"The baby died in utero; choked by its umbilical cord when its twin, in a hurry to be born, climbed over it and killed it."
This was the bit of a conversation I overheard as a child. It horrified and traumatized me. How can this happen? How will the surviving twin be able to live with itself knowing that they had committed murder before even being born? What if I could turn back the hands of time enabling me to prevent this horrible event? What kind of life would these twin babies lead if I could do that?
I should have been sound asleep that night, but I knew we had company and I didn't want to miss a thing. I was fighting the sandman with all my might when I heard them talking about it. Needless to say, I didn't have to fight him anymore that night. I was now wide awake and would remain so. I wished I had just fallen asleep. I wished I had never even heard that sentence.
Knowing full well who these adults were talking about, I wanted to turn back time and save the surviving twin the anguish of knowing it was a murderer and the idea brewed in my mind for many years. Interestingly, I hadn't thought about that conversation for a really long time ... until a little over a year ago.
One day, I was thinking about Standing on the Precipice (Standing on the Precipice was the working title for Divergent Lives), the memory of that conversation came rushing back to me out of the blue.
My original plan for Divergent Lives was as follows:
The protagonist would be a child of immigrant parents. She would be named Adina, and she would be raised in New York City during the late 20th century in the midst of the "Women's Liberation Movement." Her conflict festered in the mixed messages she received from her parents vs. the messages she received from society with regard to women's roles.
At home, Adina's parents tried to raise her with the ideals they were raised with in Puerto Rico of yore. She was told that in order to be worthy of a good man, she needed to be chaste, humble and obedient. But above all, she was to remain a virgin until her wedding night. As far as her parents were concerned, her future role in society was solely wife and mother.
In addition, Adina had conflicts with religion based on her feeling that organized religion made no sense at all; that it was only useful to the uneducated. Yeah, she's arrogant. Adina believed she was master of her universe and that she alone was the one in control. Society told her that as an independent woman, she could have it all and that being a sexual creature should not carry any shame. Sex for sex's sake was within her right.
Then I wondered:
"What if Adina had a twin who believed the opposite? What if the other twin lived its life the way its parents wanted it to and didn't offer any protest?
"What if Adina experimented with sex? What if she used dating websites to satisfy sexual curiosities?"
"Boring!!" I thought.
"I need a twist!"
Then it hit me! Here's an opportunity for me to turn back time for that baby that supposedly killed its twin! It's fiction; a fantasy, ok? But, I still thought it was a good idea. I figured I'd let the dead baby survive. But, then what?
I'll make them both sociopaths, one a serial killer! That's a twist, right?
It was at this point that the juices began to flow for me!
"What if one of the twins had a physical ailment?"
"What if the doctor decided he had a better plan for this imperfect child?"
And, Divergent Lives was born!
Next up: What additional elements did I explore for this story? Why did I make one of the twins a serial killer?