Serendipity in Writing a Novel


Serendipity does not come from Latin or Greek, but rather was created by a British nobleman in the mid 1700s from an ancient Persian fairy tale. The meaning of the word, good luck in finding valuable things unintentionally, refers to the fairy tale characters who were always making discoveries through chance.  I would like to do more research on the word Serendipity.

While I’ve written about the magic of serendipity in the past I was recently asked what sparks an idea for a novel. Serendipity is a powerful and mysterious happening that leads you in one direction like the flight of an arrow to its target: an advertisement, overhearing a conversation, something you read, a place you unexpectedly visit.  It’s something to be aware of. For my novel Castle of Dreams it was an unexpected visit to the ruins of a castle in the far north Queensland rainforest. It was discovering during my research into the American military presence in WW2 Brisbane that Australian and American servicemen went out to the castle every Saturday night to dance with their Cairns and Innisfail girlfriends under the silver glitter ball in the ballroom. I started to write and had to keep writing  it was if a door to the past had opened and if my characters had walked in through my front door I’d have known them immediately. All the young women and men who came out to the castle would have passed away by now, all but forgotten. Those nights when they danced in the glittering ballroom have left no trace on the present day but if you listen with your heart you will be with them.

The ruins of the castle in my story are now a tourist attraction called Paronella Park.

I am researching a new novel, Bright Spirit, and serendipity is at work again.  I cannot walk past a second hand bookshop without going in and recently I found a copy of a book that was written by a person who lived and worked in the remote area where my story is set. In the course of my research I would probably have come across this book but it might have been in many months time and so not as useful as it is now.  

Bright Spirit will not be a dual timeline novel like Castle of Dreams, much as I enjoyed writing Castle of Dreams I am tired of dusty attics, grandmothers with hidden pasts and secrets waiting to be discovered, and people (mainly granddaughters) in the present just waiting to discover them. Hopefully an author might come up with a fresh take on the genre that has flooded the market in recent years. 

Serendipity is the moment you know the bliss of having followed your heart and you have trusted your intuition and had faith in the unknown. To write a novel  is like being a puzzle maker and with the help of serendipity the pieces are put together to make a whole.

Happy Writing, 



Filed under What Elise Wrote

2 responses to “Serendipity in Writing a Novel

  1. Bianca

    I wait with anticipation to see where serendipity will lead/take your readers to this time. Down which path will you guide and invite us to discover the world through the eyes of your engaging characters. Bright Spirit will be worth the wait, Elise.


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