Friday, March 13, 2015

LUCK AND LITERATURE by Jacqueline Seewald

We’ve had a Friday the Thirteenth two months in a row. Traditional superstitious belief holds that this day bodes bad luck. Then there’s the Ides of March soon to come on the 15th and 16th of this month. In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the emperor is warned to “Beware the Ides of March” by the Soothsayer. Julius, not being a superstitious sort of guy and believing the guff about his immortality, sneers and refers to the Soothsayer as “a dreamer.” Not Caesar’s wisest decision.

 It will also soon be St. Patrick’s Day which supposedly brings good luck and fortune. People do at times have lucky things happen to them and at other times suffer misfortunes like ill health, accidents or assaults. However, we authors tend to believe that for the most part we make our own luck.

According to Napoleon: “Luck occurs when preparation meets opportunity.” I apply that statement to authors. We get lucky with our work when we have done adequate preparation—that translates to being well-read, rewriting, and editing until we’ve created something of value and quality. If we’re too lazy or too full of ourselves to make this kind of effort and commitment then alas we’ll never “get lucky.”

Luck is often a theme in literature. For example, Thomas Hardy created characters that were unlucky like Tess or Jude. Yet it could be argued that their bad luck came as a direct result of fatal flaws in their own characters. This is where tragedy derives from. Things don’t just happen. There is a cause and effect relationship.

In my own mystery novel THE BAD WIFE, for instance, police lieutenant Mike Gardener uses poor judgment in declaring publicly to Kim Reynolds, the reluctant sleuth of the series, that he might have to kill his wife.


In THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER, the protagonist has to make a difficult decision. Danna initially appears to be a loser, an unpopular girl, who becomes very lucky—or does she? Should she sell her soul to the devil for earthly benefits or choose the straight path? Choice, exercising free will, is very much part of the Western tradition in literature.


I admire protagonists with positive values who make their own good luck and overcome obstacles through personal effort, not bemoaning their fate or bad luck. To quote Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar again, as Cassius observes: “Our fate, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves.”

Your comments welcome!


Rose Anderson said...

I enjoyed your post!

susan furlong said...

Very insightful post!

Jacqueline Seewald said...


I'm glad you enjoyed the blog. Coming from such an accomplished writer, that is a lovely compliment.

Jacqueline Seewald said...


Thank you for your comment as well. Glad you could stop by!

Betty Gordon said...

Good blog, Jacquie. I agree with the quote from Shakespeare, "Our not in our stars but in ourselves."

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Betty,

It is a great quote, isn't it? Shakespeare said it best.

Patricia Gligor said...

Great post, Jacquie!
I love Napoleon's quote, "Luck occurs when preparation meets opportunity." Words to remember!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Patricia,

Napoleon had some very clever ideas. Pity he got too full of himself, just like the real Julius Caesar. Dictators outsmart themselves.

Nancy Means Wright said...

Very thoughtful blog, Jacquie! I actually wrote a longish comment an hour ago, which inexplicably zoomed off the page while I was negotiating the captcha. all I can say, is BAD LUCK!
So I'll try to click on the captcha again.My luck just comes and goes. Mostly goes.

Susan Oleksiw said...

You're absolutely right about luck requiring preparation. We can't grab an opportunity of we haven't been reading, writing, editing, putting things out there, and reworking and improving. Good post.

Maggie Toussaint said...

Love your post, Jacquie. I'm a great believer in being prepared so that you're ready when luck happens by. There's another saying about making your own luck that's similar to the concepts you've presented.

You almost hate to comment on luck, in case you draw undue attention to yourself! I've made a few observations about luck over the years. First up is some people are luckier than others. I know someone that always gets a parking space up front in a crowded lot. We've all seen instances where we're striving valiantly toward a goal, and making progress, but someone new comes in and zips to the head of the line. Not fair but reality.

Therefore I've concluded two kinds of luck exist. The unfair kind and the hard work kind. May we all share in the bounty of both kinds of luck!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi Nancy,

It's very frustrating when you've written a comment and it vanishes. Yes, that is an example of bad luck.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Susan,

I think that's where some impatient writers go wrong. Serious writing requires effort, the honing of skills. Then perhaps luck will follow.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Maggie,

I love your explanation of the two kinds of luck and believe you're right.

Susan Coryell said...

I will never forget the awful traffic ticket I got during the Ides of March. Took it to court and won but what a "trial." Wardy Spinks, my protag in EAGLEBAIT, seems to have all the worst luck, but he has the moral imperative to turn his life around. Loved your blog--it made me think!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Susan,

Fighting a traffic ticket is hard. Congrats on winning. I loved Wardy as a protag. Eaglebait is is a fine YA novel.

Bonnie Tharp said...

Indeed, luck is usually the result of a lot of hard work. Good post, Jacqui.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Thanks, Bonnie.