Theories of a Collective Unconscious

Carl Jung once said, “…in addition to our immediate consciousness, which is of a thoroughly personal nature and which we believe to be the only empirical psyche…there exists a second psychic system of a collective, universal, and impersonal nature which is identical in all individuals. This collective unconscious does not develop individually but is inherited. It consists of pre-existent forms, the archetypes, which can only become conscious secondarily and which give definite form to certain psychic contents.”

This theory that we all share one knowledge base, inherited from our ancestral lines, which we use as our resource when we do anything else, is nice, in a ‘We Are Family’ sorta way.  I once would have thought it was a crock, but lately, I’m not so sure.  Here are three examples of some ‘Are you kidding me?’ writing moments, that may prove Jung’s theory.  They will require that you trust me implicitly, because they are pretty unbelievable.

1) The Secret Circle Scene Swap – On my lunch break at work, I had a brilliant idea for a scene in the story I was developing, The Order of the Key.  That scene involved my two magickally inclined seventeen year old leads, Jacklyn and Kyp.  Kyp has known about his powers all his life and has some practice in using them, but his romantic interest, Jacklyn, is just learning that they even exist.  In an attempt to teach her more, the two travel out into the forest behind his house and do a little spell practice (or something that sounds less dirty than that just sounded…).  They have a romantic moment, and this scene ends up being the set up for their first kiss.  

I wrote this entire scene before I got home from work that day.  I came home so excited about it, that I literally forced my husband to read it.  He gave me notes on it and we discussed it.  Then we settled in to watch the premiere episode of The Secret Circle.  

About halfway through the episode, the main character, Cassie, freaks out about powers she has just discovered and runs out into the forest.  Her romantic lead, Adam, follows her trying to calm her down.  He shows her how to do a spell, which they perform together to perfect results.  And they ALMOST KISS…and I let out a bizarre little shriek as Ismael nudged me, wide eyed.  

Really?  REALLY?  I had just written this!  

The Secret Circle was based on a book series that I have never read.  Was that scene in the book?  I have no idea.  All I know is that show totally copied off of me.  Totally.  

2) Main Character Brain Plant: When I write, I usually have some physical model in mind for my main characters, that I use to help me nail down certain things about physical appearance in the initial, seed growing process of a story.  Usually, these things evolve over time, and I end up with a very different looking or behaving character than I went in with.  But what happened with Kyp Franklin when I was drawing him up has never happened to me before.  Kyp sort of arrived in my head fully formed.  He’s an arrogant hero with a perfect memory, who firmly believes he is capable of protecting anyone from anything despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  This alone gave me all kinds of ideas for his quirks, his mannerisms.  Physically, Kyp would need to be strong, but not overwhelmingly strong.  Jacklyn, the lead of the story, was the physical superhero out of this group, Kyp, the mental superhero.  So, while he should be tough (after all, he’s spent his whole life training to fight), he shouldn’t be muscle-bound.  As for his face…it just seemed to arrive in my brain.  I had no idea where it came from, but as I wrote, I could see this person in my head.  

Fast forward to a year and a half after Kyp had been created.  A trailer had been released for the movie adaptation of a series that I have something of a love/hate relationship with, The Mortal Instruments.  I watched the movie trailer with excitement, to see how my two favorite characters, Simon and Alec, would be portrayed.  

Alec appeared and he was Kyp.  I mean, he is EXACTLY what I pictured in my head.  Only his eyes are wrong – light when they should be dark.  Eagerly, I looked up this actor.  His name is Kevin Zegers, and while I believe I had seen him in passing before (I remember all of the critical acclaim behind his character in Transamerica), I had never seen anything with him in it before (at the time.  Lately I’ve been watching everything he’s ever been in – I have an obsessive personality), nothing to make me have such a very clear picture of him in my head.  We’re talking mannerisms, gestures, faces – I don’t know where he came from.  But I do know who I want to be casted in The Order of the Key movie, should there ever be one…

3) Joss Whedon / Stephenie Meyer / Guillermo Del Toro Wrote My Plot/Characters/ENTIRE BOOK SERIES.

Below please find a side by side comparison of stories that others came up with, and stories that I did, in explanation of the headline above.

a) Angel Plotline, by Joss Whedon: When Cordelia loses her memory, her friends lie to her in an attempt to keep her calm, but the lie unravels spectacularly when the heroine is attacked by the very creatures that supposedly never existed.

vs.

Rebirth Plotline (part of the scrapped trilogy mentioned here: When the heroine loses her memory, her friends lie to her in an attempt to keep her calm, but the lie unravels spectacularly when the heroine is attacked by the very creatures that supposedly never existed.  Nope.  Not joking.  Exactly this.

b) The Host, by Stephenie Meyer: The heroine, named Melanie, is infected by an alien parasite but it is unable to fully take over.  She ends up sharing her world with this alien being, but her infection separates her from the love of her life, and when she finds him again, he is a member of the resistance against the aliens, and said alien causes complications in any attempts at rebuilding a relationship between them.  Ian O’Shea, a friend, has a strong dislike for the alien, but eventually grows to care about it.

vs.

