Tuesday, December 8, 2020

"The Butterfly Effect"

Rachel Mans McKenny is a writer and humorist from the Midwest, recently published in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Electric Lit, The Rumpus, and The New York Times.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Butterfly Effect, her first novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
If only she could still be collecting data in the cloud forest. Costa Rica and the resort could have been a sci-fi movie, or maybe her life now was. A parallel universe-- make one choice, and it all went a different way.

When Greta was a teen, there had been a surge of reinterest in the theory of the butterfly effect. Magazines covered it, and experts were interviewed on 60 Minutes. It was a dramatic time-- September 11 and natural disasters. As the theory stated, if a butterfly flaps its wings in Argentina, there's a monsoon in Singapore. She understood the attraction then, and she understood it now-- human beings like to think that everything they do matters.
I am shocked at how well this test works for my book, and honestly, it's funny that it does. This page is the first place that I mention "the butterfly effect" in the entire novel, and it was a part which was added during first round edits of the manuscript when we settled on the title as that name. While refining the novel with my editor, we talked about this sense of predestination or loss of control that Greta, the main character, feels. It's one of her major struggles in the novel to try to live with things as they are instead of wishing they had gone another way.

This struggle of hoping that our actions have an impact-- but not too much of one-- is a real human impulse that many of us identify with. We want to be remembered, but for the right things. We want to make a difference in someone's life, as long as it's a good one. But ultimately, we're not in control of how others see us-- and most of the characters in my novel (along with the readers of the novel) might think of Greta as "unlikeable" at first glance. Hopefully by the end of the book, readers (like the characters in the book), come to understand Greta's motives as she comes to understand herself better. She realizes the actions she can take to help, not hurt; to rebuild rather than tear down. The Butterfly Effect is an ultimately hopeful story that ultimately, I hope, will make a difference in people's lives.
Visit Rachel Mans McKenny's website.

--Marshal Zeringue