I recently finished reading The Miles Between by the lovely and talented Mary E. Pearson, who was kind enough to make an appearance in Emily Wing Smith’s workshop class at Waterford last month. She mentioned the trickiness of writing a book that is all about coincidence when coincidence isn’t “supposed” to happen in fiction.
Mary, the book rang true for me! Especially the following scene, when the main characters are sitting around the breakfast table at their boarding school.
Read the scene and then tell me: who are your favorite foils in fiction—the calculating characters and the easygoing ones? The connecting characters and the distant ones?
The room dims. I think I am the only one to notice. And then it lightens again, like a cloud has passed the sun. For a brief moment everyone is frozen in time, like the sculptures that decorate the garden, and I look at each one, wondering at how easily their lives are intersected by simple things beyond their control, like wind and clouds and people.
“Aren’t you going to ask where Seth is, Des?” Mira asks.
Seth is new this year, and just because I happened to notice him when he first arrived and made a comment about his scruffy blond hair, Mira seems to think I have an interest in him. Which I don’t, of course, because that would break my number-one rule: Don’t get attached. But I can’t stop observing. It is my habit, always on the outside, looking at the armor others clothe themselves with, comparing their natures with my own, trying to imagine how they got that way and understand why circumstances crowd into one life and not another. Seth is connection to my distance, smiles and easiness to my everyday calculations, and I wonder at the divergent paths that have created us. But I don’t wonder overly much. I find his smoothness impossibly annoying, and I don’t really care where he is, but Mira still watches me, waiting for a response.
“All right, Mira,” I sigh. “Where’s Seth?”