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And the Plot Thickens: I Thought I Thought of That First

Channel surfing at midnight Friday, I caught the tail end of a movie that interested me enough to restart it.

The film was Serendipity, a 2001 romantic comedy starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale. I found the storyline sweet and amusing until Cusack’s Jonathan grabbed a pen to connect the freckles on the arm of Beckinsale’s Sara, forming the constellation Cassiopeia. To my chagrin, that action mirrored a scene (minus the pen) that I’d independently written for two of my leads, Matty and Beth.

Mid-story, the charismatic and seemingly irresponsible Matty traces the freckles and moles on new lover Beth’s abdomen. As his fingers create the pattern of the Summer Triangle, he tells her about the festival of Tanabata. Beth responds with humor that no man has shared anything similar. As Matty works his way up her torso, he comments that the men with whom Beth has been involved were practical and unimaginative. Matty’s observation leads Beth to realize that she has sacrificed passion to avoid repeating a past mistake that resulted in heartbreak.

I’d groaned months ago while watching Lucifer, specifically, a scene in which Chloe joins Lucifer at the piano. Their exchange leads to a Chopsticks duet. I’d much, much earlier written a similar scene, again involving Matty and Beth. My foot-dragging in submitting my manuscript had resulted in a variant of this particular scene playing out on national television.

Romance draws frequently upon a finite number of tropes. Matty’s and Beth’s story, for example, utilizes “fling,” “performer” and “return to hometown” (as drawn from a list by @MindyKlasky). Common tropes aside, I thought my writing was original (deep sigh).

I don’t anticipate editing out those two scenes despite their somewhat tarnished provenance. Good is good. I just wish that I’d moved quicker to get my versions out.

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