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