The way we normally assume the world works is through cause-and-effect, but alongside this there is another pattern, which Carl Jung termed ‘synchronicity.’
Synchronicity is sometimes defined as ‘meaningful coincidence.’ As opposed to causal links, which are objective and impersonal, synchronicity is personal and subjective. In synchronicity, the outer world reflects the inner world, as when, for example, you are thinking of someone and you bump into them on the street.
Most people only notice synchronicity in really striking coincidences. For example, a friend of mine was whiling away an hour at the office trying to plan a round-the-world cycling trip when, going out for a sandwich, he stepped over a book lying open on the pavement about… you guessed it… cycling round the world.
Or indeed the incidence I mentioned in last week’s post, about the pomegranate.
But synchronicity is part of the fabric of being, not just astonishing moments, and writers can use it in fiction without readers balking at it because, although people may not be conscious of it, it is part of everyone’s reality.
There are three ways writers may use synchronicity
1 Pathetic fallacy. This is where the environment reflects the mood of the characters or the atmosphere of the action.
2 Coincidences. This is where the plot progresses in an unexpected or non-logical way.
3 Supernatural aid. If your character is troubled by doubts and indecision, they may see signs and portents in their environment. It’s like incubating a dream to help you make up your mind about something – you spot the answer much more readily when you know the question.
How can you use these devices in fiction in a way that feels natural and unobtrusive? By becoming more aware of synchronicity in your own life. Dream awareness will help with this, because synchronicity works in the same way as dreams; it’s a symbolic layer of reality which transforms objects and stories into symbols of the self.
The more you tune into synchronicities in your own life, the more freely and convincingly you will be able to integrate it in the lives of your characters.
Three times in my life, I’ve seen a sudden rainbow at a moment when I was agonising over a decision I had made, and felt reassured.
Have you ever felt you received a nudge/confirmation/warning from life?
Author Vanessa Harbour has added her thoughts about synchronicity on her blog – worth checking out
12 thoughts on “3 writing tricks and how to make them convincing”
I didn’t used to be as aware of synchronicity (blimey that’s a hard word to type!) as I am at the moment, Jenny. This year seems to be full of these moments for me and my current work in progress is full of them – in fact, it’s probably fair to say that they’re the guide to how this novel is being written and the way it’s moving. I think these things do happen for a reason and it’s great to be able to use them in our writing. Lovely post, Jenny.
Thank you, Abi. It’s exciting when you get that awareness of synchronicity working in your life – it feels magical. I think it can make fiction feel magical too, and yet entirely realistic. I like that in a time when you’re really noticing synchronicity, we’re chatting about it here!
Synchronicity in my own life has featured powerfully over recent weeks. There have been some amazing coincidences in links between some of my articles and people I know. I think if I included them in a book they might be regarded as ‘unbelievable’! But it amazes me at how situations and events can sometimes come together ‘by themselves’ if I stand back and let things occur naturally rather than consciously intervening.
Yes – that’s the thing! I feel the idea that we’re actually consciously in control of things isn’t exactly an illusion, but it certainly is only part of the story. There’s free will, but that doesn’t mean there’s no god in the machine. There’s logic – but there’s also mystery.
I have experienced this many times. I’ll have to try a writing exercise and see if I can’t work with it. Angie 🙂
It’s fun to do, Angie – I was on a course once when we had to describe a setting through the emotions of the protagonist, and the instruction was to make it as melodramatic as possible, really go for it, let taste and plausibility go to the winds. I’m quite a restrained and careful writer, so I found it challenging, but it did open something up for me…
Just Yesterday becoming consciously aware of the potential usefulness of using the local weather and preponderance of low cloudy days to portray one of my characters’ outlooks on life. T
hereby showing not telling etc…and today along comes House of Dreams and Synchroniclty. Ah!
Yay! Doncha just love it??!! I had lunch today with a friend whose daughter, it turns out, is currently going for the same job as mine – these girls who have never met and live in completely different parts of the country!!
I’m in a community play at the moment and to content of the story is so close to the things that have happened in my life, its uncanny.
That must feel really weird, acting and rehearsing a story that feels so close to your own life. I imagine it might bring new insights and understanding, as you play it over and over.
Just found your site and have gleaned so much here. Thanks for advancing these lovely helps!
How much do you think the weather creates the mood, rather than reflecting it? And where is the overlap between “coincidence” and God’s actual direction? Or do we draw the line wherever we want it?
Hi Katherine – I’m glad you found my blog! I guess that as synchronicity is by definition non-causal, I don’t think in terms of which comes first, the weather or the mood. They’re both part of the same flow which, for me, might be a definition of ‘God’s actual direction.’ Thank you for commenting 🙂