Embracing Chaos — Or Not

Everything happens for a reason. Well, it seems to in most fiction. The role that chaos plays in real life is often absent from popular genres. The chance encounters and equally weird missed connections that are part of life — at least my life — are often replaced with the concept that everything happens for a reason.

People come into your life at a particular time and in a specific manner to “teach” you a lesson and the characters with faith in the wisdom of the universe prevail over those who maintain that there is an unpredictable, illogical, completely chaotic side to existence. I see this over and over again in all genres and have often wondered why more authors don’t embrace chaos. Is it because crafting a message is an irresistible temptation? Is it because authors want to create a comprehensible universe in words when the real one is out-of-control?

I’m not sure.

What I do know is that by allowing for chaos in my stories, I’ve opened up the possibility that things happen without deep meaning. This has transformed the thoughts of my characters and exposed how we all look for meaning and patterns, even where there are none.

Right now, I’m contemplating the “final act” (last 50 pages) of my novel-in-progress first draft. This is where everybody finds out everything — or close to everything. And the confusions that come from individual perceptions are revealed — sort of…. Like in real life, the characters can imagine what the dead characters thought, but can never entirely know the truth. The survivors can embrace not knowing or tell themselves stories about why it all happened as it did.

I want the ending to be satisfying for the reader, but not to be an easy answer to questions that have no real answers. Embracing chaos is a tricky business.



  1. Personally, I like a little chaos. Sometimes I feel like the Heath Ledger version of the Joker, chaos for the sake of chaos. It isn’t an easy way to live but it can lead to some strange experiences in the world around you.

    Of course, that makes it all seem odd when you consider the OCD side of my personality and the strange quirks that come into play because of it.

    To play even more on my geeky predilections we seek the wisdom of the Jedi. There is no coincidence in the force. The force guides and teaches so all things happen for a reason.

    • Candy Korman

      So funny… you enjoy chaos but want the Force to guide us with purpose. I think you’ve summed up the human condition. We are creatures of contrast and contradictions. Because, unlike my cat who is enjoying the morning sunshine with no thought to the thunderstorms predicted later in the day, we see big patterns and understand causes and consequences, we WANT to see a big pattern that controls what appears to be coincidence. We want reason and yet the ride is fun with some chaotic, anarchic energy. Yes?

  2. Imposing order on the world is a survival mechanism. If we could truly see the chaos of the real world, we’d never be able to do anything. We’d literally be frozen with fear. So ‘order’ gives us the ability to act, which in turn gives us the illusion of control, which keeps terror at bay. And while most adults know the world is a much wilder place than it appears, they rarely like to be reminded of it, at least not overtly.

    I’m not sure I can ’embrace chaos’, but I do try and see the value of it in a Pollyanna sort of way. 🙂

    • Candy Korman

      I’m trying to embrace it. I’m not sure that I’ve succeeded, but… I’m trying.

      Chaos & chance influence outcomes as much, if not more, than our careful plans. I think it’s part of human nature to see patterns — plans, schemes, consequences — in the muddle of chaos in which we live. We WANT to see messages from the universe and we want it all to make sense. But often, life does not. The narrator in my novel-in-progress sees an omen in a coincidence early in the novel, by the end of the novel I hope to communicate that the pattern is an illusion and that reality (even in fiction) is fickle and confusing. I hope it works!