Life Imitating Something

I’ve got to tell you something strange about my accident. You’ll think I’m making it up but I promise you, I swear to you that I’m not.

I’ve written this novel for NaNoWriMo called Driftwood. It’s about a girl who drifts through life, trying to find her place, make sense of things, bit of existential angst blah blah blah.

It all sounds a bit arty farty and annoying I know but there is a bit more to the story than that – she meets someone who helps her find meaning in her life. There is a bit of romance tied in to the novel which is a departure for me but sometimes you’ve just got to go with what pops into your head.

Anyhoo, this is the weird bit. The girl has attempted suicide several times. Now get this – you won’t believe it. The novel opens with her falling off a wall trying to rescue a cat. She doesn’t injure herself seriously but does end up in the psych unit due to her former history of attempting suicide. The doctors thought she was trying to kill herself by jumping off a wall.

I thought of this scene two weeks before NaNoWriMo started and I wrote it a week before I had the accident where I also fell off a wall. (Don’t worry, I wasn’t thinking of ending it all and interestingly enough, neither was my character….) Is it a coincedence? Was I dwelling on how the scene played out in a subconscious sense and ended up acting it out for real? Did I momentarily become my character? Is it a case of life imitating maybe not art but something just as metaphysical? I can’t shake the feeling of how weird it is. Thank God I cut the scenes where my character fell into a vat of acid or was ripped apart by hyenas. I’m not sure how well I would have recovered from that.

I’ve spoken to a couple of writers and an actor who say that they often become like their characters. One of the writers told me that she wrote a character who was obsessed with having neat hair and spent hours in the morning doing her hair. The character’s obsession with styling hair was part of the narrative. This writer who ordinarily has quite unkempt hair suddenly started doing her hair very carefully and neatly. I remember it at the time and did think it was a trifle strange.

The actor I know played someone who cried all the time. He said he found it hard to control his tears until the role had ended. It was almost as if he was inhabiting the mindset of his character and couldn’t process emotion the way he normally would but processed it the way the character did.

I’ve heard of this kind of thing many times before. Method actors who become the character they are playing and are either insufferable or delightful while the role is going on. It’s an odd thing.

If inhabiting the world of a character is part of the process of writing then I’ve got some editing to do. That book I started about an alien invasion is out. I really can’t handle the anal probe scene. And that screenplay I was considering full of explosions and car chases might have to be deleted as well. I’m not sure I’ll survive a head on collision with a monster truck even if the male character who is a combination of Bruce Willis and Will Smith is on his way to rescue me.

If life dies imitate something like art then I want it to imitate something good. Like love stories, sunshine-filled days and lots of happy endings. I could also probably throw in a bag full of diamonds without too much damage. But most of all I want my life to imitate a scene – a well-constructed, impossible to misinterpret the meaning of scene – where all of the characters present have their feet firmly on the ground.

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34 thoughts on “Life Imitating Something

  1. Oh snap, Selma.

    That’s crazy. I can’t believe you wrote the falling off the wall scene in your book BEFORE it actually happened to you.

    WOW.

    Sometimes, I feel like I am channeling certain characters in my book – but I don’t want to pick up their habits!

    “If life does imitate something like art then I want it to imitate something good. Like love stories, sunshine-filled days and lots of happy endings. I could also probably throw in a bag full of diamonds without too much damage. But most of all I want my life to imitate a scene – a well-constructed, impossible to misinterpret the meaning of scene – where all of the characters present have their feet firmly on the ground.”

    AMEN TO THAT.

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    1. That’s it, Meleah. It is a channelling kind of feeling. Maybe it’s because we think about the characters so much that we can’t help but become a little like them. From now on all my characters are going to be rich, gorgeous and possibly superheroes. How can I go wrong with that? πŸ˜†

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  2. I forget to tell y’all that when I was in hospital they asked the usual questions – Were you drinking when you fell off the wall? Were you taking drugs? They even asked me if I was depressed. Even though I wasn’t depressed I was so struck by the fact I had fallen off the wall like my character that I almost said YES because she had been depressed when she fell. It was like being in a parallel universe where you have no control over your own actions. Quite bizarre.

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  3. Ooooh twilight zone – warning Selma approaching πŸ™‚ That is totally weird though understandable in a method acting type of way – I am sure people do get caught up in the development of their characters and start to act like them – for sure, makes perfect sense. So start writing that book about the successful novelist who changes the world for the better – hahaha.

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    1. My life feels like an episode from the Twilight Zone at the moment, Gabe. It’s all happenin’. I will definitely do that – the successful novelist who makes the world a better place who also runs a chocolate factory and has a flying car. Hahahaha.

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  4. I’ve only attempted one novel, which I’ve never finished, but my ‘hero’ is an RAF officer who got invalided out, and became a writer!

    (I didn’t get invalided out, though; I ‘went the distance’)

    However, I thought that maybe the climbing instructor, who was an escaping Italian WWII POW, who found a time portal, and finished up 40 years in the future was a bit hard to take! πŸ˜€

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  5. Hello! So amazing that I should get a comment from you tonight as I was just thinking about you today. I didn’t know you had hurt yourself, I’m so sorry to read this. I hope you are healing well. I am glad that while you know of the cruel people in the world, you have also come across the kind ones who have helped you. Sending you lots of good wishes.

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  6. Well, those who believe we co create our reality and that what we observe and pay attention to becomes ‘part of our mix’ – in other words part of our energy field,/ our signal, would say that that there is something in what you say.

