I had a little discussion about this very question the other night. Some people in the paranormal community have this theory that people who write novels or short stories or even poems are actually doing a form of mediumship. This doesn’t happen all the time but it happens enough that we have to take notice. I never actually thought about this before this year and here’s what made me wonder.
As you all know, right now I’m trying to finish up the second novel in my Civil War trilogy. There were some very strange coincidences with my first novel in this trilogy, such as choosing the regiment that my great great great great great uncles were in, however, I didn’t know at the time that they were in that regiment. Going to the regimental musters and looking for character names was how I noticed my family name. So then I looked up my family tree and realized that I had unintentionally placed these uncles in my novel. They were prison guards. I had never really looked at my family tree in detail before then, so there was no way I could have known that these people were part of this regiment. I had seen the surnames before, but I had never known their personal stories. And yet, that was the regiment that was selected for the novel. Was it a coincidence? Maybe. Were my uncles trying to get me to tell their stories in some way? Maybe.
Long after I was deeply entrenched in writing the second book in the trilogy, one of my test readers noticed that some of the background characters resembled historical figures in South Carolina. However, these were not hugely famous historical figures. They were what I would call B list or C list historical figures. Only people very educated in South Carolina history would have recognized traits in these characters enough to realize that they were actual people.
One character in particular was written as Isabelle’s brother. If you read the first novel, you know who Isabelle is right away. She was the only girl in a pile of boys and I introduced one of her brothers in the second book. I gave him a very specific physical description and a very specific personality description. My friend, a native South Carolinian, read the passage where I introduced him into the story and she pointed out that he strongly resembled in physical and personality descriptions the son of one of the famous generals. I had been harboring feelings for a long time about this book being led by something else bigger than myself because sometimes I would write entire passages and not have a clue of what I just wrote until I went back to read it. So I got curious and looked up information about the sons that this particular general had. Lo and behold, there was my character. He looked exactly like the way I described him and people who described his personality used the exact same phrases that I did in the novel. Coincidence? Maybe, but it gets highly unlikely the more it happens in the same trilogy.
A couple of other minor characters associated with Isabelle’s brother in the novel have actually turned out to be very close to reality in a couple of other South Carolinian figures. It would make sense if I had been highly educated in South Carolina history. However, I’m not. This novel trilogy has taken so long to write because I often need to stop and thoroughly read about this place. I knew virtually nothing about it going into it. I just thought South Carolina was a romantic place to have a novel. So how could I write about people that I didn’t even know existed?
Indeed, questions of that nature often arise when people exhibit behaviors of mediums. How can we tell perfect strangers about their family members and their friends when we have no prior knowledge of them? Is it really that different when it comes to a storyteller being inspired or completely driven to write a story? They often say every form of creativity has to have a muse behind it. What is a muse? Could a muse not be a spirit on the other side wanting their story told? Isn’t that the desire of every person – to be remembered and immortalized somehow? None of us want to be forgotten after we die. So wouldn’t it make sense that some of us, when we die, would sort of inspire writers to immortalize us in literature? Extending that idea further, what about painters? What about musicians? Where does their inspiration come from when it’s so clear that they are highly driven and almost obsessive with creating the specific thing?
Some might argue that if storytelling, painting, music, and so forth, come from influence from the other side, then people living here don’t actually have any talent. I disagree. It takes talent to be able to tune into that kind of energy and create it. We are not being fed things word for word, or paint stroke for paint stroke, or music note for music note. We are given seeds of inspiration but it’s up to us to create. That’s where talent is necessary.
So what do you think? Could storytelling for artistry or music be some form of mediumship? How is it possible that storytellers create characters who, if we bother to look closer, turn out to have actually existed at some point?