Tuesday, April 29, 2014

On Coincidences

"The universe is rarely so lazy." That's what Sherlock Holmes says about coincidences, at least in the BBC show "Sherlock". Not sure if it's a classic Sherlock quote or not, but it gives you something to think about. But sometimes, there are things that you just can't explain, strange coincidences that defy reason because they don't involve anyone else but you and your mind.

When writers talk about characters and books, we can get whimsical.

"A writer is someone who has taught their mind to misbehave." - Oscar Wilde
"When you start writing, the magic comes when the characters seem to take on a life of their own and write the words themselves." - Alice Hoffman
"Writers aren't exactly people. They're a whole bunch of people trying to be one person." - F. Scott Fitzgerald

We end up talking like the worlds in our minds, our characters, our settings are real and we're just telling stories someone else is telling us from some other plane of existance. When we get stuck, it's our characters not doing what we want them to do. And then there's the idea of a muse, some non-physical entity that's the source of our inspiration, someone who can leave us at the drop of a hat if we're not paying them enough attention or listening to them. It's all silly, isn't it? When it all comes down to it, it's just us, sitting there in front of a computer or a notebook or typewriter.

Isn't it?

The universe is rarely so lazy. So why did I, alone, make a modern immortal based on Morgan le Fay and set her birthdate 12 years before the first mention of her name in fiction (1150AD)? I don't know the King Arthur legends, the era they spawned from, and yet I decided my Morgan was 874 years old, pinning her date of birth right on the metaphorical donkey's bum. I didn't realize the coincidence until after the charcter was set in stone.

Why did I, alone, name my hero and my villain for my Atlantis story the exact same names as Abraham's sons from the Bible? I like biblical references in my writing, but I will not claim to know the Bible beyond the basic stories. And yet, I named my main character Isaac after Newton and Asimov, and my villain Ishmael, for the hero of Moby Dick, completely unaware that these were the same names as the sons of the first patriarch of the Old Testament.

The universe is rarely so lazy, so how can you explain coincidences like these? Is there something in the idea that characters and muses are different people from us, with different knowledge than us, using us as a conduit to tell stories? No, that's crazy. The universe is rarely so lazy, but "rarely" and "never" are hardly the same. Still, funny little thought, isn't it?

Have you ever encountered strange coincidences in your reading or writing?

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