Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Matrix- Life Imitating Art

Reading Wendy Gager’s post about the similarities between her latest Mitch Malone novel, A Case of the Accidental Intersection, and something that happened in real life, I felt the need to share my own experience while working on Jambalaya Justice.

While some people may call such things coincidences, I call them Matrix experiences. These are those times where you mention something or someone, and then suddenly the thing happens or the person calls. This happens a lot in our house. For instance, one time I said something like, “Our health insurance deductible is so high Blue Cross will never pay for anything," and the next thing you know, I’m in a wreck and I meet my deductible, and the insurance company ends up paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for my medical bills. That’s a true story, by the way. Not a fun story, but a true one.

This type of thing happens so much my husband gets mad if I say something bad is NOT going to happen, because inevitably it will.

The same happens with people. Out of the blue I’ll suddenly remember a friend from sixth grade and wonder what she's doing, and the next thing I know she friends me on Facebook. I have not yet found a way to control this, such as getting the Powerball numbers or having some big production company buy the rights to my book. In fact, many times these things end up negatively for me.

For instance, three of these Matrix things happened while working on Jambalaya Justice.

Without giving away too much of the plot, there is a part of the novel where three prosecutors go undercover as prostitutes to catch a murderer. There are real cases in our jurisdiction where female prosecutors have served such a function to catch johns, but it’s not really a common occurrence.

Imagine my surprise as I was reading posts on DorothyL and I saw that on a new cop show, Rookie Blue, the rookies were posing as prostitutes in a sting. The part that really drew my attention was that some of the DorothyL posters felt that it was unbelievable, that something like that would never happen. This had me a little concerned, because I don’t want to write something people won’t believe, and I definitely don’t want to write something that looks like I stole it from a television show. I finally decided to break down and watch the episode on my laptop, and it was actually quite good, and, fortunately, not anything near my plot line. Also fortunately, the follow up comments on DorothyL revealed that most of the posters did believe that kind of thing happens. So now not only do I feel I went in the right direction with my story, I also have a new favorite t.v. show to boot.

A second Matrix occurrence happened recently that is almost identical to something that happens in the book, but I can’t say too much about it or I’ll end up giving away my villain’s identity. In any event, a man in southeast Louisiana who is very similar to my murderer was caught committing a crime that is the same as one of the crimes my murderer is also committing, and actually the catalyst for his murders. While the underlying crime is pretty small potatoes here as crimes go, it was interesting to me that I wrote about it and the exact scenario played out in one of the podunk parishes nearby. Luckily, it wasn’t big news, but I couldn’t help but think how it could look like I copied the situation from real life when I actually wrote about it a long time ago.

The final Matrix moment was another event from my book that came true. In another country parish in southeast Louisiana, two old men, one the prosecutor and the other the public defender, got in a fist fight after one of them, in the heat of an argument, said something about the other one’s mother. It was something to the effect of the public defender saying, “John, you’re so stupid you wouldn’t know an innocent man if he bit you on the ass,” to which the prosecutor replied, “That ain’t what ya mama said last night, Vern.” They then went to blows, which ended with the judge reprimanding them both, throwing them in jail for contempt, and both being sanctioned by the Bar. The judge did tell the prosecutor he was inclined to let the public defender off the hook, ‘cause you know you can’t be talking ‘bout nobody’s mama and not be expecting to get your butt whooped.

I took out my scene, because (1) my version paled in comparison to this true story, and (2) despite it being completely true, I can’t imagine anyone would believe it. Even in New Orleans. I also ended up making other changes to the story that took away the original purpose of the scene, so I would have ended up cutting it anyway.

So with the Matrix firmly in place, I’m thinking I should now write about a female character who loses weight by eating pie, wins the Powerball, and develops the superpower to zap slow drivers out of her way on the interstate. Except just my luck it would come true for that girl I remember in sixth grade who found me on Facebook instead of to me.

I am going back to writing Jambalaya Justice now, before something else I wrote about in it comes true and I have to change it.

Holli Castillo
Gumbo Justice


Kit Sloane said...

Life imitates art or vice versa and all that. The coincidences are always going to occur and surprise us, but they shouldn't unless we're writing science fiction or far out fantasy. Most of us here are writing "lifelike" scenarios with, hopefully, realistic characters. Our stories may be fiction, but they'll be better stories when they're believable and "imitate life"!


Hold my hand: a social worker's blog said...

Oh I just loved reading your post. How interesting the similarities to real life. That's actually the type of stories I prefer. I need to catch up with your other posts. What a great blog.

By the way, thanks for stopping by, and following.
Doris Plaster, a social worker's blog

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

This was so funny, Holli. Nothing like that has happened to me, thank goodness, especially the accident part. (Which you're right, wasn't funny at all.) Life does imitate are like Kit said and the other way around. I borrow a lot from what goes on in real life.


beverly said...

These "coincidences" have happened often to me, even with short stories I've written. In fact, often when I've invented a happening and used it in a story, the happening then occurs in my life. One of the most recent examples deals with a character. I invented a woman named Lorraine for my novel, "In Franklin's House." After the manuscript was completed, I met the real Lorraine.

WS Gager said...

Holli: I miss you so much. I wish we were closer, geographically! I was laughing my X$#$# off reading about the Judge. I knew one like that who always believed the punishment should fit the crime. Have great memories of sentencings. Karma is a strange thing. I often think of things and then they hapen but no lotto winner yet! KEEP WRITING! CAN'T WAIT FOR some Jambalaya Justice!