of the first things I do when I begin a new story is select names for the characters. Sometimes, a name pops to mind as soon as I conceive the character, but most of the time I peruse my favorite sources for names to choose one that either has a specific meaning or that just sounds right to me. For the heroine of Dangerous in a Kilt, I consulted The Writer’s Digest Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherrilyn Kenyon, one of my all-time favorites. The book lists the name Erica as meaning “forever strong,” which suited the character well, and I also liked the sound of the name. My gut told me this was the perfect moniker for my heroine.

When I wrote the pivotal first love scene in the book, I wanted it to involve more than just hot sex. Erica and Lachlan needed to have a tentative emotional connection too, and for the relationship-shy Lachlan, that meant his fledgling feelings for Erica needed to be revealed through his actions. I came up with an extended seduction sequence, in which Lachlan gives her a virtual tour of Scotland through photographs and a box full of native plants. I knew I had to include heather, the best-known Scottish flower, but there are multiple varieties of heather—and I wanted to include other plants as well.

Bell heather. Photo courtesy of Anne Burgess, via Wikimedia Commons

Bell heather. Photo courtesy of Anne Burgess, via Wikimedia Commons.

I tracked down websites that listed native plants in Scotland, with photos and Latin names for them. I wound up choosing bell heather, for its delicate, bell-shaped blossoms. While reading the information about the various types of heather, I was amazed at one fact. The root Latin name for heather is Erica. The species name for bell heather is Erica cinerea.

Now I swear I had never read the Latin name for heather before. I didn’t go looking for the Latin name either, but happened upon it while researching Scottish flora. Through a strange coincidence, I named my heroine Erica, which is also the Latin name for the most iconic Scottish flower. This coincidence surprised me, but it also inspired me. I’d originally had Lachlan simply showing Erica the flowers. Armed with this new information, I rewrote one portion of the seduction scene to have him explaining he chose the flower because of its Latin name—her name—and then he tells her she’s a “bonnie wee flower” in her own right.

A coincidence in real life enhanced a fictional scene, and proved coincidence isn’t always a bad thing for a writer. It can become a writer’s best friend.

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