Luck, chance and skill
The control we have over life is dependent upon luck, chance,
and skill. In any given circumstance these will determine the
outcome of the event, and they are the elements that give stories credibility
when used well. We know that however well we make a plan, there is always
something we overlook, or didn't anticipate happening. In many cases the
events are unpredictable.
The simplest way to define these elements is by example. Supposing you
had a dartboard and a barrel of darts with half the darts being sharp
and half blunt. Now you put your hand in the barrel and choose
a dart without looking, then there is an equal chance of it being
sharp or blunt. If the dart is sharp then you have been in luck.
If you then throw the dart at the board, the score you get will be the
effect of your skill.
So, chance is a purely mathematical description. Luck is the extent that
chance favours you or not (good or bad luck), and skill is the control
In every story these three elements play a part; and how relevant they
are depends upon the nature of the story. Taking well known characters,
we can see what part luck, chance, and skill plays in the stories:
His approach is to eliminate chance and luck, and depend entirely on skill
to solve the crimes he works on.
Though he has enough skills to get him out of problems, chance and luck
come into it as well. The baddies he meets are always worse shots than
he is, and ladies who start out being against him will end up being with
She was lucky in having a Fairy godmother. It was not chance, or skill
on her part. It is not clear from the story whether Cinderella was aware
that she actually had a Fairy godmother until she arrived.
He was lucky to be alive when he was washed up on the desert island, as
all his shipmates had perished. It might also have been due to luck and
skill in being able to get off the ship in time.
As it was his wicked Uncle who knew about the magic lamp, then chance
played a big part. Aladdin was also lucky in being able to get control
of the lamp in spite of his Uncle's attempt to retrieve it.
Captain Ahab was skilled in being able to track down Moby Dick after several
years. He was also lucky because the whale might have died or been killed
in the mean time. But then Captain Ahab was unlucky in getting killed
himself when chasing after Moby Dick.
Red Riding Hood
It may have been chance that she met the wolf in the woods, though he
might have been spying on her and planned the meeting beforehand. She
was lucky that he didn't eat her immediately. She was also lucky that
there was a passing woodsman when the wolf did try to eat her. She had
no skills at all that would have helped her.
Jack and the Beanstalk
He went to market to sell a cow, but exchanged the cow for some beans.
We don't know why he did this, but it must have been a chance meeting,
and he was lucky in getting some beans that were magical, as he appears
to be not too bright otherwise.
The Princess has been confined to a room to turn straw into gold. It is
chance and luck that she hears of Rumplestiltskin who can do this and
help her. Rumplestiltskin is unlucky in that the Princess discovers his
name, and so he loses his claim on her child.
Here are three brief story outlines that depend on the factors of luck,
chance, and skill:
Girl singer is very attractive and successful. She is in a car
crash and is scarred and unable to perform due to this, but still
able to sing. She becomes a recluse. One day she saves a blind man
from getting knocked over. She discovers he is a successful musician.
They fall in love. He is unaware of her scars and appreciates her
musical talents. She has been lucky. Happy ending. In this case
the aspect of luck is the story.
Girl singer is talented but not getting the breaks. She continually
applies for jobs but nothing much comes up. When in a show the lead
singer is suddenly taken ill. She is given the chance to perform.
She does, and is a success. Her chance has paid off. In this case
we know that by putting herself continually in the situation where
she is available she has increased her chances. This is
typically how most people in the theatre get work.
Girl singer is reasonably talented but not great. She realises
her limitations and instead of relying on singing alone decides
to learn dancing, acting, and theatre skills so that singing becomes
part of her repertoire instead of the only talent. She becomes successful
because of her versatility. Her skill has paid off. Getting
on by increasing one's skills is the normal way of improving
Luck plays an important part in life. If you go in for a lottery there
is no skill involved at all. Your chance of winning is mathematically
fixed to the number of tickets sold. If you win then you are lucky. Now
supposing you win the big prize, the story is then how it changes your
life. There are of course born winners and born losers. Mickey Mouse is
a born winner while Donald Duck is a born loser. A born winner will accidentally
crash his car into a bank robbers getaway car, and be both a hero and
get a reward. A born loser will accidentally crash his car into the police
car chasing the robbers, and be jailed for bad driving.