Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Stranger Than Fiction

Posted by: Joshua Roots
"Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine." - Rick Blaine, Casablanca

"Never tell me the odds!" - Han Solo, Star Wars


In honor of February and Valentine's Day, I thought I'd chat a little bit about love. Specifically, how absolutely and completely unlikely it is.

Mathematically, love should be impossible. There are over 7 billion people on this planet, so the likelihood that two of them will meet, fall in love, and be happy is less probable than a meteor hitting my house. Yet somehow it happens over and over again. And while it's easy to talk about beating the odds in a story, beating them in the real world is so arithmetically unlikely that when it happens, it's something that gives us pause.

That's what makes writing Fiction so compelling. Authors like those at Here Be Magic get to play make-believe with words. We create unique worlds, shape strange systems of magic or technology, and do our best to craft tense, seat-of-your-pants experiences.

Few elements are more crucial to that success than compelling characters.

From the main character to the supporting cast, readers want folks that are both believable and engaging. How they meet, how they interact, how they fall in love or drift apart. How they beat the odds, even if it's for a short time. Stories live and breathe through the characters, so learning how to pen a fantastic cast is a skill a lot of us work pretty hard to master. 

But just when you think you've got it down pat, the real world presents you with something far stranger than anything we fiction authors could come up with. 

I met the woman who'd become my wife through a friend almost 20 years ago. This was a girl that caused a circuit breaker to trip in my brain. The rational, confident man I'd worked so hard to become turned into a babbling idiot in her presence. It was like a bad sitcom. She'd say, "Hi" and I'd respond with something like, "I LOVE PIE!"

Because I was young.

And a moron.

Imagine my surprise when she agreed to go out with me. Sadly, the Fates were against us. We went on a few dates before I took orders and we parted ways. 

For 6 years I kept in touch with my buddy, always asking how The Future Mrs. Roots was doing, but never directly communicating with her*. We were starting our careers, each traveling along separate paths.

Or so we thought. 

Those paths collided again, and for good, on a cold January morning in a TJ Maxx parking lot. Having recently returned from a mandatory vacation to a global "funzone", a buddy and I were visiting my folks for the weekend and out doing some shopping. We were chatting about pointless stuff when I heard my name. Looking up, my brain stalled as this pretty blonde with a short bob smiled. It took a moment of flipping through my mental Rolodex before I realized who she was. Unwilling to let another 6 years go by before we spoke again, and despite the sudden appearance of her mother, I got her number**. That night, thanks to the threat of bodily harm from my buddy if I didn't ask her out immediately, we went on a "group date". 

17 years after our first encounter, and 11 years after our second first date, we welcomed our daughter into the world. 

What's remarkable about this story isn't the fact that we wound up back together. History is rife with love stories that are far more amazing than ours. But there's no denying the sheer improbability of it all. It's hard enough to find The One the first time around, but for us to meet and then go our separate ways for so long before reconnecting in  a random parking lot is astronomically unlikely. We both had to decide to head to that particular shopping mall that morning. Before that, my buddy and I had to agree to visit my folks. She had to choose to spend the day with her mom. And so on, tracing backwards each random causal event to the previous one. Follow the path far enough and you realize that any one decision could have prevented us from being in that exact parking lot at the exact right time. Yet somehow all the right decisions were made which led to our highly improbable re-meeting. 

That's the funny thing about Real Life. Sometimes it's harder to believe what really happens because it's so unlikely. I was there and it still seems unreal. 7 billion people and we two somehow beat the odds. 

Fiction allows us to escape the stress, horrors, or tedium of every day life. Books are windows to new worlds where anything is possible. Where we can life vicariously through characters we fall for. But every so often, when we examine our lives and the unlikely things that have happened to us, we find that our own stories are pretty darn amazing. 

And sometimes, if we're exceptionally lucky, they're even stranger than fiction. 


How about you? What stories would you have a hard time believing if they hadn't happened to you? 






*In our defense, this was long before e-mail and cell phones were the mainstays they are today. Plus, we were both young, so we were both interested in what Life had to offer elsewhere. 

**To this day, one of the greatest bragging rights I hold is asking for her number with her mother standing right there. 






Bio:

Joshua Roots is a car enthusiast, beekeeper, and storyteller. He enjoys singing with his a cappella chorus, golf, and all facets of Sci-Fi/Fantasy. He's still waiting for his acceptance letter to Hogwarts and Rogue Squadron. He and his wife will talk your ear off about their bees if you let them.

His Urban Fantasy series, The Shifter Chronicles, is available wherever digital books are sold.

He's still amazed, and eternally grateful, that his wife said "Yes"....






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