Identical twins have always fascinated me. It was purely a selfish reason to have the main characters of Extra Innings be identical twins because it gave me a purposeful excuse to research the topic. As the original storyboards were being developed and my excitement grew I realized that this topic gave the story very unique opportunities. After all there are very few fictional novels on the market about identical twins. I think the trilogy would make for a fun movie.
I was fortunate enough to encounter a handful of identical twins throughout my research. One question in particular, I will not disclose in this blog as it will give away too much information. Readers will just have to complete the trilogy to find out.
One of the first and very apparent concepts I learned was that the general stereotype of identical twins acting identical is grossly mistaken. Learning this really helped me to develop the characters of Jimmy and Billy McGee. I wanted them to be almost polar opposites so I was pleased to learn this concept is widely justified. At the same time, this is where the pieces throughout the story become intellectualized WITHOUT becoming ponderous.
The correct term for identical twins is monozygotic. This is where two embryos are formed from a single (mono) fertilized egg. Because the two embryos are formed from a single egg/sperm fertilization, the twins have the same genetic origins and, therefore, the identical DNA. However, despite this shared gene set, they have clearly individual personalities. Studies are done as to whether parents should encourage this individualization more by not permitting the twins to share the same bedroom growing up or not to dress them alike, etc. Right from Chapter 1 of the Diamond Thieves the reader learns that Jimmy and Billy both share the attic as their bedroom I touch a little bit on their infancy and the whole concept of “twin ESP” and “twin talk” but mostly the story focuses on how the cavern of their individuality expands as their teenage years move along. Still, what I find fascinating is how despite their differences they both often find the same platform with which to express themselves. My favorite example of this is in Book 3 (A Hero Among Thieves) when both twins are experiencing stress they both express it through writing. Jimmy, the more deliberate and intellectual of the two, completely emerges himself in a research paper at Ole Miss (The University of Mississippi) while Billy, the more free-spirited and creative type begins to write songs and poems about his experiences in Korea (during the Korean Conflict). It’s also interesting that Jimmy naturally begins to develop a rigid routine to his mornings at college while Billy is forced into a rigid routine with the United States Air Force.
In book 1 (The Diamond Thieves) the reader is immediately told that Jimmy and Billy McGee are “clearly individuals.” Behaviors, actions, expressions and thoughts help to illustrate this. However, this book constellates more around the battle over their baseball diamond and how to handle the prejudice of their enemies “the mob” with respects to their good friend T.J. who is black. With respect to this topic, both Jimmy and Billy have the same feelings although Jimmy (like his character describes him) is more in tune and responsive to T.J.’s emotions.
Book 2 (Race of the Gemini) lives up to his title by digging deep into the progression of these boys growing more different. The story describes a lot of how one twin (Billy) feels like a living shadow of the other (Jimmy). This was an interesting idea that I picked up in many of my interviews with twins. They felt that the other was more of a favorite of one or both parents. Some felt the jealousy of one twin being more popular in school or better at sports or a natural at socializing. As I asked more questions I was very intrigued by the pressure and jealousy that was felt around this topic. Often times these feelings sparred a sense of competition between then, hence the title “Race of the Gemini.” The trick with writing about this was trying not to intentionally downplay one twin over the other. If the readers found themselves having a favorite among the two brothers, I wanted that to be their choice and not triggered by some intentional or subliminal seed I planted.
In book 1 (The Diamond Thieves) both twins love baseball, however, Jimmy is a team’s all-star batter while Billy has the Ace pitching skills. Also, Jimmy has a closer relationship with Skip, who is more mature and logical while Billy was closer friends with Whitey – the wild and fun one in the group.
Lastly, I wanted to play around with the whole concept of “switching places” or “trading places” as this was asked of each set of twins I interviewed. I was surprised to find that this was not just a childhood experience but also performed on more of a strategic level as teenagers. This was executed for various reasons allowing one of the twins to practically be in two places at once. For the McGee twins, Billy insisted on Jimmy covering for him multiple times so he could sneak out of the house and be with his girlfriend or go drinking with his friends. Jimmy, not being a big fan of drinking became almost the victim here so Billy, who was grounded, could still go out and party.
Overall, I had as much fun writing Extra Innings as I did doing all the pre-writing research. I hope its readers fall in love with the McGee twins and all their friends as much as I have. #extrainnings