the monozygotic mystery

This morning, I took my laundry to the laundromat, as I do on a pretty regular basis.

There’s a woman who works behind the counter on most mornings — let’s call her Maria. Maria was there this morning, and when she saw me come in she was doing something else, so she called into the other room, and Maria came in to take my laundry.

So, obviously, twins. Not identical like movie special effects — they had different blemishes and different clothes — but clearly twins.

It was a little weird — I think partly because they were both on the same side of the counter. If “Maria” had been on that side of the counter, helping customers, and “Maria’s twin sister” had been on my side of the counter, visiting, that wouldn’t have been that surprising.

But it sparked off some other questions for me. For one thing, obviously, which one of these two women was the “Maria” who had been taking my laundry for a while? Or did they both work there and I’d just never seen them together before? Is this why on some days “Maria” would remember my name, but on other days not?

And was there a story in all this…

In mysteries, at least, there are limits on how you can use twins. If you establish them at the start, or at least early on, you can do it, though of course you leave the reader with the question about whether one twin ever substitutes for the other.

But a third-act twin, a twin who is suddenly revealed to answer a major question? Not impossible (nothing is), but I don’t envy the writer who tries it.

Christopher Nolan directed a film which did that, and it was certainly a negative for me. Some people defend it, but Nolan has fans who pretty much defend anything he does. I suspect that if another, less prestigious, director had tried it, they’d have complained, too.

Still, there might be a story there.

By the way, the Nolan movie does something else which is also sometimes regarded as a cheat — a genre shift, where the movie you’re watching is not actually the type of movie you’ve been led to believe it is. I think it does that fairly well, but it’s something that I sometimes enjoy anyway, as I talked about here.

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