It was, in Yogi Berra’s parlance, déjà vu all over again. What writer among us has not been possessed by the story? Who has not felt you were channeling another? Who hasn’t had that slight glimmer of omnipotence? I am a god—at least when it comes to this story I am writing right now.
To back up and give you some perspective on this tale, we watched a movie last night. We are usually behind on movies as we rarely go to theaters, and even though we are movie rental people, we might have our three-at-a-time movies sitting on the shelf by the TV for a couple of months before watching one. Maybe that’s how it happened.
From our rental movie queue, “Stranger Than Fiction” showed up in our mailbox about a month ago. Last night, with little to do since there was no Suns basketball and we were still waiting for the next installment of “The Office” to arrive in the mail from said rental movie queue, we decided to watch this 2006 film.
This post-modern dramedy struck both my funny bone and my writer’s ego.
Wikipedia defines post-modernism this way: Postmodernism is a movement away from the viewpoint of modernism. More specifically it is a tendency in contemporary culture characterized by the problematization of objective truth and inherent suspicion towards global cultural narrative or meta-narrative. It involves the belief that many, if not all, apparent realities are only social constructs, as they are subject to change inherent to time and place. It emphasizes the role of language, power relations, and motivations; in particular it attacks the use of sharp classifications such as male versus female, straight versus gay, white versus black, and imperial versus colonial. Rather, it holds realities to be plural and relative, and dependant on who the interested parties are and what their interests consist in.
In other words, what you think to be real, may well not be. In “Stranger Than Fiction” reclusive and brilliant Emma Thompson is writing her first novel in 10 years and she has writer’s block because she can’t figure out how to kill her protagonist. In her books, she always kills the protagonist.
Will Ferrell begins hearing his life story narrated as Emma Thompson writes her novel, a novel with a character who is identical to him. No one else can hear the story. Various people tell him hearing voices is a sign of mental illness, until he ends up at a literature critical theorist’s office. This professor is the key to figuring out what is going on. No more. Wouldn’t want to spoil it for you.
But my point in writing this post is that I have experienced the same sort of fugue state, if that is what it is in the movie, where I felt my character’s life was revealing itself to me, that I was merely channeling a life already lived. That I, too, was surprised at the twists and turns of my characters. That I had little if any control over the events unraveling beneath my fingers on the keyboard.
I wondered, just for a moment, maybe more, if Carrie from Streetwalker or Lucinda from Lucinda were real. Had I created them? Or did they really exist somewhere? Was it my imagination or their actual lives playing out on the page? Very post-modern musings.