Spoiler Alert—Pulp Fiction (1994)
Butch, after retrieving his watch, is driving back to the motel while gazing at his good fortune. While at a stop, Marcellus (the guy looking for him) just happens to be crossing the road. They both recognize each other and set into gear the next flurry of events.
Random? Very. Yet random things do happen. Viewers quickly throw away any case on plausibility simply because it was an effective and well-placed means of sparking the next page.
Writers have been using this technique for years—so often introduced in the past with phrases like, “And just like those times when life laughs upon the plans of man, our silence amidst those moments could only be explained as reply to the hand of God delivering us from…” and so on and so forth.
Many times a writer spends countless hours draining themselves for the sake of a bridge between far-fetched collisions; and many times the explanation proves to be a detriment. In Tarantino’s case, it would be spent explaining how and why Marcellus just happened to be crossing the road.
A few more examples would be the films About Time (2013) and Midnight in Paris (2012). No time is spent on elaborating exactly how Tim or Gill can travel through time, no special effects either. Both explanations rest comfortably on the assumption that the audience will accept them for the greater reward of a good story.
Guidelines to Coincidence
1. The observer should be given a healthy threshold of continuity for the coincidence or freak occurrence to be effective.
2. Observe the trajectory of your work and determine whether such a scenario truly fits within the story—unless of course you specialize in the absurd.
4. There are no rules to the story. Disregard the opinion of anyone who disagrees with the ideal of this notion. But, there is always a way to do things better.