I love this film because it deals with the ‘what if?’ question. What if Gwyneth Paltrow catches the tube train instead of just missing it? How will her life change? The film follows both possibilities to show how different her life can be.
In reality, you only get one outcome – the one you take. Many, many years ago, as a young Environmental Health Officer, I remember being an hour late for an appointment. A man was being disturbed by noise from the young couple in the flat below. He was bothered by my lateness, but within minutes of my arrival he suffered a heart attack. I rang the emergency services, put a blanket around him, held his hand and talked to him until the paramedics arrived. On the way back to the office, I thought, what if I’d arrived an hour earlier? Would he have had the heart attack and died because he was alone? I’ll never know. Equally, had I arrived on time, he might not have been stressed and suffered a heart attack.
It made me think about how easily life can change. A different event or decision here, a different choice there, and you could have a new life, filled with new people and adventures. This is what I like about being a writer – you can change lives with a few sentences.
Equally, if you’re not careful, you can look back and wonder what might have happened had you done things differently. While it’s an interesting game to play from time to time, it can easily slide into regret. This theme is captured in one of my favourite Barclay James Harvest songs, River of Dreams.
Whether the film or the song was in my mind when I was writing my blog, Fisher’s Fables, I don’t know. Though I had written a rough version of No Accident, it was the blog that helped me to develop the character of Kent Fisher and the people he worked with. The introduction of new recruit, Gemma, to the team gave me an unexpected opportunity to change lives.
What if Kent had been involved with Gemma before? What if he made a mess of things? Afraid of commitment, frightened by the intensity of his feelings for her after only a week, and sensing that the difference in their ages would ultimately be fatal, Kent Fisher fled without so much as a note or text.
Wind forward seven years and there she is, joining his team. Feelings he safely buried away start to bubble to the surface despite his best efforts to stop them. Even when he learns she’s engaged to someone who’s everything he’s not, he can’t shake off the regret. He starts to wonder what might have happened if he hadn’t lost his nerve. Does he tell her how he feels? Does he move on? Can he move on? Time moves on and as her wedding gets closer, his dilemma intensifies.
In reality, he would probably accept he screwed up and get on with his life, but this is fiction. The questions and possibilities are irresistible. What if Gemma still has feelings for him? What if he has a second chance to put things right? What if makes a fool of himself? What if he wrecks her marriage plans? What if the fiancé beats him up?
This can run like a backbone through the stories until the time is right to resolve it one way or the other. Like Sliding Doors, will Kent take or miss the train? I’ve no idea, but I shall enjoy finding ou