Dark Galaxy, by Justine Manzano – The heroine, named Melinda, is infected by an alien parasite, but it is unable to fully take over.  She ends up sharing her world with it, but her infection separates her from the love of her life, Shamus, and when she finds him again, he is a member of the resistance against the aliens, goes by the name of Shay, and said alien causes complications in any attempts at rebuilding a relationship between them.  Bobby, a friend, has a strong dislike for the alien, but eventually grows to care about it.  Still not joking.  I’ve been working on and off on this story for 5 years.  

c) The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan: – Civilization is taken over by vampires.

vs.

Eclipse (the scrapped story Ismael and I were discussing here: The island of Manhattan is isolated and overtaken by vampires.  The discovery of The Strain may have been the final nail in Eclipse’s coffin.

Evidence enough of a Collective Unconsciousness?  Well, to me, it’s either that or there are bugs planted around my house, mining for ideas.  But I’m not in the market for a tinfoil hat yet.  I’ll go with the psychologist’s theory instead.

Has this ever happened to any of you readers?  Post about it in the comments.

On Common Ground: My Marriage to A Fellow Writer

My husband called me first thing in the morning.  He didn’t say good morning, simply “I finally figured out how we can do Eclipse, but it’ll involve piggybacking off of your idea.”

Well, good morning to you, too, Ismael.

Eclipse has been in creation, in one form or another, for about 20 years.  When I met Ismael, I was a high school student bent on Broadway domination and he was a writer.  He has always been a writer. So, in our early years (and, if I’m truthful, sometimes at the end of a really bad day where I’m tugging the words from my brain with industrial strength tools), I had an inferiority complex when it came to writing.  It’s not like I hadn’t been introduced to writing before Ismael.  My siblings are both writers.  But, with Ismael, I spent a lot of the early years feeling like the sidekick to his author extraordinaire.  And he did very little to help that image.  He was a little arrogant at first when it came to his writing ability.  Not that it’s undeserved.  He’s quite good.  But back then, he was a little…much.

However, my fears about the value he put into my work were somewhat incorrect, and in an effort to prove that, he brought me in on Eclipse, an idea he had been tossing around and scrapping for the last few years.  We both had our own projects and were about to go to college, so we realistically knew this was not going to happen for awhile.  We put our thoughts into a notebook and held onto it, awaiting the passage of time and work in the hopes of eventually picking it up again.

Time passed, our attitudes changed.  The writing world had smacked Ismael down a bit and he realized he still had things to learn. Meanwhile, I finished my first novel (spoiler alert – it sucked) and was feeling like I may actually be able to do this thing – I gained confidence in my writing.  By the time we ended up in a fiction writing workshop class together, we interacted with each other’s writing in a very different way.  The professor wasn’t too fond of a married couple in her class and though she allowed us to stay in the course, she made a big stink of it, refusing to let us sit next to each other and strictly demanding that we be as tough on each other’s work as we would be on anyone else’s.  I assured her that that would not be an issue at all.

She had no idea what hit her.

The semester closed with a public fiction reading.  After all of the students had read, the professor pulled Ismael and I aside and, amazingly enough, apologized for doubting us.  She said most husband and wife teams would have cringed at the idea of critiquing each other the way we did.  But in many ways, she found we were harder on each other than the other students.  She asked us if that was simply us, trying to abide by her rules.  The answer was no.  We hadn’t changed a thing about the way we look at each other’s work for the sake of the class.  We’re tough with each other by nature, out of a genuine desire to make each other the best.

It’s something that started the minute we stopped seeing Ismael as the expert and me as the apprentice and started looking at each other as equals.  That’s when living in a household with another writer became fun. Where most couples are keen to spend their evening doing…whatever other couples do…we would much rather spend our time hashing out a story.  We have a tendency to sit beside each other on our couch, in perfect silence, tapping at the keys of our respective laptops – then, inspiration strikes, launching us into conversations that can sometimes last hours.  Sometimes, we’re still discussing the same topic days later.  Character development, plot holes, fantastical world building possibilities, and sometimes, just reality. But those times are more rare.

Not only are we each other’s first beta readers, we’re there as a support system for each other, a 24 hour contact who knows exactly what it feels like when you have all of one hour to write and inspiration is just not happening.  We get to pool our resources (“Hey, bought the Writer’s Market – we’ll look through it and see which places are best for our stories.”) and pool our search power (“Look at this great article I just found on character building.”)

And then there are moments like that phone call.  After years of kicking Eclipse around, we had given up on it.  It was about vampires and though it was nothing like Twilight, that pretty much tanked our title.  Add to that the idea of vampires being done to death by this point, and the fact that certain aspects of our story were now dated, it seemed like a lost cause.  But Ismael had a brilliant idea – taking the six-novel urban fantasy story arc I had already planned, and setting Eclipse in the future of that world, making it a potential 3-book add on to the original series I’ve had in mind, with a different title, of course.  At first, I grumbled at the idea.  These were my characters and my world – I did not want to share.  He assured me that it wasn’t sharing until Book 7 and then it would be some of my characters and some originals taking over an idea we’d been kicking around since before marriage.  The more I thought about it, the more sense it made.  We spent the rest of the day texting ideas back and forth and it came together naturally.  Before I knew it, I was making an outline and plotting a series that will likely take the rest of my life to write, but it’s going to happen.

The best part of being married to a writer?  Collaboration.  Hands down.