Thursday, 7 October 2010

Where do stories come from?

Interesting one, this. Do we generate stories ourselves or do they come from somewhere else?

I'm sure you've had the experience of being on a roll and feeling the words you are writing are coming fully formed from some other plane - as if you were only a cypher for someone else's thoughts. I've had that feeling a few times, most notably during my major revision last year when I had to beef up a minor character into a major one and found him there, fully formed with a complete life history and world view, and a voice that was distinct and unique. I'd like to think he was my own invention, from some deep level of my unconscious mind, but could I be channelling the thoughts of someone real?

Jung, the famous psychologist, believed at a deep level we were all joined the way that islands are joined on the sea bed. This is the basis for archetypes which we are hardwired to recognise and turn up again and again in fiction. Perhaps past life regression and psychic experiences are evidence of this link too. Is deja vu simply tapping into the thoughts of someone who was in that place before you? Are our thoughts and experiences gathered in some great cosmic database that we can tap into if we know how?

It's a seductive idea. For one thing it gives you complete immunity from responsibility for what you are writing. But then, maybe that's not such a good thing.

I know there are people who claim to channel famous dead figures from history, but can we (or they) be sure they are not just deluding themselves? After all, it's very flattering to think Queen Cleopatra is telling you, and only you, the salacious details of her life story. It's the ultimate scoop. And no one can disprove it, can they? But therein lies the danger.

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