The Grady twins from The Shining
Twins can be creepy.
They can also be strange, funny, lovely and even epic. I've always found the connection between twins to be a fascinating subject. We hear stories about twins creating their own language, sharing thoughts and dreams, even experiencing the same sensations while miles apart. The writer in me believes there is something to those connections, something rooted in the physical realm that has yet to be proven by science. My belief was bolstered by a seemingly unrelated article about quantum teleportation I read last year. I understood only a sliver of the article, but the big takeaway for me was: If this is possible and can be detected by scientific methods, what other mysterious, seemingly magical concepts may soon be proven?
The Weasley twins from the Harry Potter films
However outlandish the idea of actual telepathy between twins, or anyone else for that matter, a fiction writer has free reign to explore those ideas outside of science. That's exactly what I did with Raven and Gwen, as well as their mother Mona and her unborn twin, in Mother's Nature.
I always knew the name of the main character would be Raven. It conjures up a dark-haired girl who is perhaps prone to reading Edgar Allen Poe stories and listens to goth music while drawing her strange dreams. (A little auto-biographical, I know, but hey--it was my first novel!) The concept of fraternal twin sisters, rather than identical, was necessary for Mona to feel an immediate connection with one daughter over the other so soon after their birth. To make the distinction apparent, and to elevate tension caused by their physical differences, and Mona's rejection of Raven, I created fair-haired Gwen.
Snow White and Rose Red
I created a secret connection between Raven and Gwen through what they called "heart messages". The term that came off the top of my head as I wrote and I had every intention of replacing it with a fancier term later. However, no other alternative came to me, and I reconciled the simplistic name as one that very young girls might invent. Sometimes simpler is better.
I based the heart messages on stories I had read of telepathic connections between twins. Heart messages not only offered a way for Raven and Gwen to maintain a connection apart from Mona's influence, it served as a way to ramp up Mona's jealousy once she discovered its existence. She craved to recreated the connection with Gwen that she had lost when her unborn twin sister died. No matter how hard she tried, Mona would never be able to share heart messages with Gwen.
The relationship between Raven and Gwen was complicated. Raven loved and hated Gwen. The guilt she felt after Gwen's death could not be contained and eventually expressed itself through her art. Raven was jealous of Gwen's relationship to Mona, and struggled to understand her mother's rejection. She also struggled to understand how Gwen seemed oblivious to Mona's manipulations. Only after she discovers the truth about Mona's sick behavior and the role she played in Gwen's death does Raven understand that Gwen was her protector all along. Gwen took the brunt of Mona's attention, to her own peril and without choice. Raven understood that if Gwen hadn't been chosen, it could very well have been her who died at Mona's hands.
Whenever I refer to Mona's dead twin, I use the term "phantom twin" rather than the medical term "vanishing twin" because the child wasn't absorbed by Mona in utero--although that could be another story...
As I've noted before, I tend to write stories that involve subtle mysteries of life. I wonder about the thing in the shadows, the movement in the corner of your eye, the feeling of deja-vu, or the almost tangible connection you may feel with someone you've never met.
The mystery of twins strikes strikes some as strange perhaps because our minds are designed to recognize differences between other humans, and when we see twins, there seems to be no such differences initially. It's like a glitch. Our brains do a double take and can't make sense of the oddity. Or maybe it is because we are unique individuals and the thought of a "clone" makes us squeamish, not having experienced a twin ourselves.
Whether you read Mother's Nature and thought that the twin relationships were literal or metaphorical, whether the "heart messages" were real or imagined by the characters, I leave it up to the reader. The mystery--the unanswered question--is the best part.
And now I leave you with an image of my favorite famous twins of the epic kind...
Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa from the Star Wars films
Next post: Naming characters and places
I write novels and poetry and this blog.