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.