Should we worry when life starts to imitate art?
I am rapidly reaching the point where the plot of my third novel is lurching into its final phase.
This is the stage at which all the separate strands the writer has been weaving into the storyline, must be brought to their natural conclusion. My latest book begins with an unusual and uniquely earth-shattering event for the protagonists.
So, imagine my surprise when listening to the radio news on Saturday morning and hearing of an unnervingly similar misfortune befalling one of the interviewees. At first, I felt relieved. The event was by no means identical to the one described in my book and I felt immediately happy that it proved my plotline wasn’t overly far-fetched!
Then, later in the day, I began to feel a tad unsettled. All writers draw their inspiration from real life, it would odd if they didn’t. But we like to think that we add a little something special to the usual, run-of-the-mill breakfast news item.
When these off-the-wall events start to occur regularly out in the real world, we begin to worry that something more sinister might be at play – that by writing about it, we have introduced the idea into the universe and this has somehow made it enter into the realms of the possible.
This is superstitious nonsense, of course. Whatever weird and wonderful happenings us writers can come up with in our fevered brains, you can bet your life it has already occurred with bells on at some point in the history of the human race. There is no such thing as a truly original idea.
But it still made me shift about in my swivel chair a little uncomfortably on the following Monday morning, as I wrote a passage about my lead character discovering to her great horror that her daughter had been run over. I almost had to stop myself from writing it.
‘Don’t do it, you’re tempting fate,’ An inner voice was crying out at me.
I’m a rational person. An atheist and a pragmatist. Yet, I can still be lured into thinking that, just occasionally, life can imitate art. I know in my heart of hearts that tragic things happen all the time out there in the world and they don’t have anything to do with me. But those tiny coincidences in life do make you stop and question yourself every so often, and they can even make you believe, for a brief moment, that your power as a writer is far greater than it really is.