The ideas behind “Folie à Deux”, my short story for the Big Damn Heroines anthology, fermented in my mind for years before I actually sat down to write the story. Most of the time, strands of ideas come together to meet at one point like a spider web. This story was the epitome of that.
I think, firstly, I’ve always been inspired by my best friend, whom Porter’s character is loosely based off of. She’s a very strong-willed young woman, independent and intelligent, an inspiration to a mousy little coward like me! She’s always leading me somewhere, and one day, she led me to the store to buy a CD.
She and I are huge fans of Fall Out Boy, so when they released their album, Folie à Deux, we rushed out to buy it. The music was incredible, and we listened to it nonstop, so whenever I think of that CD, I think of her. Consequently, I had to weave a little piece of her into the story, and that’s how Porter’s character–and the headphone scene–was created.
There is a line in one of Fall Out Boy’s older songs that always gives me goosebumps, and when my friend left–for greener pastures, I always said–the line seemed to become more potent, more meaningful. It’s basically the story of someone who misses someone else terribly, and their headphones act as a conduit, sending thoughts to that other person in the form of lyrics. Well, I just thought that was the niftiest idea anyway, but couple that with a lonely heart and wham! You’ve got sudden inspiration.
I was enamored with the idea that simply thinking about someone while listening to music could transfer your thoughts to their mind. At around the same time, I finally discovered what “folie à deux” meant and fell in love with that, as well.
“Folie à deux” translates to “a madness shared by two”. It’s a rare psychiatric syndrome in which a delusional belief is transmitted from one person to another, and the concept seems strangely romantic to me. That probably means I’m demented, but I suppose most writers are in their own unique ways.
So, I had all these plot threads and influences rumbling around in my head, but at that point, all I could do was kick them around. I let them woo me, but I could never take them back to my apartment; the date always ended at dinner and a kiss on the cheek. Eventually, I just set them aside to let them simmer and hope that something would come along to tie them all together.
Enter Breathe Carolina, another favorite band in my musical arsenal. It was a few years after my initial ideas, so I wasn’t expecting their songs to act as an adhesive to them. I was just listening to them to get me through a particularly hard time and a particularly hard work-out. But listening to music while working out–well, I suppose just listening to music in general–always seems to act as a stimulant for stories. They’re not always cohesive, and they certainly don’t always make sense, but they’re usually very vibrant.
I was listening to Breathe Carolina’s recent album, Hell is What You Make It, and the ideas suddenly came rolling in like waves at high tide. A little piece of the story rode piggyback on each song and melded together effortlessly, and I barely felt my burning muscles or the sweat on my skin. I was completely absorbed in the other world that my songs and I were creating.
This venture into another, slightly skewed universe would become the “dream sequence” that Porter encounters. It was pretty trippy, like falling down the rabbit hole, and I wanted to capture that in the story with the shortened, choppy sentences and scene changes.
Of course, at first, that was all the story was going to be–an acid trip. But, as I said before, plot threads just seem to come together, and if you’re brave enough to follow them, they usually lead you to some pretty amazing places.
I rediscovered my love for the ideas of madness and shared thoughts, and suddenly it all just seemed to make sense. That was when I picked up the thread and followed it. The dream sequence expanded to include my previous inspirations, and at that point, all I needed to do was sit down and create that world.
The two main characters were simple enough to nail down. They’d already revealed their true colors to me in the dream sequence. Blaise was kind of a crazy bitch, of course, and it was easy enough to make her pretty unlikeable. You could breathe wrong on Blaise, and she’d want to fight you, which was fun for me to write. Porter was harder. I wanted her to be different from Blaise, but with shared personality traits. I wanted her to be softer, but still have her own moments of insanity because they share the same madness. They influence each other, they feed off of each other. Blaise leads Porter to do many things but in a lot of ways Porter is her inspiration, much like my best friend and my music were mine.
In the end, it was a lot of things all at once, a melting pot of experiences and lyrics that captured my heart. I’ve discovered that’s usually how the story goes. And I’ve discovered that even the madness that we keep inside, the insanity that we sometimes choose to share with the ones we love most, can be beautiful. Like little pieces of broken glass. Or maybe that’s just how I see things–through a broken mirror.
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