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Monday, 28 June 2010

Terrible Twins

I am always intrigued by exceptions to rules and discovered one at the weekend. The guidelines for writers, particularly writers of magazine fiction, steer us clear of clichéd, well-worn story-lines, such as tampering with car brakes or mysterious behaviour turning out to be connected with a surprise party rather than an affair etc.. They also state that narrators shouldn't be animals and that anything to do with twins should be avoided.

I went to the theatre to see Blood Brothers on Saturday and the story hinges completely on twin-ship. You probably all know it, but the story concerns the separation of twins at birth. Their mother is poor, already has a brood of children, and has been abandoned by her husband. She cleans the house of a wealthy childless wife, desperate for a baby of her own. This woman talks the poor mother into giving up one twin. As their lives unfold, they meet and become blood brothers, unaware of their true relationship. Their lives run on different tracks with tragic consequences.

I loved the performance and enjoyed the story-line. I felt truly moved at the end. It made me wonder about clichés. I guess it's a case of giving them your own voice or a unique twist. Then you might have an exception to the guidelines/rules. Sometimes I dismiss ideas for stories because they seem a bit 'used'. Sometimes I receive rejection letters that state my theme was an old one and therefore of no interest. It can be hard to decide what is a cliché and what isn't. And if you think it might be one, you sometimes feel you've put a different spin on it. In which case, you should give it a try. It might be as successful as Blood Brothers one day.

And maybe it's Blood Brothers that began the twin-cliché in the first place. That's why they can get away with it and I can't. That's perhaps why they aren't a cliché. It's a shame because I often think about stories with twins and then have to discard them. I can recall a film about twins, in which Bette Davis played both parts. The twins were very different in personality and hair-do. It may have been a clichéd film, of course. But who decides?

8 comments:

  1. Twins have always fascinated me. My mum lost my twin and I've always felt a part of me was missing.
    I think Bette Davis played twins more than once didn't she? The one I most remember is where her twin drowns and she takes over her identity. Fantastic film!
    I've never really understood why twin stories should be avoided unless they get too many of them.

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  2. I'm sure you're right about Bette Davis. I think the film was called A Stolen Life and it was brilliant. I could just watch it right now! She is my favourite actress ever. Twins are intriguing. I can imagine how it must feel that part of you is missing and you will always wonder about that lost person and how different life would have been. As a child, I always wished I had a twin. I was quite an introverted, odd child and I probably thought a twin would have understood me more than anyone else in the world.

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  3. She's one of my favourites too, Joanna.

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  4. I've never seen Blood Brothers but I love that song from it 'Tell Me It's Not True'. I'd really like to see the show some day.

    And isn't there some theory about there being only 7 basic plots, with every story a variation on those themes? So it's not surprising if fiction editors feel like they've read similar things over and over. But you're right that you can still find new angles, and hopefully your own individual voice will make your story stand out.

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  5. I agree, Joanne. It's your own voice that's important and that's probably one reason why writing is such an enjoyable challenge, It's so good when it works well and you feel your particular angle on a theme has refreshed it.

    'Tell Me It's Not True' was one of the best songs, but they are all good and the show is brilliant.

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  6. I recently saw Blood Brothers for the first time (the touring show with Lynne Paul) and it was stunning. And I cried buckets at the end.

    XX

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  7. Me too, Suzanne. And Lyn Paul was crying too!

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  8. Whoops, spelt Lyn's name wrong (I have a friend Lynne and I just went with that).

    XX

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