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!