    I consciously made an effort when I have taken part in Nanowrimo both times not to write something that I wouldn’t want to be ‘part of my mix’ at least I tried not to make it a major part of my story! I have read lots of authors having uncanny experiences where life imitates art.

    Hmmm, I may write about a lottery winner next year. πŸ™‚

    Hope your leg is getting better. x

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    1. It’s strange, isn’t it, Susannah? I might research this further and write a non-fiction piece about it. A lot of people seem to have experienced similar things. It really makes me wonder. I think I’ll write about a lottery winner too. Hahaha. My leg is feeling a lot better. Cheers!

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  7. I have often heard of actors getting ‘stuck’ in the character they portray. I haven’t heard of writers having a problem, but it is wise to learn to cut yourself off deliberately when the writing time has ended and get back into yourself again. Try as much as you can to separate yourself and your characters. It isn’t easy I know, because you constantly have to put yourself in someone else’s place and think, ‘How would I react?’ etc. Also, Selma, there are quite a number of biblical references if you google ‘guard your thoughts’… Go well and be safe.

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    1. You are so right, Adee. I think it is important to keep that distance. You can be overtaken by writing about dark stuff. It can be a little overwhelming.
      ‘Guard your thoughts’ – I am definitely going to read more on that. Very intriguing.

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  8. that makes sense – getting into your character and their sensibility. I also wrote a couple of things that happened to me after they were written. it’s all very strange but I’ve come to accept that it’s not as a deal a deal anymore. and besides, I always end up writing a happy ending so it’s not half bad.

    hope you are doing well. have a wonderful and sweet holiday.

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  9. just re-read my comment and yet again I missed typing in a word. it’s ‘not as a ‘big’ deal. somehow, I can’t seem to get my fingers to type in what’s in my head. at least not in its complete form. perhaps I need to read my comments more than twice.

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    1. I am making so many typos at the moment, Lissa, it’s very odd. I can totally relate πŸ˜€ Interesting that you’ve experienced something like this too. WOW. I would love to hear about it. Amazing!!

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  10. hahahahaha this makes me laugh selma, this is really brilliant. i think there are lots of reasons stuff like this happens, it may be simple biochemistry i dont know. but i am told when heart infuses thought or action, extraordinary things happen. the dalai lama says that for instance.
    argh but please, given the current susceptibility to suggestion selma, please change “If life dies” last paragraph to “If life does” argh

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    1. I didn’t notice that ‘dies’, Tipota. Sounds like I’m still under the influence. LOL. The ultimate Freudian slip. Or maybe a Jungian slip….
      That is really fascinating about the heart infusing thought or action and extrraordinary things happening. Woah. You have given me a lot to think about!

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  11. Now isn’t that odd eh? I’ve heard of people getting into character but this really is taking it a step further and literally imitating real life.

    I’m not a writer and it must be hard to drag oneself out of character and reenter reality. I think you’re on the right track to write about sunshine and rainbows and happy endings, if shits gonna happen to you let it be the good stuff like meeting Ruby!

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    1. It was a weird thing, Cathy, But then the whole week was weird. You know when you have those weeks where a lot of bad stuff happens and you keep saying – ‘Why is this happening?’ – it was like that.

      I have learned my lesson. Only good stuff from now on….

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  12. Okay, I was not a fan of the novel “The Celestine Prophesy” because I thought the story dragged. But I thought some of the concepts were interesting. Like maybe you should look at this “coincidence” with a critical perspective and think about what it’s telling you. About your character, or even about you. To me it invites alternative ways of looking at things. Yes, I do believe it’s a channeling of sorts… But I’m really glad you’re okay!

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    1. I wasn’t a fan of it, either, Jen, but some of the concepts definitely were interesting. I might go back and read it again even though it was a bit of a chore. You’ve got me wondering about it !!!!

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  13. I’m a boring old rationalist, Selma, so I reckon it’s an author’s preoccupation with getting into the heads of the characters that they’re writing about that gets them acting like them – the mind is pretty powerful, often much more so than we think.

    PS – “sweetness and light” doesn’t sell unless it’s full of humour (or sex) haha πŸ˜€

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    1. I agree with you so much, Bluebee. The mind is an untapped source of power and strength in many ways. We still don’t really fully understand what it can do. As I get older I can see there is much more to it than I understood. It’s fascinating stuff.

      And you’re right – it’s the edgy stuff that sells. I’ll just need to wear a charm to ward off the evil influence of my characters!

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  14. I think I’m gonna do that to myself. I’ll write a story about a guy who gets a million bucks, then gets selected as the king of the nation, find a gorgeous wife who falls head over heels for him, is loved and respected by everyone and lives a long, long life in bliss.
    Contact me in a few days and I’ll tell you if it happens to me! πŸ˜‰

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    1. So did it work??? Hahaha. Actually, it is a good idea for a story. People could buy a program called Real Fiction which makes anything you write come true. Trouble is it comes true with a twist. Could be a really good horror story….

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  15. Okay, so listen to this: lately I’ve had this weird thing happen where I’ll flash on some sort of vision or scene in my head, and it will happen later in real life! Silly things like running into a former boss and introducing him to my current boss – who had taken me to lunch. I don’t know if it’s parallel existences colliding, or an accelleration of manifestation of what you conjure up somewhere in your noggin. I just know it’s reeeally freeeaky!!

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    1. That happens to me too, Steph. It is like a combination of clairvoyance, creative visualisation and just freaky luck. Don’t know how or why it happens but it is fascinating!

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