Accidents of fate – in real life and in fiction
This month I'm re-running one of my most popular blog posts.
What if your grandfather never met your grandmother? That’s easy – you wouldn’t exist. What if your grandfather died in an accident and your grandmother moved back to where she came from? Then the whole family tree would be uprooted and a different set of relatives would be born… and you wouldn’t exist.
We’re all the product of countless accidents of fate. Or accidents of happenstance, depending on your point of view.
I think of that when I’m writing my novels after reading a wonderful family history a distant cousin wrote of my mother’s family. My great-great-great-grandfather William Parham died when “his head was crushed by the wheel of an ox cart which he was driving. He dropped a rein and when he stepped out on the icy tongue to retrieve it, his foot slipped, allowing him to fall beneath the moving vehicle.” After his death in Mississippi, his widow, Elizabeth, packed up her six children and returned to Georgia to be near her family. And it was in northeast Georgia that, nearly a century later, my mother met my father. If my great-great-great-grandfather hadn’t dropped a rein on that fateful day in 1851, I wouldn’t exist. Along with a whole bunch of other people, including my great-grandfather Jim Parham, shown in the picture with my great-grandmother Elly Parham.
In The Shade Ring if Neave had decided NOT to go on that expedition to Charleston, she would never have met Will Galloway. In The Time Telephone if Megan hadn’t wandered across that field from the cemetery to her mother’s childhood home, she would never have discovered the time telephone. And in VisionSight: a Novel if Jenna hadn’t decided to go ahead with her audition the day after her mother died, she wouldn’t have met Sam and wouldn’t have gotten her big break in theater.
Accidents of fate (or happenstance) play an enormous role in our lives. And in history. What if FDR hadn't contracted polio? Would he have become president? What if John Wilkes Booth had missed his target on April 14th, 1865? What if George Washington’s father’s FIRST wife had lived, so that he never married a second time to George Washington’s mother? Would the American colonies have defeated the British and become an independent nation?
I think of these things as I’m writing. One little twist of fate (or happenstance) can totally change the trajectory of a person's (or a nation’s) life.
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