Is this believable?

Question: In my story, my character needs to accidentally end up in the wrong place. I know that writers should never allow anything to happen purely by coincidence or just because they "need" it to happen so I'd like to make sure my thoughts do not fall in either of these categories. Would it be believable for my character to end up lost because another character simply misheard him when he asked for directions?

Answer: It all depends on how you use this accident.

Chance encounters, accidents, etc. certainly are allowed in fiction, because they are part of everyone's experience in the real world. (For example, there's a popular Agatha Christie novel that hinges on just such an chance event.)

Chance can also be a theme to be explored in fiction. For instance, if you were writing a story that explored whether chance or intention played a bigger role in determining destiny.

What readers object to is when they feel a writer uses a chance event to solve a plot problem (usually at the climax) in a way that seems obviously out of step with the rest of the story.

The resolution of your plot should seem both surprising and yet, in hindsight, make perfect sense of what has gone before. You want your reader to see that it all makes sense, not be thinking that the solution came out of nowhere.

To put it another way, a random event can often be a good way to begin a story. It can be the thing that pushes the character out of his current life and sets him on the journey.

On the other hand, at the climax of the story, it is the main character's decision that should determine the outcome of the story. If instead the outcome is determined by a random event, the effect would be to render the character's inner conflict totally meaningless and create a very unsatisfying ending.

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