Is the tale wagging the dog?
Don’t you just love quantum physics? All those possibilities, spinning endlessly until somebody bothers to look at them at which point they plump for their (positive) physical reality of choice – while somewhere out there in the universe exactly the (negative) opposite choice happens! Oh, the sheer entanglement of it all! Which may explain some of the character flips my main German detective has gone through in the past years. Or maybe not. Depending on your positive or negative opinion of the whole shebang. Or Big Bang. Never mind.
And while we’re on the subject of quantum physics, have you ever wondered why Schroedinger put a cat in a box to prove his point? Well, think about it. What dog would sit quietly in a box long enough for you to philosophise about the possibility at any given moment of it being dead or alive? You’d know the dog was damn well alive ‘cos he’d be whining and barking his head off in that ‘ok-this-box-is-cool-but-hey-guys-we’re-a-pack-here-and-I-wanna-be-out-there-with-yoouuuuu’ kinda way. Cats, on the other hand, are simply Masters of the Universe.
Multiple character universes
Since I started this book, my German detective – like Bilbo Baggins – has been there and back again in terms of marital status changes so often he’ll be meeting himself coming back soon. Like the six wives of Henry VIII – died, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded survived – he’s been married, divorced, widowed and now he’s married again, but his wife’s in a coma. I kid you not! Serious plot point here, people, so stop sniggering!
Harking back to my earlier post about PD James’s BBC4 interview with Mark Lawson, I note that the wonderful Baroness James of Holland Park decided – with some callousness, as she admitted herself (and it must be said, not without some obvious glee) – to ‘kill off’ detective Adam Dalgleish’s wife in her first novel because she might become too interested in his family and lose sight of the story. In fact, poor old Adam remains single (although not unattached) until the final novel in the series, A Private Patient, published in 2008. I think perhaps the good old lady felt she owed him after all that time (her first Dalgleish book was Cover Her Face published in 1962).
The problem is that detective novels have changed since PD James started writing back in the 1960s. These days it can be tough avoiding those grieving widow(er)/ alcoholic/ workaholic maverick cop tropes.
So how do you sort it so you don’t end up with a blindingly obvious stereotype? I have no definitive answer to that question – if anyone has, please let me know – but I am a great believer in personal choices. Allowing my characters to make choices personal to them, whether it be their favourite colour, drink, wallpaper, or whatever, as well as reacting to events. As PD James said: think about their cultural and creative life, their interests outside work. Thus Morse has his opera, Dalgliesh his poetry, Harry Bosch his jazz, and Kay Scarpetta her gourmet Italian food.
So what are my guy’s interests? Hmmm … let me think! Why, that’s easy! Quantum physics and football, of course!
4 thoughts on “Schroedinger’s Dog and other parallel universes”
Quantum Physics and football! Perfect mix.
And my main character? Oh, Playing Hurley and being a witness to murder…
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I always said hurling was a dangerous game, Carolann, although it sounds like your guy’s other hobby might be a little more deadly…. 🙂
Schrödinger’s cat/dog has a lot to answer for. Or maybe it should be Sartre’s cat, because I was thinking of the fine existential line between characters with truly personal choices and characters who are simply condemned to reflect the author’s own proclivities in terms of music, food, sports, books, films, crossword compilers, radio stations, philosophers, pot noodle flavours etc.
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You’re right, Mel, I figure a lot of authors choose the passion they know – makes it easier to get into the zone and be that music/poetry/pot noodle lover, I guess. Kinda reminds me of Laurence Olivier’s advice to one of those intense method actors of the 70s (Dustin Hoffmann, perhaps?) trying so hard to ‘be’ their character: ‘just act, darling!’ I’m probably guilty as charged in relation to the quantum physics – love it, but don’t necessarily claim to understand it – I guess Klaus will be pretty much the same, but I can safely say that the football choice is, if you’ll pardon the pun, a real curve ball for non-sporty, non-football loving me. I’m happily clueless as far as that is concerned. Luckily I know someone who is an I FC Nuremberg fan and I’ll be turning up at his door with a hidden taping device and a homebaked strudel any day now. 🙂
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